Canada launches gun-registration program

Posted: Thursday, January 02, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) -- Beginning Jan. 1, Alaska gun owners bringing firearms into Canada will have to clear an additional hurdle or two at customs.

Canada is launching a new gun-registration program that aims to register every firearm in the country.

''Looks like there are more hoops to jump through,'' said Gary Jenkins, a Juneau man who hunts up the Taku River in British Columbia.

The new gun registration requirements are easiest for Alaska gun owners such as Jenkins, who have taken a class and passed a test for a five-year Possession and Acquisition License, or PAL.

Canada has been tightening its gun regulations progressively since Parliament passed a package of stricter gun controls in 1995.

Some weapons that are clearly not for hunting, such as fully automatic firearms and sawed-off shotguns, are prohibited and cannot be taken across the border. Handguns are restricted and require additional permits.

Rifles and shotguns are permitted, so long as an owner either has a PAL and has registered the gun, or in absence of a PAL, has declared the weapon at the border and paid a fee.

Officially, PAL holders must register their weapons with the Canadian government by Jan. 1. They should be able to register the weapons free online before the deadline.

But the online system has been deluged with Canadian gun owners trying to register before the deadline, said David Austin of the Canadian Firearms Centre in the country's Department of Justice.

Because of the backup with the online system, gun owners with a PAL may cross the border for the next few weeks without registering.

''We will be letting U.S. residents with a PAL proceed in to Canada without registering for now, but they may be asked to register in the future,'' said Marinka Darling, superintendent at the Pleasant Camp customs office in British Columbia.

Eventually American PAL holders, like all Canadian gun owners, will have to pay a $25 fee (Canadian) per gun to register. If the guns are registered by mail, the cost is $18 (Canadian) per gun.

Hunters who are visiting Canada or just passing through and do not have a PAL must declare their weapons at the border by completing a nonresident declaration form. They must also pay a $50 (Canadian) fee to buy a temporary license that is valid for 60 days and can be renewed anytime during a 12-month period.

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