The latest attempt by Conservative Party members to abolish the controversial long-gun registry comes up for a House of Commons vote Nov. 4.
Twelve extra votes from opposition party MPs are all that the minority Conservatives need to pass the legislation ending the requirement that individuals and businesses register their rifles and shotguns, said Tory MP Candace Hoeppner.
“It’s a very simple bill, very straightforward. It has nothing to do with licensing, transporting or storage or anything like that. It’s just ending the actual requirement to register.”
Bill C-391, sponsored by the MP from Portage-Lisgar, replaces Bill C-301 that was introduced but later abandoned by Saskatchewan MP Garry Breitkreuz earlier this year.
The previous version was dropped because it called for sweeping changes to existing gun laws in addition to ending the long-gun registry, and was therefore unlikely to garner the support needed from opposition MPs, said Hoeppner.
Her bill would leave most of the legislation intact, but get rid of the long-gun registry.
“The licensing does accomplish something that is important. The registry doesn’t,” she said.
Hoeppner noted that Canada does in fact have a problem with gun crime – but that it is overwhelmingly related to drugs and gangs that smuggle mainly handguns into the country.
Despite that fact, she added, the focus of Canada’s gun legislation over the past decade has been on individuals who have gone through the safety training courses and criminal background checks required to legally own a firearm.
“It’s a waste of money because it’s targeting law-abiding citizens. We need to refocus on those who are actually committing crimes,” she said.
Since 2001, all long guns must be registered. But since 2006, a one-year amnesty has been extended three times. The latest extension expires in May 10, 2010.
In 1974, it was estimated that there were 10 million firearms in the country, with the latest estimates putting that number at 17 million.
As of March 2009, RCMP statistics showed that 7.4 million firearms of all types had been registered, and there were roughly 1.8 million holders of valid firearms licences.
Some sources say that as many as five million Canadians still have not registered their firearms.
RCMP spokesperson Julie Gagnon said that people who have not obtained a Purchase or Acqusition Licence (PAL) or Possession Only Licence (POL) and have unregistered firearms in their possession are not covered by the current amnesty and could be sentenced to five years in prison.
However, all provinces except Quebec have stated their intention to not prosecute such cases.
Greg Steele, a Brandon-area gunsmith, collector and firearms safety instructor, said that regardless of whether the Tories succeed in abolishing the long-gun registry this time, the goal of protecting gun ownership privileges in Canada is best served by working within the system rather than hoping it goes away.
That means taking the training courses, getting licensed and registering firearms.
“When we, as firearms owners or users, comply with the legislation of today – as much as we might find it offensive – we are taking away the argument for more registration and control,” he said, adding that as an instructor over the past seven years, he has helped nearly 2,000 students become legal gun owners in full compliance with the law.
“It shows that we’re not going to give up our hunting and shooting pastimes, for sport and recreation, nor the ability to collect guns. We’ll go ahead, we’ll take our training and prove that we’re law-abiding citizens.”