MONTREAL — Quebec will create its own registry for non-restricted firearms, Public Security Minister Pierre Moreau announced Thursday, more than three years after the Conservative government passed a law abolishing the federal long-gun database.
Moreau said every non-registered gun in Quebec will receive a number that will be entered into a provincial database.
All firearm owners will have 12 months to register their weapon after a bill setting up the registry becomes law.
The process can be done online, without a fee, Moreau added.
“I think if there is resistance to this law it will be on ideological, not on practical grounds,” Moreau told reporters in Quebec City.
Canadian law divides guns into three categories: non-restricted, such as certain types of shotguns and rifles restricted, such as handguns and semi-automatics and prohibited, such as full automatics and sawed-off shotguns.
Restricted and prohibited weapons must be registered under the Firearms Act.
The Conservatives abolished the federal database for non-restricted guns, known as the long-gun registry, in 2012.
Quebec fought the Tories all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada in order to receive the data related to Quebec gun owners but lost.
Last April the RCMP destroyed what is believed to be all Quebec non-restricted gun records following the court ruling.
Moreau said he was disappointed his government will have to start collecting data anew, a process he said will cost $17 million.
The annual cost of maintaining the database is estimated at $5 million, he said.
Quebec’s law enforcement authorities lamented the destruction of the federal registry and Moreau said the province’s police forces had been asking his government to create a made-in-Quebec version.
Moreau said the former registry was important for police officers who would use it to know if a house they were called to had a weapon inside.
“The idea is that every gun will have its own number,” he said. “We will be able to know where is the gun and who owns the gun.”
Heidi Rathjen, co-founder of the Coalition for Gun Control, attended Thursday’s news conference and called the bill “extremely good news.”
Rathjen was a witness to what has become known as the Montreal Massacre, when a gunman killed 14 women at Ecole Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989.
“Every anniversary (of the massacre) is a time to reflect on how far we’ve come in terms of gun control,” she said. “And for the last nine years it was nothing but bad news. The (Tories) continued to weaken (gun control) and this is the first anniversary since the last nine sad ones that we have good news.”
Abolishing the registry was one of the former Conservative government’s most publicly stated goals.
The party said the registry was just for show, did nothing to save lives or solve gun crime and cost millions of dollars annually to maintain.
Vic Toews, who was public safety minister at the time, called the registry “simply an attempt to make people feel safe, rather than doing something substantive in criminal law.”
Moreau said he’s in discussion with the new Liberal government to find out if there is any data left that wasn’t destroyed by the Tories.
The Quebec bill provides for penalties from $500 to $5,000 for people who fail to register a non-restricted firearm, while the fines for gun companies range from $1,500 to $15,000.
Moreau’s bill received unanimous support, in principle, from all parties represented in Quebec’s legislature.