Industry estimates gun 'buyback' scheme will cost taxpayers up to $6 billion

The Canadian Shooting Sports Association (CSSA) projects the 'buyback' program will cost between $4 billion to $6 billion upon completion.

Industry estimates gun 'buyback' scheme will cost taxpayers up to $6 billion
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld and THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
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Following several setbacks, Ottawa resumed its gun 'buyback' scheme in April. However, the federal government may have hit another snag as cost estimates procured by the government and industry vary considerably.

"Over the past few months, we have been working closely with partners and industry leaders to prepare for the rollout of the buyback program," said Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino on April 26, signalling another attempt by Ottawa to target law-abiding gun owners.

The federal government announced they would buy back thousands of firearm models from retailers when Bill C-21, An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms), becomes law.

Bill C-21 passed the House of Commons on May 18 and is currently in Second Reading at the Senate.

According to the Parliamentary Budget Office's (PBO) 2021 estimate, compensating firearms owners would cost between $47 million and $756 million. In February 2021, then-Public Safety Minister Bill Blair pegged costs between $300 million and $400 million. 

Ottawa initially thought costs would be at most $200 million, says the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF),

The PBO assessment excludes planning and program administration costs, consultation fees, firearm collection and evaluation, storage and destruction of collected firearms, and business losses due to prohibited inventory. 

However, industry assessments suggest a costlier price tag is on the horizon for taxpayers.

The Canadian Shooting Sports Association (CSSA) projects the 'buyback' program will cost between $4 billion to $6 billion upon completion. 

"This estimate widely varies as the government adds more firearms to the list of those included in the program — 2,063 makes and models as of this time — and the inclusion of items essentially made useless by the confiscation, such as magazines, stocks, optics and specialized ammunition," CSSA Executive Director Tony Bernardo told Rebel News.

In May 2020, the federal government passed an Order-in-Council banning 1,500 'assault-style' firearms and distinguishing components of newly prohibited firearms. Owners have until October 2023 to comply with the law.

"Given the exorbitant expenses and logistics associated with this initiative, it remains uncertain how the government will be able to accomplish the program by the end of the amnesty period," said Bernardo.

Criminologist Gary Mauser wrote in a Fraser Institute blog that estimated costs could range between $2.6 billion and $6.7 billion. His estimate adopts the PBO's firearm compensation costs on the high end at $756 million.

"In an earlier article, I estimated the cost of collecting the prohibited firearms could total between $1.6 billion and $5 billion. This range estimate rises to between $2.647 billion and $6.756 billion after you include compensation costs to owners," writes Mauser.

Similar to the PBO, these exclude costs associated with storing and destroying collected firearms, consulting, government advertising, and compensation to museums for confiscating historical military equipment.

According to Public Safety Canada, the Firearms Buyback Secretariat — which dictates the 'buyback' scheme — has cost at least $3.7 million so far, with $2.1 million spent on salaries and $1.6 million on operations. The department refused to provide the total budget allocated to the office each year.

"This is more evidence that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's gun ban and buyback is going to be another taxpayer boondoggle," said Franco Terrazzano, Federal Director of the CTF. "The feds are spending millions of dollars before reimbursing a single gun owner, so it's a good bet that this bill will keep ballooning."

The federal office is currently staffed by ten bureaucrats, with records showing draft plans to hire eight more, costing up to $2 million per year in salaries alone.

"Trudeau needs to cut his losses and end this ineffective and expensive policy," continued Terrazzano. "The people protecting us say the gun ban and buyback won't make Canadians safer, and taxpayers don't need another government program that wastes our money."

"Whatever the final cost, the buyback will likely dwarf the $2.7 billion spent on the long-gun registry, which was effectively scrapped in 2012," wrote Mauser

Despite the pushback, Mendocino lauded his government's "commitment" to "fairly compensate" law-abiding gun owners with prohibited firearms.

Public Safety Canada claims they will confiscate approximately 150,000 firearms as part of the buyback program, while the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association (CSAAA) estimates 518,000 firearms. 

The CSAAA also estimated that retailers have nearly $1 billion in inventory that can't be sold or returned to suppliers due to the Order-In-Council. 

"Assault-style firearms were designed for a battlefield, and they have no place in our communities, places of worship, schools or playgrounds," said Mendicino. "They serve no legitimate purpose other than killing the greatest number of people as quickly as possible. That's why we banned them."

Bernardo condemned the feds for demonizing law-abiding firearms owners and targeting their private property without addressing the source of firearm-related violent crime.

Between 2015 and 2018, most firearm-related homicides (91%) involved illegally held firearms from the U.S. According to the Fraser Institute, police report that between 70% and 90% of guns used in violent crimes in Canada are smuggled from the south of the border.

Fully-automatic firearms have been banned since 1977 and account for less than 2% of homicides during the same period.

The National Police Federation (NPF), the union representing the RCMP, said the federal gun ban and 'buyback' program will "do very little to address their goal to increase public safety." 

"[It] diverts extremely important personnel, resources, and funding away from addressing the more immediate and growing threat of criminal use of illegal firearms," according to the NPF.

Bernardo told Rebel the CSAA does not support [confiscating] legal firearms and refuses to aid Ottawa's implementation of the program. 

"We work on behalf of firearms owners to challenge the current government on bad gun laws. We promote the safe and legal use of firearms in Canada," he said.

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