Janet Thomson, Manmeet Ahluwalia, Evan Mitsui CBC News
But while police say that would make it harder for them to do their jobs,
Milton says it would be a good move. "We don’t have a gun problem. We have a criminal problem, we have a gang problem, we have problems with people who have no regard for the law whatsoever," he said. "And the very people the government wants to control [with
the long gun registry] are the very people who do have regard for the law.”
handful of licensed gunsmiths in the country, Stephen Milton, a former
competitive shooter, has spent his life around guns.
"They’re not weapons, unless you’re a deer. Our intent is not to kill anyone
or cause any harm to anybody’s property. We just hunt, target shoot and do what
we love to do."
Milton is often consulted by law enforcement on matters of gun-related crime
and is widely regarded as an expert in the field.
Non-restricted, restricted and prohibited
Canada's Firearms Act was amended in 1995 requiring owners of hunting rifles
and shotguns to obtain a licence and register each firearm. A deadline of Jan.
1, 2001, was imposed for licences to be obtained and all guns were to be
registered by Jan. 1, 2003. The rifles and shotguns, classified as
"non-restricted," were added to a central database managed by the Canadian
Firearms Program (CFP) located in Miramichi, N.B. This database became known as
the long-gun registry.
The registry had previously listed only restricted and prohibited firearms,
the other two classifications for guns in the Firearms Act.
According to the RCMP, there are 7.8 million firearms on the books. Of these,
7.1 million (90 per cent) are non-restricted firearms, a category that includes
rifles and shotguns, but also some military-style firearms such as the Ruger
Mini-14 used in the Montreal Massacre on Dec. 6, 1989, and in the recent
shootings in Norway. The fact that the type of long gun that was used in the
Montreal Massacre to kill 14 female students at the École Polytechnique and in
the Norway shootings where 77 people died falls into the non-restricted
classification worries Montreal Massacre witness Heidi Rathjen, who says, “If
you take [the gun registry] away, the Conservatives will have blood on their
Bill C-19: Amending The Firearms Act
The Firearms Act is intended to keep guns out of the hands of those deemed to
be a danger to themselves or others. To meet these objectives, the Criminal Code
of Canada governs the licensing of restricted and prohibited guns.
Restricted guns, including some handguns and assault rifles, can be bought
and sold in Canada with the appropriate Possession and Acquisition Licence
(PAL). Prohibited guns, including some automatic and higher-calibre handguns and
rifles as well as those that are easily concealed, however, can only be owned by
those in possession of a grandfathered licence, issued to gun owners in
possession of a prohibited gun prior to changes in the Firearms Act in 1998.
If the long-gun registry is scrapped, as Bill C-19 proposes, restricted and
prohibited guns would still be documented at the point of sale and ownership
records would still be listed on the RCMP's Firearms Information System (FIS).
The main change would be that records of non-restricted firearms, currently
documented on the registry, would be erased from the FIS, meaning law
enforcement, and the government, would have no permanent, central, traceable
record of the number of non-restricted firearms an individual may own. Canadaian
gun laws would in effect revert to a time before 1977.
In 1977, the Criminal Law Amendment Act required businesses to keeps records
of firearm sales in order to help police trace firearms back to their original
owners. Records such as these enabled police to trace the perpetrator of the
Montreal Massacre. In fact, it was the desire to prevent another such tragedy
that led to the creation of the long-gun registry.
Police chiefs worried
According to the RCMP, just over seven million firearms would be taken off
the registry, which worries the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
The registry is a one-stop central database of all hunting rifles and
shotguns in Canada which they say they check thousands of times a day. In their
statement to the House of Commons on Nov. 17, they argued that the registry for
non-restricted long guns provides an investigative tool, promotes further
responsibility and accountability by firearm owners, balances individual
privileges and the broader right of society to be safe, prevents stockpiling and
The chiefs aren't alone in their criticism.
"The registration of all firearms is a good investment and will reduce the
chances that dangerous people will get guns," said Karen Vanscoy, a member of
the Coalition for Gun Control.
Vanscoy knows first-hand what can happen when the wrong person gets
possession of a gun. Her daughter, Jasmine, was killed in 1996 by a family
acquaintance with a stolen handgun.
But those like Milton who favour ending the registry insist the change will
make no difference.
"You are not going to make Canada safer by making laws tighter for
law-abiding people that want to do nothing else but abide by the law," he said,
"and the people who register their guns have proven that that’s the kind of
people Canadians are."
Bill C-19 has passed first and second reading in the House of Commons. It is
currently before committee, where it will be examined clause by clause before it
goes to the Senate for a vote, and then possibly on to receive royal assent and