Liberals will vote against Tory gun law: Ignatieff
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says he wants to reform the controversial gun registry, and has asked his caucus to vote against a bill that would scrap it.
To win the support of reluctant Liberal MPs, Ignatieff said the registry should be amended to make it easier on owners of shotguns and rifles, particularly those who live in remote regions.
Ignatieff has suggested abolishing fees needed to obtain, renew or upgrade a gun licence. First-time infractions for failing to register a firearm should become a "simple, non-criminal ticketing offence," he said, and not a criminal offence. He also pledged to make the registration process easier.
"If we want and need people to register their firearms, we shouldn't be creating unnecessary obstacles," Ignatieff said at a Canadian Police Association conference.
"Canadians want gun control that works, and that treats gun owners fairly," he said. "But we won't abandon gun control. Not when rifles and shotguns are responsible for half the police officers killed in the line of duty in the last few years. Not when the gun registry is a vital tool that law enforcement uses every single day."
Some Liberals and NDP members voted with the Tories when a private member's bill came up for second reading in November. Bill C-391, would scrap the registry if passed on its third and final reading. It would also destroy the registry's records on about seven million shotguns and rifles.
Liberals who voted for the bill in November weren't punished. But with his proposed reforms, Ignatieff said his caucus will be required to vote against the bill at its third and final reading, which is expected to take place in May.
It remains to be seen whether the party will vote in unison. But Liberal whip Rodger Cuzner said he's confident that the proposed reforms have assuaged members of the caucus who have been critical of the registry.
"I'm very pleased with the conversations we've had with those who have had concerns," Cuzner said on CTV's Power Play. "And I'm sure that those conversations will continue."
"We're looking forward to the full support of caucus on this," he added.
Should Liberal MPs vote unanimously against the bill, it could still be passed if enough New Democrats support it. NDP Leader Jack Layton has not said whether MPs in his party would face disciplinary measures if they vote for the bill at final reading.
The registry contains information on about seven million guns. Opponents say it's too expensive, infringes on the rights of law-abiding gun owners and does little to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
However, the Canadian Police Association, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Canadian Association of Police Boards all support the registry.
RCMP Deputy Commissioner Bill Sweeney has also spoken out in support of the registry.
"I believe that there's compelling evidence that the registry promotes officer and public safety," Sweeney told the Commons public safety committee in March.
In 2009, the long-gun registry was accessed by police 11,000 times a day, according to a Liberal press release.
With files from The Canadian Press