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Yellowknife firearms office could close

Calls would be forwarded to Hay River

Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 28/02) - The Yellowknife firearms office could close in the next few weeks, just months before the final deadline for firearms registration.

"There is a possibility that he (Paul Mounsey, the local firearms officer) might be leaving in the next couple of weeks," said Don LaBelle, communications manager for the northwest region for the Canadian Firearms Centre.

If that happens, "we'll probably have to provide service out of Hay River for a while, until we find out what's going to happen," LaBelle said.

Under new federal legislation, all firearm owners must have proof of gun registration by Jan. 1, 2003.

The Yellowknife office, located next to the Toronto Dominion bank on 49th St., has been open for four years, since the inception of the federal owner and firearms licensing program. It provides information and assistance with firearms licensing and registration. Mounsey also does investigations and background checks for licence applicants.

"I haven't even made a decision myself," Mounsey said, adding that his workload would be taken over by others if he were to leave.

"We could probably have a firearms officer deal with the North in Edmonton, but everyone likes to have a Northern touch," he said.

The Iqaluit firearms office closed in March and a replacement officer has not yet been hired. The firearms centre has blamed hiring delays on time needed for RCMP background processing.

Asked if the centre could incur similar delays in hiring a replacement in Yellowknife, LaBelle said "probably."

The Canadian Firearms Centre says about a third of Canadians still need to register their guns.

The North has the greatest need for a firearms centre, judging by the number of guns here. Statistics released last week by the firearms centre show that the North has more guns per capita than any other region in Canada.

The numbers show that, on average, Northerners have about one gun per person. That's four times the national average. The closest region is Saskatchewan, where on average 40 per cent of the population owns a gun.

However, the averages could be vastly skewed. One gun-owner surveyed had over 200 shotguns; another had more than 300 rifles. In the North, most subsistence hunters have three guns: a shotgun, a .22 calibre rifle and a larger-calibre hunting rifle.

David Austin, a spokesman for the firearms centre, said a large number of guns are concentrated in a small ownership.

"Three per cent of your owners hold 15 per cent of your guns. That's a city the size of Red Deer having more than one million guns," he said.