Canada’s experiment with a long-gun registry, ostensibly contrived to prevent “violence against women” — it’s always for “women” or “the children,” isn’t it? — achieved little more than to demonstrate what the less naïve among us already knew: that criminals do not abide by the law. As Mauser has noted, data from Statistics Canada show not just that only 4 percent of long guns used in Canadian homicides were registered, but also that the claim that such registration will help the police to “monitor potentially dangerous gun owners” is upside down. Instead, statistics reveal that Canadians who own legally registered guns are less dangerous to their fellow citizens than those who either do not own guns at all or own unregistered guns. Unsurprisingly, while the long-gun registry was in force, in not a single case did the police employ it in order to identify a murderer.
When, as the culmination of a piecemeal process that began in 1995, the registry was created in 2003, Canada’s parliament promised that its cost would not exceed $2 million. By 2012, the registry had cost taxpayers $2.7 billion — a 134,900 percent increase on projections. (In the U.S., a registry costing the same amount per person would run $67 billion over the same time.) For this considerable outlay, the government reaped a homicide rate that dropped more slowly than that of the United States, a country in which gun laws have been slowly liberalized; a collection of disillusioned police forces, whose budgets were being eaten up by the growing costs of gun registration; and an angry citizenry whose indignation, Gary Mauser observes, was serious enough to create a peculiar coalition of the Reform, Progressive, Conservative, and New Democratic parties and to wipe out the Liberal party in the West. The registry was abolished in 2012.