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Yellowknife Shooting Club president Barry Taylor tries unsuccessfully to enter the Canadian Firearms Centre Web site. - Mike W. Bryant/NNSL photo

Online headache

Gun owners left scrambling

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 08/03) - Gun law critics are lambasting the federal government after its online firearms registration service was so swamped it was virtually inaccessible in the week before the Dec. 31 deadline.

Wolverine Sports Shop owner Dale Johnston said using the service was an exercise in futility a full week before it was due to shut down.

"It started before Christmas," said Johnston. "Everything was plugged up; you couldn't get into the site."

Registering guns and rifles via the Canadian Firearms Centre's online service was free until Dec. 31. Registering by mail cost $18, and covered all firearms in possession.

Since Jan. 1, registration of new firearms costs $25 each, and can only be done by mail. Although the government recently allowed for a six-month grace period to register as long as a letter of intent was sent before Dec. 31.

Johnston said he's talked to dozens of gun owners who had similar problems trying to register online in the days leading up to the deadline. He said he's even having problems transferring ownership papers of the guns he's already sold.

Johnston is still waiting to hear back from the firearms centre on recently purchased rifles from as far back as Dec. 19.

"We can't even get through the business hotline," said Johnston.

"One night I was on (the phone) for two hours and 15 minutes and never got through. All I heard was music."

Server jammed Chantale Breton, a CFC spokesperson in Ottawa, said the online service was available until Dec. 31, but because so many people were caught up in the rush to register before the deadline the server was often jammed.

"It was available. In fact, it's just that there's only a limited number of people that can be on at the same time," said Breton.

"You'd have to keep trying and eventually you would get on but yes (there was) lots of last-minute activity."

Breton said CFC has received approximately 50,000 e-mails since Dec. 27, declaring an intent to register. Since September 2001, when the online registering service began, the centre in Miramichi, N.B. received over 500,000 applications via the Internet.

Out of that number, 100,000 of them were received in the week before the deadline, she said.

Nonetheless, Yellowknife Shooting Club president Barry Taylor said he wondered how, if the online site was so busy, did CFC have the time to pull its registration page and replace it with a new one less than hour after the deadline ended. "Just a few minutes after midnight the brand new (page) comes up," said Taylor. "The systems boys are playing with the new stuff. They couldn't fix anything but they sure got the new price ($25 fee) up fast."