Shadow gun registries can not be tolerated

“On Tuesday, after learning that most CFOs had instructed gun retailers in their provinces to start maintaining sales ledgers after the federal computer registry was disbanded, Toews wrote to Paulson (who is in charge of the CFOs) and told him the CFOs were violating the spirit of Bill C-19 – the legislation ordering the dismantling of the registry.

At least one CFO – Ontario’s Chris Wyatt – said he didn’t care what the minister wanted. Wyatt said his legal advisers had told him he could impose “reasonable” conditions on gun-shop owners and to his mind a ledger was reasonable. If the RCMP commissioner wrote him and told him to stop, that might be different. Then he would reconsider his options.

On Friday, Commissioner Paulson wrote to Wyatt and the other CFOs and reiterated what Toews said on Tuesday – the registry-ending legislation prohibits the collection of any registry-like information. Stop it.

Paulson even directly addressed the legal argument the CFOs have been using to defy Toews. Section 58 of the Firearms Act permits CFOs to attach reasonable conditions to the business licences of gun shops.

Keeping ledgers is, to the CFOs’ thinking, reasonable. Therefore they believe the law justifies their defiant action. They have also argued that because the ledgers existed before the registry began in 1998, the ledgers are nothing new and do not constitute a backdoor registry.

This, too, apparently isn’t enough for the obstinate CFOs. As of late Friday afternoon, the CFOs in at least Ontario and Alberta were continuing to demand gun sellers keep ledgers.