OTTAWA — The Harper government has once again delayed implementation of regulations that police say they need to quickly trace guns used in crimes.
The government quietly posted a notice last Tuesday — one day before the firearms marking regulations were to have come into force — disclosing that implementation has been postponed until Dec. 1, 2012.
This is the third time the Harper government has delayed the regulations, which were created by the Liberal government in 2004 and were supposed to go into effect in April of 2006.
The government has also deferred for another two years regulations governing the possession and use of firearms at gun shows.
The latest deferrals are being applauded by gun enthusiasts, who hope the regulations will be repeatedly put off until such time as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives win a majority and can scrap them altogether.
The Canadian Shooting Sports Association sent out an alert last week noting that it has been “working tirelessly” to delay both sets of regulations.
“They are both now delayed until December of 2012 which gives us more time to resolve the negative impacts these regulations will have and, since there is the strong possibility of an election within the next 12 months, have them rescinded with a majority government.”
The regulations are supposed to bring Canada into compliance with international protocols requiring import marks on all firearms.
The objective is to shorten the time it takes to trace guns that cross national borders as part of normal commercial transactions.
A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the regulations have been postponed “to allow time for consultation to develop a workable regulatory package.”
“We continue to support gun control that law enforcement need to protect themselves and the safety and security of the public,” Christopher McCluskey added in an email.
But Liberal public safety critic Mark Holland said the latest delay is further proof that “Conservatives are clearly more interested in listening to the gun lobby than to police.”
“Once again on public safety this government is all talk and no action. Police say this measure is critical yet Conservatives keep trying to delay it into non-existence,” he said, pointing out that the Tories have also gone against police wishes in their determination to scrap the long-gun registry.
Holland said it’s particularly “disgraceful” that the deferral of regulations was announced just prior to Monday’s 21st anniversary of the Ecole Polytechnique massacre, in which 14 female students were gunned down.
“It broadcasts to victims’ families that their concerns are being ignored and don’t count,” he said.
Back in 2007, just before the Harper government postponed the firearms marking regulations for a second time, the three national associations representing police in Canada joined forces to plead for implementation.
“This can make the difference between a firearm trace taking hours versus months,” said a jointly written letter to the government by associations representing police, police chiefs and police boards.
The police associations’ letter gives the example of a Beretta used in a crime in Canada. The firearm is made in Italy and typically sold to Canadian gun shops through large American distributors.
“Without an import marking physically present on the firearm, it would be unknown whether the firearm was diverted from lawful possession in Italy, the U.S.A. or Canada. Police would have to determine that through a time-consuming records check with the U.S.A. and Italy,” the letter says.
“The presence of a Canadian import mark instantly identifies the firearm as having been legally admitted to Canada. In such cases, police can limit their search to domestic databases.”
The police associations also argue that over time import marks would help police “answer the question of whether firearms involved in Canadian crime are smuggled (into the country) or diverted domestically.”
McCluskey said the Harper government remains committed to meeting Canada’s international commitments “while delivering results that actually work to protect Canadians.”
He noted that the government has introduced a series of measures to help prevent and solve gun crimes, including improved screening of firearms applicants, mandatory prison time for those who commit gun crimes and a joint law enforcement initiative with the U.S. aimed at stopping cross-border smuggling of illegal guns.