OTTAWA — The Conservative government has introduced legislation to scrap the registration of rifles and shotguns.
Police, health and victims groups are among those immediately voicing their opposition the bill, which marks the beginning of the end of the controversial long-gun registry.
A private member’s bill to kill it was narrowly defeated in the last Parliament, but the Tories promised in the federal election this year to try again.
Now with a majority Conservative government, the bill seems certain to pass.
The Tories argue the registration of long guns is wasteful and unnecessary, although they support the licensing of gun owners and the registration of prohibited and restricted weapons.
“The Harper government has stood on the side of law-abiding firearms owners, farmers, hunters, and rural Canadians in every region of this country,” says Manitoba MP Candice Hoeppner, who joined Conservative colleagues in announcing the new bill at a farm outside of Ottawa.
Hoeppner says the registry has been a waste of taxpayers’ dollars, close to $2 billion. She said the money could have been spent to crack down on criminals.
An internal RCMP evaluation found the federal gun registry was a useful tool for police.
The Coalition for Gun Control says it is urging Canadians to tell their MPs to oppose the legislation. The group accuses the government of proposing “an archaic rollback of the clock.”
The umbrella group for Quebec police forces says rifles and shotguns are most used to kill police officers in domestic violence cases, suicides and incidents involving youth.
It called on the government to transfer registry data to the provinces, something Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has ruled out.
Dr. Alan Drummond, of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians and an assistant coroner in Perth, Ont., calls the new bill an “unwelcome social experiment” by the Conservative government.
“No law can prevent all tragedies. But a gun-control law, which includes registration and is rigorously implemented, makes it harder — not easier — for dangerous people to get firearms,” says activist Priscilla de Villiers, whose daughter, Nina, was abducted and killed with a legally owned rifle.
But Hoeppner says that the Tories have “carefully examined all of the sides and the evidence.” She adds: “I can confidently stand in front of you today and I can say that the long-gun registry has been completely ineffective and it has been completely wasteful.”
Hoeppner says there is a misconception that keeping the long-gun registry will prevent “horrible things” from happening. And she says there have been instances where terrible crimes have been committed by long guns.
“The truth is that all of these things did happen despite the long-gun registry being in place.”
NDP justice critic Jack Harris said destroying the registry, and the records compiled in it, is inconsistent with the Harper government’s oft-declared campaign against crime.
He calls it hypocrisy at the highest level.
“We’ve got a government who’s supposedly interested in helping victims and having safe communities and they’re doing something that the chiefs of police are saying is going to cost lives.”
He scoffed at the Tories’ claim the move will save $4 million a year.
“This is not about austerity. In fact, they’re talking about destroying records that probably cost many millions of dollars to collect.”
The new bill will repeal the requirement to register long guns, and calls for the destruction of all records pertaining to the registration of long guns currently contained in the Canadian Firearms Registry. It will also maintain controls over restricted and prohibited firearms.