A Manitoba man says he'll go to jail before he pays a possible $2,000 fine for registering a Black and Decker soldering gun with the federal firearms registry.
Richard Brian Buckley said yesterday he fooled the Canadian Firearms Centre to make a point.
"Because the registry is a big fat waste of money," he said from his home in Oak Lake, 240 km west of Winnipeg.
"They've spent, what, more than half a billion bucks on this thing? And they can't tell the difference between a soldering iron and a gun? Please."
Buckley, who owns about eight unregistered long-barrelled hunting guns, said he never expected to get a registration card back from the CFC for his soldering gun.
"I've had the card for about a week now. Every time I look at it I bust out laughing."
David Austin isn't laughing. The national CFC spokesman said yesterday Buckley's little prank could cost him a $2,000 fine - or jail time of between six months and five years.
"It's like lying on an income tax form. It's against the law," he said. "It's the Canadian taxpayer who pays the cost of people sending false information to the registry.
"The onus is on the applicant to make sure the information contained is correct."
That's because the CFC doesn't check - not at first, anyway.
Buckley registered his shop tool as an unrestricted weapon - which means the CFC didn't check it against its existing restricted weapons records. If it had, the CFC might have noticed the gun wasn't a gun at all.
Austin said the CFC is getting around to checking the facts on non-restricted weapon registration forms; the process is "ongoing," so he can't say how long it might take.
In the meantime, applicants are expected to verify the facts in applications themselves.
Which means the registry isn't worth the disks it's recorded on, said Canadian Alliance gun-control critic Garry Breitkreuz.
"The registry is riddled with errors," he said. "It's not even any use as a tool for law enforcement. It's garbage.
"Before Ottawa took the RCMP off setting up the gun registry, the Mounties estimated it would take 8.8 years to enter and verify all the registry information. That's why the CFC isn't checking anything anymore. They're just churning out little plastic cards."
Austin said it's due to critics like Breitkreuz that some gun owners feel they can get away with hoaxing the CFC.
"There's one gun owner who's publicly encouraging people to mail phone books to the (CFC)," he said. "And is it not Mr. Breitkreuz who's encouraging people not to register?"
"I've never done that. That's absurd," Breitkreuz replied. "All we're doing is holding the government accountable for a system that doesn't work."
The gun registry has attracted much flak from Canadian gun owners since it was passed into law in 1995.
Critics have attacked the registry for its $689-million price tag and its long history of errors. ###