While the intense debate over gun control in the United States is well known around the world (partially thanks to Michael Moore), a less contentious but equally relevant debate has been occurring in Canada since the early days of Confederation. Below is a brief history of gun control in Canada which will hopefully serve as backdrop to the current debate regarding the long-gun registry. This is Part 1 of 2, which discusses gun control up until the 1970‘s, before some of the more significant changes were made.
Having no “right to bear arms” under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canadians have found it much easier to progressively implement gun control policies over the decades, albeit not without opposition.
Before 1892, Justices of Peace had the authority to impose a six-month jail term on anyone carrying a handgun, if the person did not have reasonable cause to fear assault against life or property.
After the Criminal Code of Canada was enacted in 1892, the first requirements for basic carrying permits and records of gun purchases came into effect. These measures were strengthened with an amendment of the Criminal Code in 1920, which required individuals to obtain a permit to own a firearm. For some reason, British subjects were exempt of this requirement for shotguns and rifles already in their possession (but not for newly acquired ones). At the time, a central firearm registry did not exist and records were maintained by local authorities.
In 1934, the first real registration requirement for handguns was created. The new provisions required records identifying the owner, the owner’s address and the firearm although this information was still not centralized. Registration certificates were issued and records were kept by the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) or by police departments that provincial Attorneys General had designated as firearms registries. Starting in 1939, handguns had to be re-registered every five years. Also, the minimum age was changed to 14 years and the first ‘minor’s permit’ was created to allow persons under 14 to have access to firearms.
During World War II, re-registration was postponed and eventually discontinued after the war ended. By 1950, firearm owners no longer had to renew registration certificates since they had become valid indefinitely.
The registry system for handguns was eventually centralized under the Commissioner of the RCMP for the first time in 1951. Automatic firearms were added to the category of firearms that had to be registered and now had to have serial numbers.
It was not until the late 1960‘s that the categories of ‘firearm,’ ‘restricted weapon’ and ‘prohibited weapon’ were created. This ended confusion over specific types of weapons and allowed the creation of specific legislative controls for each of the new categories. For the first time, police had preventive powers to search for firearms and seize them if they had a warrant from a judge, and if they had reasonable grounds to believe that possession endangered the safety of the owner or any other person, even though no offence had been committed. The current registration system, requiring a separate registration certificate for each restricted weapon, took effect in 1969.
In response to the tragic Centennial Secondary School shooting in Brampton in 1975, the liberal majority government, led by Pierre Trudeau , passed Bill C-51 in the House of Commons in 1977, a bill which came into force over the next two years. The two biggest changes included requirements for Firearms Acquisition Certificates (FACs) and requirements for Firearms and Ammunition Business Permits, which involved the screening of applicants and record-keeping systems.
…. Il y avait beaucoup de dates et information, non? Alors, on va faire une petite pause.
But before I go, it is very much worth noting that some of these very components, which include ownership and commercial records, are now being threatened by a Conservative MP’s bill that would dismantle the long-gun registry and all the information acquired until now…
(To be continued…)
For more detailed information, please see the RCMP’s page: http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cfp-pcaf/pol-leg/hist/con-eng.htm
Posted By Oscar Alvarado
Posted Jun 22nd, 2010