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Canada: Quebec Court Decision Saves Gun Registry

(Sept. 13, 2012) On September 10, 2012, a judge of the Cour Supérieur (Superior Court) of Quebec issued a decision that declared part of a Canadian federal law to be unconstitutional; the law had abolished a particular register of firearms owners. (Procureur Général du Québec c. Procureur Général du Canada, Le Commissaire aux Armes à Feu, Le Contrôleur des Armes à Feu, & Le Directeur de l’Enregistrement, Jugement (Déclaration d’invalidité constitutionelle) [2012] (Can. Que.).)

The law in question, the Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act, had been Bill C-19 and was approved on April 5, 2012. It amended sections of the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act so as to delete a register of owners of long guns, including rifles and shotguns. The register had also noted any transfers of ownership. (Act [in English & French], Apr. 5, 2012, Parliament of Canada website.)

Before the Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act was adopted, for 17 years, Canada had a Firearms Registry that included data on the registration and any later title transfers of certain restricted weapons. Because it applied to firearms used by hunters, there were objections to the practice, and the April 2012 Act was adopted to address those concerns. (Julia Zebley, Quebec Judge Allows Province to Keep Gun Registry Despite Federal Law, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (Sept. 11, 2012); Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act Passes Vote in Senate, MIDNORTH MONITOR (Apr. 10, 2012).)

At the time the Act was passed, Candice Hoeppner, Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, applauded the legislation, stating:

It has been a long and hard-fought battle and I am so excited to see the long-gun registry go. … The Senate vote was the final hurdle Bill C-19 needed to pass before becoming law. I am certain that hunters, farmers and sport shooters across Canada all breathed a sigh of relief following the announcement that Bill C-19 cleared the Senate and will now become law. (Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act Passes Vote in Senate, supra.)

The Act maintains the existing requirements that anyone wishing to acquire a gun or ammunition must pass a criminal record check and a firearms safety course to get a license. Regulations on safe storage and transport likewise remain unchanged, and there is still a register for certain firearms, including handguns. (Id.)

The provision found invalid by the Quebec Court would have required the destruction of existing long-gun records in Quebec province and would have kept the provincial government from continuing the registration procedure. The Court also ordered that the existing records be given to the government of Quebec province, including records on guns that could have been used in crimes in Quebec and guns from the province that have been sold to others. The Court’s ruling applies only in Quebec. (Zebley, supra.)