The Conservative government’s bill to scrap the requirement to register long-guns comes with a surprising clause: it requires the Commissioner of Firearms destroy all records of registered long-guns.
The clause in question:
29. (1) The Commissioner of Firearms shall ensure the destruction as soon as feasible of all records in the Canadian Firearms Registry related to the registration of firearms that are neither prohibited firearms nor restricted firearms and all copies of those records under the Commissioner’s control.
The legislation goes on to describe how this provision trumps the Privacy Act and the Library and Archives Act, which govern the retention of records.
The Tory spin on this passage of the bill is a bit misleading. The registry will not be destroyed. Rather, records of only non-restricted and non-prohibited firearms will be deleted from the database. The database will continue — and will continue to be updated with new registrations or de-registrations of restricted (mostly hand-guns and some rifles) and prohibited (mostly automatic and some semi-automatics) firearms.
But, personally, I find the destruction of any kind of government data utterly abhorent and contrary to the concept of open government.
In response, I’m posting publicly a copy of the gun registry database I received via the Access to Information Act in 2007.
We used this data in an Ottawa Citizen series called “Rapid Fire” that explored issues involved in gun ownership in Canada.
The database of about 7 million records contains neither the name nor addresses of the registrant (except in some rare cases where the registrants built the guns from a kit and listed themselves as the manufacturers). It does, however, have the first two characters of the registrant’s postal code.
The data is a bit stale, but with the government planning to purge its own records, this may be the last, best snapshot of federal gun registry.
A SIDE NOTE: The Access to Information Commissioner might have something to say about this, as her governing legislation specifically makes destruction of a requested record an offense.
67.1 (1) No person shall, with intent to deny a right of access under this Act,
(a) destroy, mutilate or alter a record;
I know of at least one person (not me) who today filed an ATIP request for the gun registry data, which should prevent its destruction while the request is pending. Of course, C-19 could be amended to trump the Access to Information Act, as the government did when it passed legislation to establish the federal registry of sex offenders.
UPDATE: This is a huge file and it’s taking a bit of time to get the complete data set online. Bear with me. Should have it up shortly.