NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Experiences Of Canada, Hawaii Illustrate Pitfalls Of Gun Laws

March 2, 2001

The California Legislature has launched hearings on legislation to license guns. Criminologists advise California and other states considering the subject to take a look at the experiences of Canada and Hawaii.

In 1995, Canada passed a law requiring Canadians to obtain a license and register their guns within five years.

  • Although the deadline arrived this January 1, millions of Canadians must suddenly have become outlaws -- because while official documents claim there are only 2.5 million gun owners, internal government documents put the figure at 5 million to 7 million and private surveys indicate an even higher amount.
  • The vast majority of gun licensing costs in Canada are borne by the provinces and local governments -- leaving the attorney general's office in Alberta to complain that the law "is an administrative mess and it is very costly, and it is using money that would be better used really fighting crime."

Hawaii has a law based on the theory that licensing would allow police to trace a gun left at the scene of a crime back to its owner.

  • But police have spent tens of thousands of man-hours administering gun laws and not a single case has turned up where licensing and registration have been instrumental in identifying a criminal.
  • That's because criminals very rarely leave their guns at the scene of a crime, and would-be criminals virtually never get licenses or register their weapons.

Gun licensing advocates claim licensing and background checks might keep criminals from getting guns in the first place. But there is not a single academic study that finds that background checks reduce violent crime.

Source: John R. Lott Jr. (Yale University), "Some Time to Kill: In Waiting Periods, Gun Buyers Are at Mercy of Criminals," Investor's Business Daily, March 2, 2001


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