Hubris: Evaluating the Canadian Firearms Program


The Canada Firearms Centre (CFC) claims that over 90% of Canadian firearm owners have a license (either a POL or PAL), but these claims are inconsistent with the facts.

Based on several representative surveys taken in the 1990s, the best estimate is that there were between 3 and 3.5 million owners in 2004. This implies that somewhere between 60% and 65% of firearms owners bothered to get a licence or divested themselves of their firearms. And telephone surveys underestimate the true number of firearms owners.

Registration was similarly unsuccessful. The CFC boasts that 7.1 million firearms were registered out of an estimated total of 7.7 million firearms held by Canadian civilians. But there are many more firearms than 7.7 million. The best estimate is that there were between 12 and 15 million firearms in Canada in 2000. At least; estimates based on import/export figures are much higher. Thus, it is likely that no more than half of all civilian-owned firearms were registered.

Estimates of the participation rates among Aboriginal Canadians are even lower. The most optimistic estimate is that fewer than 25% of residents of First Nation communities have complied with the Firearms Act.

The Canadian firearms program is a case study of mismanagement. (It is even taught in IT classes to illustrate what not to do). As well, the CFC is outrageously expensive. In 2002, Auditor General Sheila Fraser released a scathing report estimating that it would cost taxpayers at least CDN$1 billion by 2005. She summarized her report by saying, “This is certainly the largest cost overrun we’ve ever seen in this office.” Unfortunately, this is an underestimate.

For a thorough evaluation of the Canadian firearms program, see my Fraser Institute paper.


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