Canada Plans New Gun-Marking System for Tracing to Owners

28 Nov 2018

4 min read

TheGunBlog.ca — The Canadian government will require guns to be marked in a way that links them to their owners for police tracing, raising concern of a new registration system that violates privacy and eases future bans.

The new system will revamp the UN-inspired Firearms Marking Regulations and take effect Dec. 1, 2020, the Ministry of Public Safety said in today’s Canada Gazette.

It’s the first time the government has indicated the markings should “uniquely identify the legal owner” of a gun instead of the importing country or company, in a distortion of the original intent of the rules.

Industry Suppression

The measures add to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s restrictions on the firearm industry and millions of hunters and sport shooters, from the expanded tracking and regulation in Bill C-71 to a possible “full ban” on handgun owners.

The Gazette didn’t provide details of the new marking plan. The official government newsletter suggested the new mechanism will connect owners to their guns and go beyond the firearm industry’s practice of engraving or stamping every gun with the country of origin, manufacturer, model and serial number.

Ministry of Public Safety in Today’s Canada Gazette:

The efficiencies of tracing are realized when a record of the most recent legal owner can be linked to a specific combination of information (serial number, name of manufacturer, etc.), which is marked on the firearm. Consequently, the requirements of the existing Regulations are not sufficient to uniquely identify the legal owner of the firearm in order to facilitate tracing.

Objectives

The deferral of the coming into force of the Regulations permits the Government of Canada to continue developing amendments to the Regulations so that they achieve their intended purpose of enabling the tracing of crime guns by law enforcement agencies. Over the course of the next 24 months, a marking regime will be developed in order to improve the effectiveness of the Regulations.

New and Old?

The intended purpose of the marking system is “to facilitate the ability of law enforcement to trace the criminal use of firearms,” the Gazette said.

It’s unclear if the new markings will apply only to new purchases or also to the more than 10 million guns already in the safes of Canada’s 2.2 million individuals with federal firearm licences.

The Gazette didn’t say who will manage the new system, how much it will cost or who will pay for it.

Violate and Confiscate

It violates personal privacy if police know what people own. This happens today for owners of handguns and some rifles and previously existed for all gun owners. Such a system also makes it easy to confiscate or steal firearms by listing who owns what. The ministry of justice has said the privacy intrusions in Bill C-71 are justified.

Many shooters avoid registration to protect their privacy and property. Several have told TheGunBlog.ca they are leaving Canada to avoid Trudeau’s restrictions and prohibitions.

1,000 Guns/Day

Marking or modifying hundreds of thousands of guns after they have left the factory also increases the risk of loss and theft, or damage that can cut the value of firearms and make them dangerous to use.

The existing Firearms Marking Regulations would have required labeling the almost 1,000 pistols, revolvers, rifles and shotguns that hunters and sport shooters buy each day.

Approvals, Deferrals

Canada approved the Firearms Marking Regulations in 2004. Successive governments have deferred them nine times since then, most recently on Nov. 9.

The old rules were developed to trace international gun shipments as part of the United Nations Firearms Protocol against illegal trafficking, and for a convention of the Organization of American States against illegal manufacturing and trafficking.

Owner vs. Importer

The 14-year-old text said guns entering or made in Canada must be marked with “Canada” or “CA” and the last two digits of the year, such as “CA18.” It didn’t connect firearms to the manufacturer, buyer or seller.

The Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement in the latest Gazette marks the first time the government has indicated the existing system was insufficient “to uniquely identify the legal owner” of a gun. The 2017 version sought “to uniquely identify the legal importer.” The 2015 version, under the previous government, didn’t use either phrase.

‘Domestic Tracing System’

“It appears they’re trying to implement a domestic tracing system under the guise of adhering to the UN treaty,” Wes Winkel, president of the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association, the main industry group, said today by telephone.

Critics of the old plan said the government and police would be smarter to focus on preventing violent crime instead of researching the history of crime tools after people have been injured or killed.

Industry Not Consulted

The Gazette said the government has consulted the federal police, the border agency, the ministry of global affairs and the Canadian Firearms Advisory Committee. It didn’t say if it consulted firearm manufacturers, importers, distributors or retailers.

The government also didn’t say if it consulted gun smugglers or violent criminals who obtain and use their firearms illegally, regardless of how they are marked.

Policy Lobby

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which lobbies the government to curtail the rights of hunters and sport shooters, “is disappointed with the delay to implement firearm marking regulations,” Natalie Wright, a spokeswoman for the group, told TheGunBlog.ca by e-mail on Nov. 16.

The association formed a committee to review its firearm priorities in relation to the government’s possible gun bans and the marking regulations. Wright declined to elaborate until the committee reports next year.

Read: Police Lobby Group to Create Special Committee on Firearms

‘Markings Help Law Enforcement’

“The marking regs help LE [law enforcement] to accurately id/source firearms used in crime & does not pose any threat to law abiding firearm owners,” Timothy Smith, the main lobbyist for the police association, said Nov. 10 in a conversation on Twitter. “Serial [numbers] are not unique identifiers, far from it & give us no idea as to when a firearm came into Canada.”

Smith also declined to comment further.

“The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police doesn’t have the luxury of re-writing 400 years of firearm history,” Tony Bernardo, the executive director of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association, told TheGunBlog.ca. “The firearms industry uses serial numbers to uniquely identify firearms. It’s how they track manufacturing and inventory. The serial number by itself is not a unique identifier. You also need the make and model of the firearm. Once you know those three, you’ve uniquely identified that gun.”


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Related Information

Update Dec. 10 at 14:50 Toronto time: Adds Saskatoon StarPhoenix report under Related Information.

Correction, Nov. 30 at 02:03 Toronto time: Corrects name of ministry of global affairs.

Update Nov. 29 at 14:00 Toronto time: Adds shift to tracking owner vs. importer.

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