The Canadian firearms program is far from being just a registry of firearms. It is an investment in the improvement of public safety through a secure licensing system that prevents people who should not have a firearm, such as individuals with a history of violence, from acquiring firearms. Law-abiding citizens will not be penalized by this program.
Since December 1, 1998, more than 9,000 firearm licences have been refused or revoked by public safety officers. Furthermore, due to the strengthening of verifications, there are now 70 times more licences being revoked than in the last five years of the previous plan as a result of a more solid and efficient system that allows continuous verification of licence holders. Buyers and sellers are also under scrutiny and each sale of a firearm in the country is subjected to a screening process. This clearly helps in keeping persons who should not have a firearm from acquiring one.
The ongoing verification of eligibility is being done through the Canadian firearms registration system, which allows us to ensure that licence holders are continually complying with the requirements of Section 5 of the Firearms Act.
Through the firearms program we are able to help in the reduction of criminal activity and to efficiently monitor licence holders for security purposes. This program also makes it mandatory for new applicants to obtain training in the handling of firearms.
Additionally, millions of firearms have already been registered, especially rifles and shotguns. It was difficult for authorities to trace these firearms under the previous plan. Registration is the link between a firearm and its rightful owner. It strengthens an owner’s accountability for his/her firearms and encourages safe storage of firearms, which reduces the number of accidents and thefts.
Registration of firearms also assists police in their investigations by enabling them to trace firearms to their owners. The issuance of a licence and the registration of a firearm go hand in hand. These two activities help to control access to firearms and to discourage their misuse.
The program is also helping to reduce lost firearms. The number of lost firearms was reduced by 68% between 1997 and 2001, while the number of stolen firearms was diminished by 35% during that same period. (Reference: 2001 Report of the Registrar of the Canadian Firearms Registry on the Administration of the Firearms Act.)
The national weapons enforcement support team (NWEST) implemented by the Department of Justice in January, 2001, is comprised of trained and experienced individuals who help local agencies to enforce the law in the matter of firearms trafficking and smuggling. NWEST also helps the police in the processing of violence records pertaining to firearms. New provisions of the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act establish increased controls over firearm imports and exports and impose penalties for smuggling and trafficking.
On December 3, 2002, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police reiterated its support for the firearms program and its essential tools for crime control. These tools include the Canadian firearms registry online (CFRO), which helps the police to assess public safety potential threats and to remove, if need be, firearms as a preventive measure. The usefulness of the CFRO is undeniable. Law enforcement communities have consulted this system more than two million times since December 1, 1998. These figures show that police officers frequently refer to CFRO to complete their investigations.
The Canadian firearms program ensures that Canadian communities and homes are safe and secure.