Quebec's new long-gun registry fixes a 'mistake,' public security minister says

Gun owners will be able to register firearms online, for free starting Jan. 29.

Gun owners will be able to register firearms online, for free starting Jan. 29

Gun owners in the province will have one year to register their firearms. (The Canadian Press)

The province's new long-gun registry will go into effect Jan. 29, on the one-year anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shooting.

Under the new law, gun owners will have up to one year to register their firearms through an online service, free of charge. 

Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux told reporters Sunday that the registry could help police responding to domestic violence calls, as officers will have access to new information about who owns guns and keeps them on their property.

"It's an additional tool for police," he said.

"I think we never should have abandoned knowledge about who owns what arms, where, how many. I think it was a mistake and here, we're correcting this mistake in Quebec."

Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said that Quebec is righting a wrong when it comes to re-establishing the long-gun registry in the province. (CBC)

The new law will require all firearms in the province to have a serial number which will then be inscribed in a database.

Gun sales will also have to be signaled to authorities and any new transactions must be registered right away.

The penalty for an individual failing to register a gun would be a fine ranging from $500 to $5,000.

How to register

Gun owners can register their firearms online or by mail through a form available on the government's website.

People will be asked to submit information on the make, model, serial number, length of the barrel, calibre and disclose where the gun is kept.

Users will also be asked for contact information, date of birth and proof of ID.

A release from the Public Security Ministry emphasized that the purpose of the registry is prevention, and will help law enforcement.

Heidi Rathjen said she's pleased to see the long-gun registry return to the province. (CBC)

Heidi Rathjen, a survivor of the 1989 Polytechnique massacre, said she's happy the registry is being reinstated in Quebec and hopes it will prevent loss of life down the line.

"This is a measure that we've been fighting for since the tragedy at École Polytechnique over 28 years ago," she said.

"The more information the police have, the better they can do their job of protecting the public.

​Years in the making

The province started working to create its own long-gun registry after the national one was dismantled by the federal government in 2012.

Quebec's version, Bill 64, was adopted by the National Assembly in June 2016 with cross-party support.

The National Firearms Association and a Quebec-based pro-gun lobby group tried to put an end to the initiative by attempting to hold up the process in court, but a Quebec Superior Court Justice rejected the bid, calling the legislation a public safety issue.

'Hard to enforce, useless'

Guy Morin is the vice-president of a Quebec gun owners' advocacy group. (Radio-Canada)

That same lobby group made headlines in November for organizing a pro-gun rally at the Polytechnique memorial.

Following public outcry, the group relocated the event, with vice-president Guy Morin saying that they went too far.

Morin remains a harsh critic of the long-gun registry, telling Radio-Canada that the process is "useless" and "hard to enforce."

He says he has no intention to register his own guns during the one-year grace period, saying that if the registry still exists in a year, he'll do it right before the deadline.

With files from Navneet Pall and Radio-Canada