After Bill C-19 passed and was proclaimed into law Canada’s so-called “Long Gun Registry” was officially dead. Except that it wasn’t.
The law said it was, but the RCMP is still dragging its heels when it comes to actually deleting the data contained in the registry database. They claimed it will take months to work out the details of how to delete the data which is, to be blunt, garbage.
The database is specifically set up with a field called “Class”, into which one of three classes of firearms can be entered. For example, if you have a registered handgun this field will say “Restricted”. If you have a machine gun this field will say “Prohibited”.
For non-restricted firearms this field will contained, shock of shocks, “Non-Restricted”.
Anyone with the brains of a flea can simply select all database records where “Class” = “Non-Restricted” and then press the Delete key. It’s very simple, yet apparently far beyond the ability of the techs at the Canadian Firearms Program.
Okay, to be fair that might be a slight over-simplification, but not by much. The Quebec injunction preserving data on Quebec firearm owners is one problem. The anti-gun and anti-freedom mindset of some members of the RCMP bureaucracy is certainly another.
To make matters worse the provincial Chief Firearms Officer (CFO) in Ontario issued a decree that all firearm retailers MUST keep track of all non-restricted firearm sales, which includes recording all information about both the firearm and the person purchasing the firearm.
This information (exactly the same as what is stored in the federal database) is then stored in a ledger in the firearms retailer’s place of business. The catch is that the ledger is not the property of the retailer, it’s the property of the provincial CFO.
This decree has also been issued by the CFO in every single province across Canada.
The additional catch to all of this is that the CFOs have tied this data recording requirement to the Business Firearms License (BFL) of the retailer. Don’t want to keep gun registry data? No problem. The CFO will be happy to revoke your Business Firearms License and voila! You’re out of business in a heartbeat. Otherwise your business operates at the whim of the CFO and you will do whatever he tells you.
Since a firearms business requires a Business Firearms License in order to operate business owners were placed in an impossible situation. The law says they don’t have to keep the information but the bureaucrat who issues their BFL says he’ll cancel their license if they don’t. On top of that, regular firearm owners won’t purchase firearms from the retailer because the retailer is going beyond the requirements of the law and keeping information they are not entitled to.
It’s a lovely Catch-22 that annoyed Public Safety Minister Vic Toews so badly he issued a decree that this practice was to end, effective immediately, or else.
Ontario’s CFO said he would
“wait and see what position the RCMP takes on Mr. Toews’ direction and then we’ll consider our options.”
That just made Vic Toews even madder, and he ordered the head of the RCMP, Commissioner Robert Paulson, to re-issue the decree to all of the CFOs across the country, which Paulson did.
That too made no difference.
In Ontario and elsewhere across the country it was business as usual for the CFOs and their requirement that businesses record all that information remained. The lone exception was New Brunswick. In that province the CFO actually followed the orders of both the head of the RCMP and the Minister of Public Safety.
As I wrote in my column “Police State: When the Police choose which laws they will obey”, this is ludicrous.
The police, contrary to what the likes of Ontario Provincial Police Acting Insp. Steve Rideout think, are not the people who create laws. That’s the job of Parliament. The job of the police, which includes Steve Rideout, is to enforce those laws.
Apparently nobody has ever informed Ontario Provincial Police Acting Insp. Steve Rideout of this little fact. Perhaps he should be suspended (with pay naturally) until he can be taught the proper role of a police officer.
Like most firearm owners in Canada I don’t comprehend why it took Vic Toews so long to put an end to the CFO uprising once Bill C-19 became law.
That lack of comprehension is caused primarily by three things:
1. My own personal involvement in the issue at hand,
2. My own impatience, and
3. My lack of understanding about how slow the wheels of Ottawa's bureaucracy really turn.
Reading the 127-word regulation that Toews actually introduced to Parliament didn't help much given how little it seemed to say.
FIREARMS INFORMATION REGULATIONS (Non-Restricted Firearms)
1. In these regulations, “non-restricted firearm” means a firearm other than a prohibited firearm or a restricted firearm.
2. A person cannot be required, as a condition of a licence that is issued under the Firearms Act,
(a) to collect information with respect to the transfer of a non-restricted firearm;
(b) if they collect such information, to keep a record of it; or
(c) if they keep such a record, to keep it in a form that combines information that identifies the transferee with information that identifies an individual firearm, links such information, or enables such information to be combined or linked.
COMING INTO FORCE
3. These Regulations come into force on the day on which they are registered.
It certainly doesn’t sound like much, does it? There’s a reason for that. It’s not much. It seems to leave a mile-wide loophole for rogue CFOs to use should they decide to push back some more and continue with their little rebellion.
What do I mean by a “mile-wide loophole”?
Notice the choice of language used in Section 2 of the draft regulation:
“A person cannot be required...”
The issue was never that persons were being forced to comply with illegal requirements, it was that businesses were being forced to keep long gun registry information on every individual to whom they sold non-restricted firearms.
Since that is the problem supposedly being solved by this regulation, why on earth would Vic Toews specifically leave businesses out of it?
According to a source close to the Minister there is a specific reason for this wording.
First, "A person" covers both individuals and businesses. Often Business Firearms Licenses are made out in the name of an individual even though a business operates under that license.
Second, Quebec, forever despising Rights and Freedoms of its citizens, has floated the idea of an individual long gun registry where individual firearm owners would be required to fill out and maintain a booklet.
This wording preempts that silliness, too.
That’s still not the full extent of the problem, either.
All Vic Toews proposed regulation does is tell CFOs to stop recording the information effective some mythical future date which is, as yet, unspecified. His 127-word regulation makes no mention at all of the information that provincial CFOs have already forced firearm retailers to record.
Remember, the ledgers are the property of the CFO, not the retailer. The retailer cannot destroy them. Well, they can, but they’d have their BFL revoked about 10 seconds later, so they simply will not do that. They’re in business, after all, right? Right.
In the face of all this insubordination from senior police officials from across the nation it took Public Safety Minister Vic Toews over 4 weeks to put an end to the madness. Or at least to issue a press release saying he would end the madness.
"There will not be a long gun registry by the back door, and that Parliament will be respected," Toews told the House of Commons. "And to ensure that the leader of the NDP will not be able to use data collected by CFOs to attack the rights of law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters through recreating the long gun registry as he has promised to do, should he ever get the chance."
It's no secret that I'm no fan of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews when it comes to his online spying and invasion of privacy Bill C-30. The little banner at the top right of this page and the article that banner links to is ample evidence of that.
However, on the firearms file I do believe Minister Toews is trying to do the right thing. The biggest problem Vic Toews faces is not angry firearm owners, though they certainly cannot be dismissed, it is from the bureaucracy that he inherited from 20 years of Liberal rule that still does its level best to undermine him every step of the way.
I mentioned my impatience earlier and said that it took Vic Toews "over 4 weeks" to get this before Parliament. Sadly, this is where my lack of knowledge of how Parliament actually works shows.
Normally regulation takes 5-8 weeks to table because there are a number of procedural steps to take. Legislation is even worse, taking a minimum of 6 months to get before Parliament. Toews presented this regulation in 4 weeks, which is probably a new Parliamentary record.
The regulation will now go to committee where one of three things can happen; 1. The committee refrains from voting and waves it though, 2. The committee receives it and votes and 3. The committee elects to hear witnesses and testimony before voting. They cannot take longer than 30 sitting days. There are two committees, House and Senate and both have to pass the regulation. I am being told the House is waving it through and the Senate will only hold 1 day of witness testimony, likely next Thursday.
Should all this proceed as I've been told it will, this regulation will become law next Thursday. This is important, since Parliament's summer recess begins the next day. The government wants this to be law by then, since the last thing they need is to face angry gun owners all summer long back in their ridings.
So despite my (and presumably most gun owners') impatience with Minister Toews on this issue things have moved quite quickly, even if it doesn't appear so on the surface.
All that said, the battleground where the effectiveness of this regulation will be determined will most likely be Ontario, since that has been the public face of this little rebellion since Bill C-19 became law.
Ontario so far has still not complied with the will of Parliament. In a statement issued to QMI Agency, deputy chief firearms office inspector Steve Rideout said this:
"The CFO of Ontario will be seeking legal advice on this issue as to the most appropriate next steps. It is anticipated that this office will send a communication to all Ontario firearms businesses with respect to business requirements moving forward and providing direction on action to be taken with ledgers."
Steve Rideout is clearly leading the charge publicly to impose the will of the himself and his anti-gun bureaucracy on the people of Ontario instead of doing his job, which is to impose the will of Parliament.
As I wrote in my previous article,
From where I stand the first option OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis should consider is firing acting Inspector Steve Rideout and appointing someone to the position of CFO that can actually take direction from Parliament.
In the wake of what I would call blatant disrespect for the will of Parliament and Canadian citizens by police across the nation, I guess time will tell if Vic Toews' regulation will have the desired effect.
So far, though, it's not looking like it.