MPs vote to scrap long-gun registry
Published Wednesday, February 15, 2012 11:03PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 7:28AM EDT
After years of trying, the Conservatives have finally won approval from the House of Commons to scrap Canada's contentious long-gun registry.
Following a lengthy debate Wednesday, MPs voted 159-130 in favour of passing Bill C-19, which will end the registry and allow the government to destroy records pertaining to non-restricted firearms.
Two New Democrats, John Rafferty and Bruce Hyer, broke from their party and voted with the Tories. All other NDP, Liberal and Green MPs opposed the bill.
The bill still needs final approval from the Senate, but since the Conservatives hold a majority in the upper chamber as well, the law is sure to pass. The Liberals said they won't try to delay or filibuster the bill.
The Long Gun Registry Act, first introduced last October, eliminates the requirement for gun owners to register their long guns and other unrestricted or non-prohibited weapons. It also relaxes the rules for the transfer and sale of non-restricted guns.
Data in the Canadian Firearms Registry related to restricted and prohibited firearms such as handguns will be maintained, however.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been trying to kill the long-gun registry since he took office in 2006, but it wasn't until the Conservatives secured a majority government in last year's election that his goal became attainable.
While the government has long held that the registry is ineffective and a waste of taxpayers' money, its proponents argued it provides police with an important enforcement tool.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said cops consult the registry more than 10,000 times a day, on average. If officers are responding to a domestic violence call, or some other kind of trouble, it's imperative that they know if there is a shotgun or rifle in a home, the association said.
The Coalition for Gun Control warned that getting rid of the registry will make it very difficult for police to trace firearms used in crimes.
But Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the long-gun registry "does nothing to help put an end to gun crimes nor has it saved one Canadian life."
Instead, it criminalizes millions of "honest and law-abiding" hunters and farmers, said Toews, who began his campaign against the registry 15 years ago as the attorney general of Manitoba.
NDP interim leader Nycole Turmel told reporters earlier Wednesday that the "government is out of touch with Canadians."
"This is a sad day for victims of violence," she said.
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae accused the Tories of "triumphalism" – they planned to celebrate Wednesday's vote at a reception on Parliament Hill -- and said they continue to distance themselves "from where most Canadians are on this question."
Bill C-19 drew praise from Canada's National Firearms Association, which issued a statement calling the vote "a truly historic beginning for Canada."
"We are beginning to see the government honour its commitments to repeal bad firearms laws," association president Sheldon Clare said in a news release.
Clare went further, calling on the government to scrap the current gun licensing requirements in favour of "a simpler program in which prospective firearm purchasers were simply checked for a record of violence, or behaviour that would preclude legal access to firearms."
Among the provinces, Quebec has been the most vocal opponent of scrapping the long-gun registry.
The province has said it's ready to go to court to block the federal government from destroying registry records once the legislation becomes law.
The leader of the separatist Parti Quebecois, Pauline Marois, began question period in the national assembly by reading off the names of the 14 women gunned down at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989. The long-gun registry was created by Jean Chretien's Liberal government in response to the tragedy.
"After creating an online countdown clock announcing the end of the registry, we hear Conservative MPs will celebrate their victory tonight like it was a hockey match," said Marois. "It's shameful, disgusting and revolting."
In an interview from Ottawa Wednesday, Liberal Senate Leader James Cowan reiterated his party's line that scrapping the registry is "nonsensical."
"The legislation which they're bringing in flies in the face of the facts, and I think it's wrong-headed, it's expensive and more importantly it doesn't achieve what it purports to do," Cowan told CTV News Channel.
"We've been opposed to this from the beginning and we'll continue our opposition."
Cowan expects the bill to makes its way to the committee on legal and constitutional affairs by March.
The federal government said provinces can start their own gun registries if they want, but won't be getting any funding from Ottawa.
--With files from The Canadian Press