Pulling hunting rifles and shotguns from mandatory registration carves a significant notch in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s barrel, says the leader of the Separation Party of Alberta.
Bruce Hutton, who served with the RCMP in his early 20s, has campaigned for years against the long gun registry, enacted by Jean Chretien’s Liberals.
Hutton says it targets the wrong people and wastes money that could be better used for more effective policing.
The “astronomical” cost of the long gun registry could be spent much more effectively by putting more police officers in areas where they’re needed, he said from his Rocky Mountain House home this week.
Late last week, the federal government passed a private member’s bill that would remove hunting rifles and shotguns from the registry.
“It’s long overdue. I’m kind of surprised, quite frankly, at the courage of the Conservatives,” said Hutton.
“Mr. Harper, bless his heart, from a separatist’s point of view, he’s doing a terrible job. He’s keeping all his promises. He’s doing, for the most part, what he said he would do and he is taking the steam out of separatism,” said Hutton.
“We need Ignatieff . . . to come through with one of his idiotic save-the-planet policies that will cripple Alberta even more than we are crippled at this time and separatism will move to the front burner.”
Because Bill C-391 is a private member’s bill, MPs from all parties were free to vote as they wished rather than follow party lines.
Most of the support came from rural ridings, regardless of the region, including Liberal MPs who want dearly to get back in power, said Hutton.
Chretien’s Liberals had created the long gun registry in response to the slaying of 14 female engineering students attending Montreal’s École Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989.
Since its inception, the long gun registry has been opposed in rural areas and supported in urban areas, because urban people don’t understand the issue, said Hutton.
“People in the city don’t understand that long rifles and shotguns aren’t (normally) used in the commission of an offence.”
Red Deer lawyer Walter Kubanek, who has run for the Liberal Party of Canada in the past, agreed with Hutton that the split is along urban and rural lines and less along party lines.
Kubanek said the gun registry has been highly controversial from the beginning, boiling down to two issues
First off, the return on the dollar has not been good, he said.
Chiefs of police would argue that the information on whether or not there are guns in the house is relevant to police officers attending a domestic violence complaint.
“Does (the long gun registry) increase community safety? I think that it does. The question is, is it worth it? That’s the issue that, I think, is worth debating.”
Kubanek said there is also an ideological issue, peculiar to North America, of whether people have the inherent right to bear arms, which is a concept that he doesn’t support.
“I just disagree with that position.”
Handguns have been registered since the 1930s, automatic weapons are illegal and registry doesn’t make a difference, said Hutton.
While Hutton has a long history of campaigning against the long gun registry, he said he does not consider himself a gun person.
He said he owns some unregistered rifles, but has not fired a round since 1981.