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More guns in Canada now, but fewer owners: RCMP
Postmedia News January 23, 2012
By Jeff Davis

Canadians own more than half a million more firearms than they did in 2006, according to the 2010 annual report from the RCMP’s Canadian Firearms Program.

But while federal firearms data shows that the number of registered gun owners in Canada is dropping, the arsenal of each is getting bigger and bigger.

But many gun owners — and a Tory MP — say the government’s estimates are off the mark, and that there may be twice as many firearms, and firearms owners, in Canada as the RCMP says. They say many Canadian gun owners are “going underground,” due to fears they will face increased police scrutiny and the seizure of their weapons.

In 2006, there were a total of 7,102,466 firearms registered in Canada. By 2010, this number had grown to 7,646,699, an increase of 544,233, or over 100,000 per year.

However, between 2006 and 2010, the number of licensed gun owners has dropped from 1,908,011 to 1,848,000. This represents a decrease of 60,011, or about 12,000 per year for five years.

As such, each registered gun owner in Canada had an average of 4.14 guns in 2010, up from 3.72 guns per registered owner in 2006.
Many Canadians, however, say that there are many more guns and gun owners in Canada than the RCMP says.

Garry Breitkreuz is the Tory MP who drafted the legislation to repeal the long-gun registry currently before the House. He said his own independent research — gleaned from comparing Canada’s firearms import and export data — has shown there are between 16.5 and 21 million guns in Canada.

He said the dwindling number of registered firearms owners is perhaps due to a disinterest in hunting among younger Canadians.

“There is a slow decline in the number of people hunting,” he said. “The registry has discouraged people from getting involved.”

Canadian Shooting Sports Association executive director Tony Bernardo agreed the RCMP’s estimates on the number of guns in Canada is way off.

“There are still seven, eight, nine, 10 million guns out there that are not in (the)system, and never were in the system,” he said.

Allister Muir, a spokesman for the Canadian Unlicensed Firearms Owners Association, said he has never held a firearms licence, but owns seven guns.

Muir said he thinks there are between 3.3 and four million firearms owners in Canada — registered or otherwise — and between 14 and 21 million guns.

He said he has never been charged by the RCMP, despite his best efforts at provocation, such as a cross-country tour to protest the gun registry. Due in part to weak incentives to register, he said, millions of gun owners have simply chosen not to inform the government of their arsenals.

Reached at his home in Stellarton, N.S., Muir said that back in 1995 when the long-gun registry came into force, many gun owners simply chose not to opt in. Muir said he thinks there are around two million Canadians who, like himself, have chosen not to register.

“The original belief was that this registration was about confiscation, and that was the driving force,” he said.

Muir said there are now more than 300,000 firearms licences that have lapsed and were not renewed. The licences are supposed to be renewed every five years.

He said he thinks the risk of being slapped with a trumped up criminal firearms charge is much higher for registered owners, so many shooters choose to keep a lower profile.

“And a lot of people are simply going underground right at this point,” he said. “It’s getting harder and harder to determine whether this is an issue of lower ownership or hidden ownership.”

Bernardo estimates there are 330,000 expired firearms licences in Canada, which he said is mostly people who have had enough of the registry.

“Most of them consciously opted out, and said, ‘I’m not going to do this anymore,’” he said. “This is the government’s elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.”

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