The Quebec government is attributing a spike in owners giving their long guns to police to its new policy on firearm registration.
The Quebec government is attributing a spike in the amount of owners giving their long guns to police to its new policy on firearm registration.
Between April 1, 2018, and March 31, 2019, 5,250 firearms were surrendered to authorities to be destroyed, according to Sûreté du Québec spokesperson Joyce Kemp.
The previous year, 2,406 long guns were given to police. The latest numbers represent a 118-per-cent increase year over year.
Quebec officials estimate there are 1.6 million long guns — mostly hunting rifles and shotguns — in the province.
Other than long guns, federal legislation classifies firearms in two categories; prohibited firearms, like automatic weapons, and restricted firearms, like handguns, that must be registered with the RCMP.
Unlike in the rest of Canada, long guns must also be registered with police.
Jean-François Del Torchio, a spokesperson for Quebec’s Public Security minister, says the increase in surrendered firearms is likely linked to the province’s firearm registration law, passed in 2016 under the Liberals. The law came into affect on Jan. 29, 2018.
Gun owners had one year from that date to register their weapons.
Registering firearms online or via mail is free. Those who don’t can be fined up to $5,000.
Del Torchio says he thinks owners of rifles who no longer hunt likely handed their weapon over to police. Others, he added, perhaps received a gun as a gift or inherited and didn’t want to bother registering them.
“People who love to hunt will keep their rifles,” he said.
Kemp said police don’t keep data on why people surrender their long guns, but she said “what could explain the difference for 2018-2019, is the firearms registry law coming into affect.”
Despite an increasing number of Quebecers getting rid of hunting rifles versus previous years, only one-third of rifles in Quebec have been registered since the law was adopted.
Some 516,270 firearms have been registered since January 2019, according to the Public Security ministry.
Some gun owners have called on a boycott of the registry and a number of municipalities have adopted resolutions denouncing it.
The Quebec government tabled a bill last week easing some of the obligations on long gun owners.
If it passes, they will no longer have to provide police officers their weapon’s serial number upon request. They wouldn’t have to indicate the length of their weapon’s barrel, either, when filling out the form to register their rifle.
Stéphanie Vadnais, a lobbyist with the Fédération des chasseurs et des pêcheurs du Québec, said her group will be at parliamentary hearings later this year to try to obtain more concessions from the government.
She said Friday current regulations are overly bureaucratic, but that’s not why her group is against them. She maintains the federal long gun registry was a fiasco and that there’s no evidence it made the country safer.
When the federal registry came into affect in 1995, the federal Liberals claimed it would cost roughly $10 million. After costs continued to skyrocket over the years, the Conservatives abolished it in 2012.
Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault says the Quebec registry should cost about $20 million to create and $5 million per year to administer.
“We’re selling the illusion of security at a high cost,” Vadnais said.