Federal Conservatives look to end long gun registry

Since it was created in 1995, the registry has been a source of controversy that critics say has spent billions in taxpayers’ money and has punished lawful gun owners instead of those who are committing gun crimes. The Conservative government insists the registry has cost nearly $2 billion since 1995 and will cost tens of millions more annually if allowed to continue.

Bob Zimmer, Conservative MP for Prince George-Peace River, said it is certainly a great day for his government to look to keep a long-standing promise to its constituents, including here in the Peace region.

“A lot of people in our riding are gun owners and hunters, and the fact they were required to put their names on a registry when it was really designed to combat criminal activity …it’s just something that wasn’t working,” said Zimmer.

He said long gun owners, including himself, will still be required to hold a valid firearms licence to purchase a gun or ammunition, as well as undertake a criminal background check and firearms safety training.

The Conservatives have tried several times to scrap the registry since forming a minority government in 2006, but were never successful, though it is expected now that they hold a majority in the House of Commons, the bill will pass. The opposition parties have not been unanimous in their support for the long gun registry, and it is expected more than a few opposition members will side with the government to scrap it.

The legislation was met favourably by local hunters.

“It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money. They’ve spent $2 billion on long gun registry and have solved absolutely nothing,” said Tim Scram, president of Corlane Sporting Goods Ltd. in Dawson Creek, and a gun owner himself.

He added he doesn’t see any benefit to public safety in keeping the long gun registry.

“The criminal still has guns and he always will have guns. They bring them across the (U.S.) border by the truck load, and they can’t even slow that flow down. They (criminals) don’t get a (Possession/Acquisition Licence) PAL and take a course and come and buy a registered gun off of my shelf – I deal with the sportsmen and the hunters, so why re we being penalized for this?”

That sentiment was echoed by Mihis Petru from Prince George, who was in Dawson Creek getting equipped for a hunting trip.

“It’s a waste of money. How many people die from rifles? Not many. Get rid of it,” said Petru.

In fact, he said scrapping the long gun registry was the main reason he voted Conservative in the last federal election.

However, the Coalition for Gun Control – made up of police, public health, women and victims of gun violence groups from across the country – have slammed the bill, saying it jeopardizes public safety, and they are calling on the public to urge their local MP to vote against it. They insist the long-gun registry helps keep gun owners are accountable for their firearms, and helps police take preventive action, enforce prohibition orders, and trace a gun found at the scene of a crime to its rightful owner.

According to a 2009 study by the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians – a meer organization of the Coalition for Gun Control – of the firearms-related homicides in 2005 in Canada, 25 per cent were by rifles or shotguns, 58 per cent by handguns and 18 per cent by prohibited firearms. The same study states long guns were used in 72 per cent of firearm-related spousal homicides, and 10 of the 13 police officers killed on the job in the last decade were murdered by long guns. The study cites that since the implementation of the gun registry in 1995, a 30 per cent reduction in homicides by long guns has occurred.

Zimmer said he has spoke to many individual RCMP officers who agree that the long gun registry does not help police investiagte gun crimes. He added the money spent on the registry could be better directed towards more front-line police officers or other areas to combat gn crime.

A controversial provision of the legislation to scrap the registry is to also destroy all exisitng records of gun owners, which the government’s critics say is unneccssary and reckless. Zimmer said the provision prevents the creation of a double-standard for those gun owners who have already registered and new owners who have not.