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Canada's Ten Reasons for Gun Registration
by Bartholomew Roberts[*]
Introduction

The following claimed advantages of a national firearms registry are taken from Canada's Canadian Firearms Centre Web site. The page referenced here is titled 10 Reasons for the Registration of All Guns.

The advantages are numbered 1 through 10, with the Canadian explanations bolded. Following each explanation is my brief analysis. In some cases, alternatives to a national gun registry are suggested.

Although this page suggests further gun control measures, they would not be recommended until the Second Amendment, and gun rights in general, are treated as normal constitutional law.

[Note: If you happened to stumble across this Web page first, it is part of a larger discussion of gun registration and gun control here.]

The Canadian Firearms Centre's Ten Reasons for Gun Registration

1. DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE BUYING?

Without proof of an ownership certificate, you may be buying stolen goods.

Applying the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to all secondary transactions, combined with a national stolen gun registry would insure the likelyhood of legal gun purchases.

It is highly arguable as to which system would produce the highest percentage of legal gun transactions. However, compliance with a national gun registry would probably be relatively low for many years to come. A stolen gun registry is more likely to have a higher compliance rate than a national gun registry (especially if federal law requires the reporting of stolen guns).

2. DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE SELLING TO?
This is the flip side of buying firearms privately... Trying to sell the firearm will trigger a review of the new owner's licence status.

As in item 1, expanding NICS to all secondary transactions would determine whether the perspective seller is prohibited from owning firearms.

3. RETURN LOST OR STOLEN FIREARMS

Having registered your firearms, police can return recovered firearms to their rightful owners.

Again as in Item 1, a national stolen firearms registry would work at least as well as a national registration system for returning lost or stolen firearms.

4. HELP POLICE FIGHT CRIME

Once all law abiding owners have registered their firearms, those who haven't can be charged under the Criminal code for failure to register. This gives police a new clear cut avenue to fight criminal behavior. [The expectant result being...] Additional criminal charge against criminals (up to five years imprisonment or ten years if smuggling can be proven). [And] [b]reak up organized networks of criminals.

Unless the Supreme Court revisits its holdings in Haynes v. U.S.(1968), failure to register will not help law enforcement bring additional charges against criminals since criminals cannot be punished for "failure to register a firearm" or for "possession of an unregistered firearm."

It would enable police to charge those without criminal records for failure to register a firearm. This would be useful against those with no criminal record, but had criminal intent, however it would also make criminals out of otherwise law abiding citizens who simply didn't trust the government.

It does require less resources to find the last legal owner of a firearm, making it quicker and easier to fight firearms trafficking and keep guns out of the hands of criminals. This is the most significant advantage of registration (unless one considers confiscation an advantage).

5. HELP POLICE AVOID UNFORTUNATE DOMESTIC INCIDENTS WITH FIREARMS

By having access to a firearms registry database, a police officer knows HOW MANY firearms to remove from harm's way. In 1996, there were 80 spousal homicides, 40% of these homicides were done with firearms. The weapon most often used is a long gun.

Once law enforcement has obtained a search warrant, firearms can be confiscated from the premises. Any person convicted of domestic violence or under a restraining order is prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm. (See Lautenberg Amendment [scroll down to 922(g)(9)]. See also Lautenberg Domestic Gun Ban.)

Even under a national registration scheme, due to the possibility of a lack of compliance, and the market for illegal firearms, it may not be wise to assume no firearms are present even if an offender is not in a firearms registry.

6. HELP POLICE SOLVE CRIMES
The computerized data base will make it easy to trace the last known owner of a firearm. This will give police a valuable starting point for their investigation. Potential for a higher rate of solved crimes involving a firearm

Although a few crimes will undoubtedly be solved by a criminal dumb enough to leave a traceable gun at a crime scene, such cases are going to be rare and extremely unlikely to yield a "higher rate of solved crimes involving a firearm." As stated previously, the most significant advantage of firearms registration is Item 4.

7. INCREASE PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY
Knowing that a firearm is registered in a database linking the individual to the firearm will ensure that gun owners take more care of firearms. Responsible owners are:
8. LINK LICENCE STATUS & OWNERSHIP OF FIREARM
A discussion of licensing is forthcoming, so it won't be discussed here.
9. REDUCE SMUGGLING AT OUR BORDERS
Newly manufactured inventory will be automatically registered. Any firearm imported into Canada for sale will be traceable throughout its history. Illegal shipments will be easier to stop. Customs officers will be able to identify shipments against the database.

Only the most lazy of smugglers would be stopped by registration laws. What gun-runner would pass shipments through a customs official? Registration might prevent a small number of very under-motivated "smugglers."

10. BETTER USE OF POLICE RESOURCES
Filling out a registration form at home as opposed to today's mandatory visit to police stations, will eliminate unnecessary police paperwork & re-orient their involvement to investigations and enforcement.

One method of implementing registration is being substituted for another, so this item is not applicable to a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of firearm registration.

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[*]Bartholomew Roberts is a pseudonym, but he will respond to email.

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