Gun Buyback ‘a Huge Taxpayer Boondoggle at the Worst Possible Time’: Taxpayer Advocacy Group

Gun Buyback ‘a Huge Taxpayer Boondoggle at the Worst Possible Time’: Taxpayer Advocacy Group
Gun owners hold signs as they participate in a rally organized by the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights against the government's new gun regulations, in Ottawa on Sept. 12, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)
Lee Harding

The federal government’s plan to buy back newly banned guns will cost a lot more than its initial estimates, says a tax advocacy group.

“The cost could be hundreds of millions of dollars more than what we were sold on,” said Franco Terrazzano, federal director with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

“Really, this has the makings for a huge taxpayer boondoggle, which would be coming at the worst possible time.”

The Parliamentary Budget Officer released a report at the end of June indicating that the number of affected firearms—military-style assault rifles—was roughly 150,000 based on federal government estimates, and 518,000 according to the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association (CSAAA). Depending on the actual number of affected firearms, the buyback take-up rate, and the pricing structure, the estimated cost of compensation could be as high as $756 million if all gun owners identified by the CSAAA participated in the buyback, the PBO report said.

During the 2019 federal election, Bill Blair, minister responsible for the gun file at the time, estimated the buybacks would cost about $375 million, assuming 250,000 affected weapons averaging $1,500 each. Then earlier this year, as public safety minister, Blair again pegged compensation costs “somewhere between $300 and $400 million.”

But these estimates don’t included administrative costs, such as staffing, secure office space, firearms shipping and disposal, and advertising. A Fraser Institute article last year estimated that “just one of the required steps needed to complete a ‘buyback’ program of the nature contemplated by this federal government would include costs well over $1.5 billion with many additional costs.

A previous Liberal government touted a cost of less than $2 million when it established the long-gun registry in 1995. But the registry ended up costing $2.7 billion over the 17 years before it ended in 2012.

Terrazzano bemoans the ever-increasing price tag, saying that the Trudeau government “is up to its eyeballs in debt” and has no room to waste more money, given its intentions to permanently increase spending by $100 billion more than it was pre-pandemic by 2026.

He said the $756 million would be better spent paying for 1,200 new police officers for five years.

“Let’s just use some common sense here. I don’t think there’s going to be too many gang members that are going to be showing up to government offices to hand over their guns to Trudeau. So his gun buyback, it’s not going to stop criminal activity, it’s not going to stop gang activity, and it doesn’t address the flow of illegal guns across the border,” Terrazzano said.

“Which one would make us safer: More police on the streets or a completely ineffective gun grab targeted at the legal gun owners?”

Political Context, Changing Rules

The program’s political context is important given the potential for a fall election. University of Toronto political scientist Nelson Wiseman believes the Liberals won’t lose many votes over the gun buyback, which he sees as more polarizing between rural and urban voters than between Central Canadians and others.

“Gun enthusiasts weren’t voting for the Liberals before. This new policy will change very few minds in either the gun-loving or gun-fearing communities. There isn’t much more of a backlash against the Liberals to be had in rural Alberta or rural Ontario. It could have a small effect in rural Quebec,” Wiseman told the Epoch Times.

“If the government is outlawing certain weapons, it should just confiscate them. Compensation should be minimal. [The] $756 million sounds like a lot of money and should be directed to other priorities like child care, public transit, or tax relief.”

Rod Giltaca, CEO & executive director of the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights, believes confiscation without compensation would be doubly unjust.

“The question is, why is it not fair to use government force to take property from millions of people that haven’t done anything to deserve it and not compensate them?” Giltaca said, rhetorically.

“It’s a slap right across the face of all of the honest citizens that participated and complied to the letter with the government system, only for the government to turn around and move the goalposts yet again.”

Giltaca believes money spent on health care or community programs would be better than what he sees as an off-target federal initiative by a government that has gun owners in their sights.

“Gun owners are sick and tired of having the rules changed every few years, having to brace for impact every time there’s a change in government. Gun owners are, by virtue of the fact that they get a criminal record check every day, the safest citizens, and they’re the ones being victimized for the actions of criminals. It’s absurd, and it shouldn’t be tolerated.”

New Zealand initiated a firearms buyback program in 2019 that budgeted $150 million for compensation and $18 million for administration. By February 2020, the estimated cost to buy back guns dropped to $120 million, but expected administration costs nearly doubled to around $35 million. The percentage of the public’s guns bought back by the government is unknown.

Lee Harding is a journalist and think tank researcher based in Saskatchewan, and a contributor to The Epoch Times.
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