When Dudley Do-Right isn’t foiling Snidely Whiplash or snatching poor Nell of the tracks just in the nick of time, he’s issuing permits to everyday Canadians who want to purchase firearms. The RCMP is responsible for permitting and registering non-prohibited, restricted and prohibited class firearms in the Great White North. But the Mounties made a boo-boo . . .
The RCMP mistakenly issued licenses to 1,356 people granting them authority to purchase “prohibited” class handguns — and then didn’t notice the error for 12 years.
“Prohibited” weapons aren’t necessarily illegal under our northern suburb’s gun control system.
Canadian law seeks to ban the possession of small and easy-to-conceal handguns: snub-nosed revolvers and short automatics with barrels under 105mm, and all guns chambered for .25 and .32 calibre ammunition. (Those calibres were banned because they were considered typical of the kind of cheap, mass-produced, ‘Saturday Night Special’ handguns more suited to late-night mayhem than an afternoon at the shooting range.)
But anyone who possessed such a handgun prior to 1998 was allowed to apply to be grandfathered under the law. Those gun owners were issued what are called 12(6) prohibited licenses. Such licences allow them to not only keep the handguns they already own, but also to own, buy or sell new ones in the same category.
The screw-up happened when the Mounties were permitting people who would inherit these “prohibited” guns.
All of the people affected by the RCMP’s licensing error, on the other hand, held a category of license called 12(7), which is intended to allow family members to inherit older weapons such as service pistols, wartime captures and battlefield relics.
Those who inherited the guns couldn’t buy new prohibited weapons, unlike those originally grandfathered in. But almost 1400 of them got the earlier type of permit which did allow them to buy “prohibited” firearms. Confusing enough for you?
The problem is, 41 of the people issued the wrong type of permit used those permits to buy more prohibited guns, a “privilege” they shouldn’t have had. So now, 12 years later, the RCMP has contacted them all and given them a choice: the guns can either be transferred, exported, turned in to the police for disposal or physically modified and reclassified as restricted.
But wait. These people were issued permits and acted lawfully…or so they thought. They shouldn’t be financially punished for the Mounties’ mistake.
An internal RCMP memo dating from December 2016 also warns, under the heading Strategic Considerations, that “clients may seek compensation since they acted in good faith.”
‘Good faith’ wasn’t good enough, as it turned out. In a written response, the RCMP tells CBC News “there was no compensation offered and the few individuals who sought financial remuneration through reference hearings were denied by judicial authority” — which means that some of the gun owners clearly were left out of pocket.
Sorry for our screw-up, citizen. Don’t like it? Tough tuques. Turn them in.
A total of 114 firearms had been purchased under the erroneous licenses.
“One hundred have been legally dealt with by being transferred, exported, turned in to the police for disposal, physically modified and reclassified as restricted, etc,” the RCMP’s Tania Vaughn told CBC in a written response.
Dudley and his fellow officers are out there, trying to track down the remaining 14 guns. Such is life in a country that doesn’t recognize the natural right to armed self-defense in its constitution.