NOTE: This is an excerpt from my 45-page Special Report “Designed to Fail: Canada’s Broken Firearm Prohibition Order System and How to Fix It.”
In the pages ahead I will make the case for a new firearm prohibition order system – one modeled after the United Kingdom’s Management of Sexual and Violent Offenders (MOSOVO) Units.
Unlike Canada, the United Kingdom created specialized police units whose sole purpose is to track and search sex offenders and violent offenders prohibited from possessing weapons to ensure they comply with the terms of their Harm Prevention Orders.
The rational is simple.
Common sense dictates we devote our scarce police resources to those individuals who pose the greatest risk to public safety – violent offenders with Firearm Prohibition Orders registered against them – yet these are the people Canada’s legislators completely ignore despite their claims of keeping Canadians safe.
Under our current legislation, the only government agency notified when an individual is prohibited from possessing firearms is the RCMP Canadian Firearms Program (CFP).
So the CFP can revoke that individual’s Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL). If the individual does not have a PAL, they are totally ignored by our justice system.
Individuals convicted of violent offences who are prohibited from possessing firearms are a proven danger to public safety, yet:
- No police agency in Canada tracks individuals with Firearm Prohibition Orders registered against them.
- There is no legal requirement for police to track individuals with Firearm Prohibition Orders registered against them to ensure compliance.
- There is no legal ability to routinely track or check on individuals with Firearm Prohibition Orders registered against them to ensure compliance.
- There is no legal obligation for individuals with Firearm Prohibition Orders to notify police (or any government agency) when they move to a new residence. Police have no idea where these people are.
Common sense also dictates we shouldn’t waste our scarce police resources on federally-licenced, RCMP-vetted gun owners who are, statistically, less of a threat to public safety than the general public and serving police officers, yet these are the people upon whom Canada’s legislators focus all their energy in their quest for public safety.
If we truly want to enhance public safety, there are far better ways to achieve this worthy goal.
For those who don’t know, to legally own firearms in Canada you must apply for and be issued a firearm Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) from the RCMP Canadian Firearms Program.
Once issued a PAL, a licenced firearm owner:
- Must notify the Canadian Firearms Program of their change of address within 30 days or face up to 2 years in prison.
- Must request and receive permission (an Authorization to Transport) from the Canadian Firearms Program to move their private property (Restricted and Prohibited firearms) from their old address to their new address.
- Must request and receive permission (an Authorization to Transport) from the Canadian Firearms Program to take their Restricted firearms to and from federally licenced shooting ranges.
- Must request and receive permission (an Authorization to Transport) from the Canadian Firearms Program to take their Restricted firearms to and from a gunsmith.
- Are Screened Daily by the RCMP Canadian Firearms Program’s Continuous Eligibility Screening Program.
For more information about Canada’s strict firearms control system and the many legal requirements for firearm ownership please read Canadian Gun Laws: A Primer for People Who Don’t Know Much About Gun Laws.
Governments Fund What They Care About
The Trudeau government, through Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair, first announced $327.6 million over five years in new federal funding for the Initiative to Take Action Against Guns and Gangs in November, 2017.
The Trudeau government repeated this $327 million funding announcement for the next two and a half years, including during their May 1, 2020, press conference banning over 100,000 legally-acquired firearms by Order in Council.
Of this, only $86 million over five years ($17 million per year) is destined for Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP to stop firearms from being smuggled into Canada – the Number One source of illegal guns for drug dealers and gangs (and the Nova Scotia mass murderer).
Contrast this with the cost of “buying back” firearms from licensed, RCMP-vetted gun owners.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said it will cost roughly $600 million to purchase legally-owned guns from licenced gun owners so the federal government can dump these legally-owned firearms into smelters and proudly proclaim they’ve “done something” about guns.
The Minister’s estimate is likely one-third of the actual costs according to the Fraser Institute. Total costs could exceed $1.5 billion. Yes, that’s with a “B”.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where the Liberal government’s priorities are – it’s not with stopping violent criminals from obtaining illegal guns and committing crimes with them.
The Liberal government’s priority is taking guns away from sport shooters, hunters and farmers – statistically the most law-abiding people in the country.
Which brings me back to where I started with this introduction – focusing our scarce resources on those most likely to commit violent offences and threaten public safety – those individuals with Firearm Prohibition Orders registered against them.
As I noted above, the primary purpose of a Firearm Prohibition Order is to notify the RCMP Canadian Firearms Program in case the individual holds a firearms Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL).
The Canadian Firearms Program uses this information to revoke an individual’s firearms licence.
This is the only case where any police agency in Canada pays any attention to individuals prohibited by court order from possessing guns.
When the government’s priority is taking legally-owned guns away from federally-licenced RCMP-vetted Canadians, it’s easy to understand why Canada’s Firearms Prohibition Order system is designed to fail.
Why Track Violent Offenders With Firearm Prohibition Orders?
The answer to this question should be obvious to everyone with an IQ above zero.
Individuals prohibited from possessing firearms by a judge pose the greatest threat to public safety because their risk of re-offending is high. Knowing where these offenders are is critical to ensure they obey their Firearm Prohibition Orders.
According to the 2014 Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) offender population profile, about eight out of 10 male and seven out of 10 female offenders have previous convictions. In the 2013 report, the stats were nine out of 10 men and eight out of 10 women.
An international study of recidivism showed re-conviction rates for prisoners in the United States and United Kingdom were 55% and 72% respectively after five years. After nine years, the U.K. rate rose to 78%.
That same study showed Canada’s 2-year re-conviction rate was 41%. While this is better than many other countries, it still means almost half of all people convicted of a crime will leave prison to commit more crimes.
The 2018 RCMP Commissioner of Firearms Report says on December 31, 2018, there were 459,538 individuals prohibited from possessing firearms in Canada.
Using Canada’s 2-year re-conviction rate as the low end and Canada’s 2014 CSC population profile data on previous convictions as the high end, between 188,410 and 367,630 individuals currently prohibited from possessing firearms could be violating their Firearm Prohibition Orders today.
Through one of many his Freedom of Information requests, firearm researcher Dennis Young learned that from 2014 to 2018 (the latest year stats are available) police arrested 5,550 criminals who were already prohibited from possessing firearms – an average of 1,110 per year.
The logical group of people to track and check on regularly would be “convicted criminals who have been prohibited from owning firearms… because of their high risk to reoffend (i.e. acquire firearms illegally and use firearms in the commission of a subsequent offence) and because of their past firearms convictions they represent a higher risk to both police and public safety.”
The operating principle of our Liberal government is fundamentally flawed, as is that of the many groups advocating banning guns from licensed gun owners.
Their thinking goes like this:
Guns cause violent crime and murder.
When you believe guns cause crime and murder, why would you go after people?
That’s completely illogical.
Public safety is enhanced by removing the hated object from society, not the violent criminal who uses it to injure or kill someone.
People, not pieces of metal, commit violence and endanger the safety of us all.
Spending two to three times as much money taking guns away from the people least likely to cause anyone harm – federally-licensed RCMP-vetted firearm owners – than we do on stopping those individuals who present the greatest risk to public safety – violent offenders with firearm prohibition orders – is the textbook definition of insane.
1 : exhibiting a severely disordered state of mind : affected with mental illness
2 : unable to think in a clear or sensible way
It is not sensible to expend more resources on those least likely to endanger public safety than on those who are proven threats to public safety.
For those people, we need interdiction programs to ensure compliance with court orders and probation terms.
We need specialized police units, like the United Kingdom’s Management of Sexual and Violent Offenders Units, who provide education and training to offenders, but also perform meaningful compliance checks to ensure they abide by the terms of their prevention orders.
We must prioritize our limited police budgets so we spend money on those areas where we can have the greatest impact on public safety.
We also need a federal government with the will to pass legislation to implement this system to ensure Canadians are protected from the most violent offenders in our country.
Reporting of Prohibition Orders
Section 89 of the Firearms Act identifies who must be notified when a judge issues a firearm prohibition order against an individual.
89 Every court, judge or justice that makes, varies or revokes a prohibition order shall have a chief firearms officer informed without delay of the prohibition order or its variation or revocation.
The only agency notified when a judge issues a firearms prohibition order against an individual is the Chief Firearms Officer of the province where the conviction took place.
This means the only purpose of a firearms prohibition order is to allow the Canadian Firearms Program to revoke that individual’s Possession and Acquisition Licence – if they have one.
If the individual does not have a Possession and Acquisition Licence (i.e they are not “clients” of the Canadian Firearms Program) that’s literally the end of it as far as our justice system is concerned.
Violent criminals get a total pass.
Nobody checks on them to ensure they remain compliant with their Firearms Prohibition Order. Nobody even knows where they live, since there is no legal requirement for anyone to track or check on these offenders.
Only in the minds of imbeciles does this make any sense.
Designed To Fail
This is why I say the entire Firearm Prohibition Order system is designed to fail.
Once an individual’s Possession and Acquisition Licence expires, they are no longer a client of the Canadian Firearms Program and the provisions of the Firearms Act no longer apply.
Furthermore, a piece of paper cannot and provably does not stop a criminal from illegally obtaining a firearm and committing more violent offences for, ultimately, that’s all a Firearms Prohibition Order is – a piece of useless paper.
Harm Prevention Orders – An Alternative to Firearm Prohibition Orders
The current Firearm Prohibition Order system is not designed to enhance public safety. The current system is designed solely to provide the RCMP Canadian Firearms Centre with information to revoke firearm licences from currently licenced individuals.
As the growing list of repeat Firearm Prohibition Order offenders proves, Canada needs a new system for registering, tracking and compliance measures to ensure those violent individuals who are prohibited from possessing firearms and other weapons obey the terms of those orders.
Under current Canadian law, there is no way to accomplish these public safety measures.
We need to start over with a new system – Harm Prevention Orders – that give police the authority to ensure compliance while giving judges the freedom to apply any (or none) of the available measures to the individual before them in court.
This new system requires two new measures – changes to Section 89 of the Criminal Code so all prohibition orders.
First, legislation must be introduced to Parliament to create a “Violent Offender Registry” for those convicted of violent criminal offences.
This could be modeled after our existing National Sex Offender Registry and would require the creation of a new section in Part XV, Special Procedure and Powers, of the Criminal Code similar to the existing notification requirements in Section 490.018 (1) for sex offenders.
The Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police would be responsible for maintaining a new Violent Offender Registry just as they are responsible for maintaining the National Sex Offender Registry today.
The key element of any conviction requiring registration in the Violent Offender Registry is “violence.”
While it is currently a criminal offence to possess firearms when your Possession and Acquisition Licence expires, there is no criminal intent nor is there a violent element to this offence. These individuals would not be eligible for inclusion in a new Violent Offender Registry.
Second, legislation must be introduced to allow police to search the registered individual and their place of residence to ensure compliance with their prohibition orders. This should be written to withstand a Charter challenge using the provision in Section 1, “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”
Ensuring individuals with a violent criminal history do not possess weapons is a “demonstrably justified” restriction on a person’s Charter rights.
Third, federal funding must be provided to create police units whose sole responsibility is ensuring compliance for registered violent offenders in their jurisdiction.
NOTE: This is an excerpt from my 45-page Special Report “Designed to Fail: Canada’s Broken Firearm Prohibition Order System and How to Fix It.”
For a limited time you can download and read the entire report for 25% off using the coupon code DesignedToFail25.