canada

Canada Tried Registering Long Guns — And Gave Up

by Daniel Fisher, Forbes  |  published on January 25, 2013

One persistent suggestion in the post-Newtown conversation about gun control is a law requiring the registration of all guns, even so-called “long guns” like the rifle Adam Lanza used in the school killings.

Lost in the discussion: Canada tried it and gave up, discovering like several other nations that attempting to identify every gun in the country is an expensive and ultimately unproductive exercise. Criminals, of course, don’t register their guns. And even law-abiding citizens tend to ignore registration when it comes to long guns mostly used for hunting and target shooting.

Fans say a central registry would make it easier for police to track down weapons used in crimes, and perhaps even make gun owners more responsible. With all the guns registered, owners could be held liable if their guns turn up at a crime scene and they failed to report them as stolen.

Universal registration drives NRA types nuts: The more paranoid among them fear it would be a tool for government agents to seize their guns, while the less so worry that anything that has been registered also can be taxed.

Maybe they shouldn’t worry. Universal registration has been tried in several countries, most recently in Canada. The program turned out to be far more expensive than expected and didn’t have any discernable impact on crime, perhaps because long guns are used so rarely by criminals in the first place. Canada’s gun homicide rate, according to the handy statistics at Gunpolicy.org, has held steady since the late 1990s.

Canada passed a strict gun-control law in 1995, partly in reaction to a 1989 shooting at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique with a semiautomatic rifle. The law required universal regulation of guns, including rifles and shotguns. Proponents said the central registry would give law-enforcement agencies a powerful new tool for tracking guns used in crimes. They also claimed it would help reduce domestic violence and suicide.

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