Throughout the never-ending mess of this year’s Order In Council firearms bans, there’s been a common thread: Government disorganization. That’s resulted in some embarrassing errors in the ban list. It’s also resulted in poor communication, as guns are added to the ban list without an organized outreach to inform owners. That’s where the Armalytics website comes in.
Armalytics.ca is nothing complicated—it simply takes the information from the RCMP’s Firearms Reference Table (FRT) and repackages it in an easy-to-search format. Want to know if your firearm is banned under the Order In Council? That data is there, easily searchable. Want to know if Grandpa’s old thumb-buster Remington revolver has antique status, or restricted? The Armalytics website can tell you, straight from the FRT itself.
An especially helpful feature, in a time when the feds continuously change the rules: On the left-hand side of the page, there’s a note that tells you when the information was last updated.
This is all a simple idea, but a good one. It’s hard to believe nobody’s done this before. Zak Whittamore is the brains behind the site; we sent him a few questions, to get more details and insight into this project.
Calibre: Where’d you get the idea for the site?
Zak Whittamore: The site arose from an inability to meaningfully explore the public version of the Firearms Reference Table, which was released by the RCMP back in February. Instead of a searchable database, the FRT was published as a 100,000 page PDF document that was difficult to open and nearly impossible to search. Many firearms owners shared this frustration, so I set out to extract the data from the PDF and make it available in the form of a web application.
Calibre: Where do you get the data from—do you monitor RCMP publications to make sure it’s up to date as bans are added? Do you use the RCMP’s FRT site for most of it?
Zak Whittamore: All the data displayed on the website is sourced from the public version of the Firearms Reference Table, which is released approximately every two weeks by the RCMP as a PDF document on their website. An automated process fetches the latest PDF, transforms it into a usable format, and updates the site accordingly. Typically, the site is updated within six hours from the time a new version of the FRT is posted by the RCMP.
Part of the workflow is to document all changes between FRT versions, including classification changes related to the order in council. If there is so much as a comma removed, it is logged by the system. After everything is updated, I can go in and see if any classification changes occurred and share it with the community.
Calibre: Do you see a future addition of banned accessories (Butler Creek 10/22 mags, etc.)?
Zak Whittamore: Currently the site only displays data sourced from the public FRT which does not explicitly contain sections on prohibited devices. At the moment I am redeveloping parts of the site so that new data sources can be integrated in a logical way. Important legal information, including a list of banned accessories, is something that I would like to incorporate.
Calibre: What sort of feedback have you received from the Canadian shooting community?
Zak Whittamore: The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. For a long time, especially after the RCMP unilaterally redesignated the CZ 858s, people have been concerned about the transparency of the FRT. Many have expressed their gratitude for helping to make this once secretive database a little more accessible.
Calibre: How do you see it helping the community?
Zak Whittamore: The main goal of the site is to provide an open and transparent view of the Firearms Reference Table. Although not a legal document, the classification information in the FRT affects everyday firearms owners and it is my hope to help keep people informed. More than one person has mentioned to me that if it were not for the site they would have taken an RCMP redesignated firearm out shooting on crown land.
Given that the FRT is one of the most comprehensive collections of firearms data in the world, the site can also be used to find all sorts of interesting information on firearms. From discovering which calibres a particular milsurp was manufactured in, to researching antique status C96 Broomhandle Mausers, there’s lots for everyone to explore.
Check it out
As Whittamore says, even if you’re confident your firearms are currently ban-safe, there are other useful features on his website. Head over to Armalytics.ca for more deets, and if you think it’s useful, there’s an option to throw a few bucks his way, to keep the site funded.