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Canada has launched a gun-registration program that aims to register every firearm in the country by Jan. 1. What this means for Alaska gun owners who bring their firearms across the border is complicated, and may involve one or more additional hurdles to clear at customs.
"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. Officially, PAL holders must register their weapons with the Canadian government by Jan. 1. They should be able to do this online for free until midnight tonight. Online registration may take a few tries because the 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.
"Good luck. The online system doesn't work once you get into it," said Jenkins, who has decided he will register by mail probably.
Because of the back-up 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 for American PAL holders, like all Canadian gun owners, there will be a fee of $25 (Canadian) per gun to register. If the guns are registered by mail, the cost is $18 (Canadian) per gun. Darling is waiting to hear more information from the Canadian government to determine when there will be a deadline for Americans with PALs to register their guns.
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.
Canada has been tightening its gun regulations progressively since Parliament passed a package of stricter gun controls in 1995.
In Canada, customs regulations change depending on the type of firearm and the permits held by the owner. 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 more special 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, Austin said.
For more information about crossing the border into Canada with a firearm visit: www.cfc-ccaf.gc.ca/en/owners_users/fact_sheets/visitin.asp or call the Canadian Firearms Centre at (800) 731-4000
Julia O'Malley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.