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Meet the Man Responsible for the Death of Canada’s Gun Registry


This article is from a few months ago, but I thought it well worth posting.  Thank you Garry for all of your tireless work for the citizens of Canada!!!

http://www.forbes.com/sites/frankminiter/2012/02/29/meet-the-man-responsible-for-the-death-of-canadas-gun-registry/

 

Frank Miniter, Contributer
I expose the excesses of the bureaucracy

Looking north across the border, American gun owners may well see the fall of Canada’s long-gun registry with relief. This, after all, lessens the odds that the anti-gun movement will be successful in its attempt to install a gun-owners database in the U.S. However, before American gun owners forget about Canada all over again, there’s an incredible story here not being told outside Ottawa political circles that needs to be heard by every American who cherishes their freedom.

The way the press is telling it, the Conservatives finally gained control of the House of Commons and the Senate and then used, as they said they would, their majorities to begin the repeal of Canada’s long-gun registry. Their first big step, taken on February 15, was the House of Commons vote to kill the long-gun registry. They accomplished this by 159-130. Next up is Canada’s Senate, where repeal is inevitable because Conservatives also have a majority there. Finally, it’ll make its way to the Governor General of Canada where it will receive Royal Assent and be passed into law. So sometime this spring law-abiding Canadians will no longer have to fill out forms and pay fees in order to keep authorities aware of what’s in their gun cabinets.

All that seems to say that the political winds simply shifted and blew over the registry. The problem with that assumption is it isn’t quite true.

The true story is actually much more interesting; in fact, it needs to be heard by every American, as the arguments used by the anti-gun groups in Canada are the same ones being promoted in the U.S.

The story begins on an evening in January in 1994 in a little town called Preeceville, Saskatchewan. Garry Breitkreuz (pronounced Bright-Krites) was then a new member of Canada’s Parliament. He had been elected in October of 1993. Preeceville has about 1,000 residents. Garry was excited. This would be his first town-hall meeting. The topic was about a new gun-control bill, C-68, brought in by the then Liberal Government. It included the creation of a long-gun registry. “I’ll never forget that first meeting,” says Garry. “Even though it was 39 degrees below zero outside the place was packed and the people heated.”

Now it should be noted that Garry was hardly a gun-rights activist. Not yet anyway. Sure, he grew up in a rural Saskatchewan home and had a .30-30-caliber rifle he used to hunt deer with. “But when it came to the gun issue,” says Garry, “I was very naïve.”

Naïve indeed. Garry started the meeting off by saying to the crowd that “this long-gun registry seems to make sense. Maybe it’ll catch a few criminals….” He barely got started in this manner when his constituents made it clear they didn’t agree.

“They challenged me,” says Garry, “to do some research to find out if forcing people to register their guns will really save lives.”

Garry shut up and listened. Before a few more minutes passed he promised to do some research to find out if requiring people to register their guns really reduces crime.

This is where the story behind this repeal takes a “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” shift. Garry set out to learn if making citizens register their deer rifles with the police really prevents homicides. “After just a few months of digging into it I did a 180,” says Garry, who soon hired a researcher to help. The researcher’s name is Dennis Young. Together they started asking the government from the inside how much the gun registry was costing and whether it was really reducing crime. The bureaucracy began stonewalling him, so he started filing “Access to Information” requests (the American equivalent of “Freedom of Information Act” requests). By 2002 he’d filed more than 500 such requests.

He learned that the Canadian government was horribly underestimating the costs of the long-gun registry. In 1995 Canada’s Department of Justice told Parliament that the Canadian Firearms Program would cost $119 million to implement and that this cost would be offset by $117 million in fees; however, by 2000 Canada’s Department of Justice was already estimating that the long-gun registry would cost over $1 billion.

Meanwhile, the gun-owners database wasn’t reducing crime rates. In fact, John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime, looked into Canada’s long-gun registry recently and couldn’t unearth one murder the registry solved. Lott says, “The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Chiefs of Police have not yet provided a single example in which tracing was of more than peripheral importance in solving a case.”

Canada’s Public Safety Minister agrees with Lott. On the day of the vote to repeal the registry the National Post reported that Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the long-gun registry “does nothing to help put an end to gun crimes, nor has it saved one Canadian life. It criminalizes hard-working and law-abiding citizens such as farmers and sport shooters, and it has been a billion-dollar boondoggle left to us by the previous Liberal government.”

Now, back in the 1990s Garry wasn’t getting any traction politically or with the press, so he took his research to the Office of the Auditor General of Canada. The government agency agreed to review his data and to do its own audit. The auditing agency agreed with Garry. In 2002 the agency reported: “The Department of Justice Canada did not provide Parliament with sufficient information to allow it to effectively scrutinize the Canadian Firearms Program and ensure accountability. It provided insufficient financial information and explanations for the dramatic increase in the cost of the Program.”

“This report blew the lid off,” says Garry.

He says that before the Office of the Auditor General report made headlines even many Conservative politicians wouldn’t touch the gun-registry issue. They thought it was a losing battle. They said the facts didn’t matter, just the demagoguery they’d surely receive. They were afraid of the big media in population centers in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver—sound familiar?

“But the public was ahead of the politicians on this issue,” says Garry. “In meetings all over the country I was telling people that with what they were spending on the registry we could hire five or six thousand police officers.”

This resonated.

The exploding costs of the registry made headlines even in the city papers. Gary A. Mauser, a Professor Emeritus at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, has also looked deeply into the costs. He says, “John Lott and I added up the costs and found that, in total, the Canadian government spent about $2.7 billion on this failed experiment.” That’s more than 20 times what it was forecast to cost.

Even after the 2002 report from Office of the Auditor General came out Garry kept traveling around Canada speaking about the costs of having the government invade law-abiding Canadians’ gun cabinets. He also kept citing the crime statistics, which clearly weren’t being affected by this massive invasion of Canadians’ civil liberties. Criminals, as it predictably turned out, weren’t registering firearms they were using for crimes.

Nevertheless, some Conservative politicians still didn’t want to tackle the issue. So Garry looked for a new way to pull them together. In 2006 he learned that the U.S. has a Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC). Nearly 300 members of the U.S. Congress are members of the CSC. Started in 1988-89, the CSC is supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), a group that fights for sportsmen’s rights, including wildlife conservation issues and gun rights. (Full disclosure: I do contract work for the CSF.) Garry hopped on a plane bound for Washington, D.C.

According to Phil Morlock, who is the director of environmental affairs for Shimano American Corporation/Shimano Canada and who is a CSF board member, “Garry couldn’t believe the U.S. had this large caucus fighting for hunting, fishing and gun rights. He was even more astounded that the caucus is bi-partisan. He met with CSC congressional leaders. He found himself talking to Republican and Democratic co-chairs of the CSC and asked them how they get along in such a partisan and politically charged atmosphere. The American politicians laughed and said that sometimes they think all they really agree on are sportsmen’s rights, including the rights of law-abiding gun owners.”

Garry flew back to Ottawa and, with the help of Morlock and others, started a nonpartisan caucus called the Canadian Parliamentary Outdoor Caucus. This caucus now is one of the largest on Parliament Hill. “The caucus helped get the information out to Members of Parliament and Senators that the long-gun registry was intrusive and ineffective,” says Garry.

At the time Garry wrote an op-ed for various newspapers in which he said, “[We] need to become proactive in protecting our outdoors heritage from an increasing number of large, well-funded, international groups who want to shut down hunting, fishing, trapping and sport shooting. Rural and urban Canadians of all political affiliations, backgrounds, ages and abilities contribute over $10 billion annually to the national economy through these industries. These traditional activities are a key part of Canada’s culture and an important component of our history as a nation.”

Sportsmen and those who just wanted to protect their families without government interference now had a caucus working for them.

Then, also in 2006, Stephen Harper, a Conservative, became prime minister of Canada by forming a minority government. Harper didn’t have the votes then to tear down the registry, but over the next few elections the Conservatives gained more seats. Finally, in 2011, with the caucus, the government, the facts and the public on their side, the Conservatives had the votes and the will to move against the long-gun registry.

Garry says the caucus, along with the blatant fact that the long-gun registry was costing a fortune without solving crimes, even had support from politicians in other parties. Nevertheless, when the vote came only two New Democrats—John Rafferty and Bruce Hyer—broke from their party and voted to repeal. “They’re now being punished by their party for doing the right thing,” laments Garry.

Then, when the vote came on February 15, something unusual took place. In the Canadian House of Commons members of Parliament stand to signify their votes. After Garry stood to vote to repeal the long-gun registry, they broke into a cheer: “Garry, Garry….” This just isn’t done in the reserved atmosphere of the Canadian Parliament. But repealing a government program—no matter how onerous and costly it turns out to be—is a rare thing. It’s especially rare to see a database of gun-owners repealed. Throughout history many governments have created gun registries—most recently in Australia and England. Gun registries often end in gun confiscations—again, this has occurred in Australia and England—but as far as Lott knows no registry has ever been repealed.

And the moral of the story is that Canada’s experiment didn’t end with the government disarming its citizenry because the people stood up and challenged a statesman to represent them by searching out the truth—this, in a nutshell, is what the Tea Party has been advocating in the U.S.

In fact, I asked Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action how this might affect Americans and he said, “Gun registration in the United States has always been the political fantasy of the gun-ban lobby. The clear lesson from Canada is that registration did not and does not reduce crime; in fact, since Canada’s long-gun-registration law went into effect, the U.S. murder rate has dropped almost twice as fast as Canada’s. A gun registry only infringes on privacy and has led to the confiscation of law-abiding citizens’ firearms in countries around the world, and even here in the U.S. That is why the NRA will fight any registration effort in the U.S. with every fiber we have.”

Indeed, Americans should be thanking Garry, too. He showed how to use facts, tenacity and a democratic process to overturn bad policy by convincing the government to stop making criminals out of law-abiding gun owners.

RCMP Gives Confidential Information to a Private Company


This week the Canadian Shooting Sports Association released an alert regarding a poll that is being conducted by Ekos Research Associates.  This poll is supposedly a “client satisfaction survey” regarding the Canadian Firearms Centre (CFC).  The CFC is the call centre that administers the controversial firearms registry.  It is part of the Canadian Firearms Program (CFP) which is run by the RCMP.  According to information available so far, this survey was commissioned by the RCMP. In order to conduct this poll, Ekos was granted access to confidential information without permission from the people involved or any type of oversight.

There’s so much wrong with this situation that I’m really not sure where to start.  I guess the RCMP’s own words regarding privacy and sharing of information is as good a place as any:

Does the CAFC share personal information collected for the Firearms Program with other agencies or the private sector?

Relevant Firearms Program information is disclosed only to federal and provincial public safety business partners that have legal authority to collect this information consistent with their public safety responsibilities. Program business partners include local and provincial police, the Canada Border Services Agency and International Trade Canada. The Privacy Act requires that those agencies must have a use consistent with the purpose for which the information was collected. In turn, those non-federal agencies to which firearms information is disclosed are bound by similar requirements under their jurisdictional privacy laws.

Furthermore, firearms information is not shared with any private sector agencies. Some private companies, however, can have access to personal information while under a contracted arrangement for software administration or records management procedures. Under the terms of those contracts, these companies cannot use or disclose information. Also, employees of private companies are thoroughly screened for security clearance to ensure that personal information is protected at the same level as federal requirements.

If someone can explain to me how a “client satisfaction survey” falls under either software administration or records management procedures I would really love to hear from you.  It would appear that not only has the RCMP blatantly violated the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), they have also acted in contravention of their own policy!

To add insult to injury, only 4 of the questions being asked have anything to do with “client satisfaction” (see the end of this entry for the full list of questions).  The remaining questions request information that is: already documented in the registry database, irrelevant and inappropriate, and/or nothing more than a thinly disguised fishing expedition.

Apart from the obvious and appalling privacy issues, one of my immediate concerns is public safety.  What security clearance do the pollsters have?  What type of confidentiality agreements are in place?  Who is accountable if this confidential information ends up in the wrong hands?  You see, we’re not just talking about names, phone numbers and addresses (which is bad enough in its own right!).  We’re talking about names and addresses in conjunction with a list of firearms stored at that address. 

The security of the registry database has been a bone of contention with firearms owners since its inception.  In the wrong hands, the information held in that database amounts to a detailed inventory and shopping list.  Criminal access to the registry database puts the safety of both firearms owners and the general public at serious, and unnecessary, risk.  The registry has, in fact, been hacked more than 300 times in the last decade, with several dozen of those cases still unsolved.

Riddle me this: if the RCMP can’t even keep my confidential information secure in their own databases, why would they think that a private company would be able to?  Or, for that matter, even care to?

If the privacy and public safety concerns regarding this issue weren’t enough, there is a third factor at play here too: politics.  The two points that are catching my attention are:

  • Bill C-391, a controversial private members bill seeking to abolish the long gun registry, is slated for its second reading in two weeks.
  • The Gun Control lobby launched an aggressive worldwide campaign (spearheaded by IANSA) over the summer in which they attempted to link legal firearms ownership to domestic violence.

I just can’t help but wonder at the timing of it all.  Especially when this survey asks questions about things like marital status, children in the home, types and numbers of firearms owned, and plans for future firearms purchases.  Add in the fact that the Gun Control lobby in Canada is funded by tax-payer money (courtesy of the Liberals) and that Michael Ignatieff seems to be hell-bent on toppling the minority Conservative government as soon as possible.  It’s definitely enough to make a person pause.  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that there’s no such thing as coincidence, particularly in politics.

While I can only speculate as to the political reasons for this survey, there is no room for debate on the issues of public safety and the RCMP’s violation of the Privacy Act.  The Conservative government has already launched an investigation into the matter, and the CSSA and National Firearms Association (NFA) are contemplating criminal charges against those responsible.  There is even talk of a class action lawsuit, although at this stage that is little more than rumour.

I know that some readers are thinking, “What’s the big deal?  It’s just some innocent questions.”  The issue is not the questions being asked.  The issue is how Ekos came into possession of the list of people to whom they posed those questions.  The bottom line is this:  the RCMP intentionally distributed confidential information to a private company without permission or oversight, and in contravention of The Privacy Act and their own policies.

Given the nature of the information at the centre of this firestorm, and the history of security violations pertaining to that information, it is not at all unreasonable to be concerned about the safety of gun owners and the public at large.  This breach may well result in an innocent gun owner being killed, or his/her guns being stolen to kill someone else.

Someone is purposely playing with life and death, and likely for political gain.  People in positions of authority need to be shown that, even though the majority of Canadians would rather watch Big Brother than stand up to Big Brother, there are still those of us who are willing and able to hold them accountable for their actions.

 

As promised, here’s the list of questions being asked in the poll:

  • How do you contact the CFC?
  • How many times in a year do you contact the CFC?
  • What do you call about?
  • How satisfied were you?
  • What classification is your firearms license? (Restricted/Non-Restricted/Prohibited)
  • Do you own any firearms?
  • What’s your reason for owning firearms?
  • Will you renew your license?
  • When will you renew your license?
  • How do you renew your license?
  • Have you ever had a gun verified?
  • How was it verified?
  • Do you plan on updating your address?
  • Do you plan on transferring firearms in the future?
  • Do you plan on destroying firearms?
  • Do you plan on changing your license status?
  • Do you plan on deactivating a firearm?
  • Do you transport firearms?
  • Do you plan on acquiring more firearms?
  • What’s the best way to communicate with you? (E-Mail, Advertisement, Mail)
  • When looking for information about firearms how likely are you to contact (Between 1-7)
    • CFC, Friend and Club?
  • Are you married, single or common law?
  • Do you have children in the home?
    • How many under 18?
  • What is your highest level of education?
  • What is your annual income?