Junius explains that gun-registry math

How journalists and politicians got the idea it costs just $4 million a year

The Globe and Mail has finally explained where a Toronto Chief of Police and dozens of gullible journalists and politicians got the idea that the national firearms registry costs $4 million a year. I’ve watched this figure get repeated countless times over the past month or so, and every single time I kept returning with furrowed brow to the Treasury Board estimates, which put the combined operating and transfers cost of firearms registration at $22 million, just to the RCMP, for 2010-11. (The overall cost for registries and licensing infrastructure comes to $78 million.)

That’s not counting the costs to other federal agencies—most especially the cost to Corrections Canada, estimated loosely at $10 million for fiscal ’08-’09. Certainly the commentators who were soiling themselves over the PBO’s estimates for penological costs of Conservative law-and-order measures wouldn’t want to just ignore the money spent on keeping gun-registry offenders locked up longer, would they? Including the cost in registrant time and effort would drive the figure higher still; surely the Globe is bound to be giving the program a break in only revising the cost upward by a factor of 16½.

If the Globe is right, it seems only a bit of sloppily written verbiage in the new report on the registry—interpreted by dissimulators with badges, and faithfully broadcast by writers with poor financial instincts—could possibly have led anyone to believe the gun registry is a bargain. (The Firearms Centre in Miramichi has 240 federal employees, guys! $4 million wouldn’t cover 12 weeks of payroll expenses, right?) And maybe I’m just some Western flake, but in retrospect it does seem as though the propagation of $4 million figure was possible only because the RCMP played undisguised politics with the report, dawdling over a “translation” (a tactic that the Conservatives somehow ended up taking most of the blame for) and making sure to pass it around to friendly, gullible media outlets in a timely way before the vote on C-391. All of which, now, can serve only the electoral interests of the Conservatives themselves—keeping alive the hated totem and allowing them to exploit the real financial numbers in their search for a Commons majority.

[UPDATE, 10:22 am: Or not. The Citizen‘s board smacks down the Globe this morning, and the Globe seems to have mis-identified the source of the figure within the report—the actual source being a reference to another report to the RCMP by a government IT consultancy, Pleiad Canada. So could we have that document, or is it already too late to bother?]

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