Wednesday, February 2, 2005
White Paper on Authorizations to Transport: Eliminating Excessive Regulation
This is an update on the National Firearms Association's efforts on Authorizations to Transport 02 Feb 2005
Eliminating Excessive Regulation in the Canada Firearms Centre:
FA s. 65(3)(a) says that if it is an ATT that "takes the form of a condition attached to a licence," the minimum period that it is valid for "may not less than one year."
FA s. 65(3)(b) says that if it is an ATT that "does not take the form of a condition attached to a licence," the minimum period that it is valid for "may not be less than one year."
Therefore, any person to whom a "short-term ATT" has been issued can continue to use it after its purported expiry date, for a period of one year. Some people are doing that, and it is difficult to see how any such person can be successfully prosecuted on the basis of an illegal ATT. The defence can claim both violation of FA s. 65(3) by the issuer, and official misdirection because the expiry date is clearly illegal.
This is, obviously, a very messy part of the system. Messy areas are expensive areas to administer.
Therefore, the National Firearms Association proposes that, from this time forward, a standardized ATT be created, and attached to each POL and POL. The attached ATT should authorize the holder to possess a "restricted firearm" or a "prohibited firearm" and take the form of "a condition attached to a licence."
The National Firearms Association further proposes that the wording of the attached ATT shall cover all of the reasonable activities of the holder of the licence, in order to eliminate the cost of issuing special short term ATTs to individuals at irregular, unpredictable intervals -- for no good reason.
An individual's POL or PAL is currently used as sufficient proof that the individual is eligible to receive the special short term ATT -- so what is special about it? Why not attach it as a standard condition, and stop issuing special short term ATTs?
There is, in our view, a tendency on the part of firearms control officials to multiply ATTs in an attempt to gain more "control" of firearms. Analysis indicates that the extra "control" that can be exerted by this method is ineffective, expensive, and counter- productive. Once a law-abiding individual has been licenced to possess a registered "restricted firearm" and/or "prohibited handgun," is there any rational need for a further level of regulation? Or is it redundant?
Further, the National Firearms Association would contend that these types of excessive over-regulation are examples of exactly what the Auditor General spoke about in her 2001 report to Parliament. The current system of issuing ATTs can easily be argued to be over- regulation. It is far better, and more effective, for the Canada Firearms Centre to work in a more cooperative manner with firearm owners. A confrontational system can generate undesirable side effects.
It is obvious that an individual may want to attend a shooting competition in Canada or outside Canada, or to take part in target practice activities when away from his permanent residence. Therefore, the attached ATT should cover those activities by authorizing the transportation of any "lawfully possessed" [note: Not "lawfully owned," because a person can be in lawful possession of a borrowed firearm under FA s. 33 and 59, and CC s, 84(4)(b) (ii)] "restricted firearm" or "prohibited handgun" to and from any legal target practice range and to and from border crossing points. It is obvious that firearms occasionally need repairs and maintenance. Therefore, the attached ATT should cover transportation to and from a gunsmith for the purposes of repair, maintenance, alteration, and any other legal gunsmithing.
Many individuals take firearms to gun shows, either to display them or to sell or trade them. This sort of special short term ATT is available on demand, so it is a waste of firearms control official's time and budget, and a waste of tax money, to require issuance of a special short term ATT when the individual's licence proves that the individual is already qualified to receive the special short term ATT.
It is obvious that an individual may occasionally wish to take a firearm somewhere in order to have it legally evaluated, or to legally place it on consignment. Therefore, the attached ATT should cover transportation to and from the premises of a firearms dealer. It should be noted that the dealer need not be authorized to deal in that class of firearm, so long as the firearm is not illegally placed in the dealer's possession. That is because the firearm may have been taken to the dealer merely for evaluation for insurance purposes, or for assistance in some technical detail -- which activities are legal, if the firearm is not left in the possession of the dealer.
Some firearms owners are Instructors, and others are, from time to time, students in firearms training courses -- government sponsored or private. Therefore, the attached ATT should cover transport to and from a firearms-related course, without getting overly specific about what types of course are covered. Firearms instruction is a very wide area that government clearly does not understand as well as it might, or should.
The cost of generating 57,590 ATTs is quite high, and it does not enhance public safety. It is actually a prime example of excessive regulation, and the issuance of ATTs that "do not take the form of a condition attached to a licence" should be eliminated.
Now, what can you do?
If you are supportive of having the excessive regulations on ATTs changed:
Contact Canada's Auditor General
Write Jamie Deacon at the Canada Firearms Centre
Write your MPs & Senators
Write the National Firearms Association -- we need your letters to help us in Ottawa!
Are you a Member of Canada's National Firearms Association? Join the NFA Now!
The Auditor General of Canada reported on the specific issue of how firearm owners are seen by the Canada Firearms Center in her report to Parliament in 2001. Auditor General Shelia Fraser, said:
"In February 2001, the Department told the Government it had wanted to focus on the minority of firearms owners that posed a high risk while minimizing the impact on the overwhelming majority of law- abiding owners. However, the Department concluded that this did not happen. Rather, it stated that the Program's focus had changed from high-risk firearms owners to excessive regulation and enforcement of controls over all owners and their firearms. The Department concluded that, as a result, the Program had become overly complex and very costly to deliver, and that it had become difficult for owners to comply with the Program.
"The Department said the excessive regulation had occurred because some of its Program partners believed that
- the use of firearms is in itself a "questionable activity" that required strong controls, and
- there should be a zero-tolerance attitude toward non- compliance with the Firearms Act."
In 2003 alone, there were 57,590 Authorizations to Transport (ATTs) issued. This includes 33,366 short term ATTs and 24,224 long term ATTs.
There were three short term ATTs refused and 17 short term ATTs revoked during 2003. Every one of the revoked short term ATTs was revoked in Ontario.
There were 8 long term ATTs refused and 46 long term ATTs revoked, of which 44 were revoked in Ontario. There is no explanation for the Ontario anomaly.
This works out to 0.06 per cent of the short term ATTs refused or revoked and 0.22 per cent of the long term ATTs refused or revoked. If one omits the figures from Ontario, which do not seem to conform to the national norm, the percentages are even more insignificant. Overall there were 74 refusals or revocations of any ATT, or 0.13 per cent of the total even with the Ontario figures included. With the Ontario figures excluded, there were 13 refusals or revocations, or approximately 0.02 per cent.
The cost of operating the firearms control system is unreasonably high. The Canada Firearms Centre has been working to reduce costs and maintain public safety. It is, therefore, desirable to identify and use legal alterations of how the system is currently being operated. This is one area in which a minor change can result in major savings, safely.
FA s. 65(3)(a) deals with an Authorization to Transport (ATT) that "takes the form of a condition attached to a licence." This form of ATT is currently not being used, and that is causing increased costs for Canadian taxpayers and increased regulatory requirements for law-abiding firearm owners.
FA s. 65(3)(b) deals with an ATT that "does not take the form of a condition attached to a licence." This form of ATT is currently used exclusively, and the cost of operating the system in this way is expensive, and from the information available not providing any significant benefit to public safety.
If there were a public safety issue with a firearm licence holder and it took that person applying for an ATT to cause an investigation and possible revocation, that would raise a question as to why such a public safety concern was not flagged by the continuous licencing process.
If an individual holds a relevant Possession Only Licence (POL), or a relevant Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL), then that individual has met all the legal requirements to be in unsupervised possession of a "restricted firearm" and/or a "prohibited handgun." By meeting those criteria, he has also met the criteria for the issuance of an ATT.
As the system is currently being operated, such an individual must apply for his ATT separately. That means that the expiry date on his ATT and the expiry date on his licence probably will not be the same date, which is undesirable.
Processing the application for an ATT is labor-intensive and costly when viewed from the office of the Chief Firearms Officer. If the ATT were issued automatically as "a condition attached to a licence," all costs relating to the issuance of ATTs -- all 57,590 of them -- could be saved.
At present, many of the ATTs being issued are not following the Firearms Act and could be successfully argued in court as being illegal.
Here are some examples:
If a "short-term ATT," purportedly valid only for any period less than one year, is issued to an individual who wants that ATT so that he can "use [a handgun] in target practice, or a target shooting competition," that ATT is illegal.