Conservatives To Limit Debate On Gun Registry Bill
The bill to end the long-gun registry was back for debate in the House of Commons, but not for long.
Bill C-19 is now at the report stage after being studied by the Public Safety committee. The government gave notice Monday night it would move time allocation, which will limit the amount of time the bill can be debated.
A vote on a motion to invoke time allocation passed Tuesday morning, allowing for one more day of debate at the report stage. The debate on report stage was to wrap up late Tuesday. The time allocation motion also calls for two days of debate on the third and final reading of the bill but the government has not confirmed what days MPs will have their last chance to debate the controversial issue before it goes to the Senate.
When the bill was first introduced in the fall the government also moved a motion for time allocation and the bill went quickly to committee.
Government House leader Peter Van Loan has said he wants it passed by mid-February.
The House committee finished its hearings on the controversial bill at the end of November but MPs haven't had the chance to deal with it since. The bill was sent back to the Commons with no amendments made by the committee.
The NDP members had tried to make amendments — to maintain registration for some guns, such as sniper rifles — but they were shot down by Conservative MPs who hold a majority on the committee.
Now MPs are trying again to change the bill at its report stage. Ten motions for amending the bill were put forward and seconded by New Democrat, Liberal, and Bloc Québécois MPs as well as Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.
Those motions were debated Monday including a proposal by NDP MP Jack Harris to delete the short title of the bill — "ending the long-gun registry act" — because he said it is "inaccurate."
Harris said a separate long-gun registry doesn't exist — there is a national gun registry and long guns are part of it.
Harris suggested the bill should be renamed the "risking public safety act" because "that's in fact what this legislation, Bill C-19 does."
'Playing with lives of people'
NDP MP Charlie Angus said abolishing the long-gun registry would lead to more deaths and violence.
"They're playing with the lives of people here," he said, and he accused the government of lying about statistics on homicide and suicide rates.
Government and opposition MPs accused each other of perpetuating myths related to the registry during Monday's debate.
Conservative MPs made the government's case, including Candice Hoeppner who tried before to eliminate the long-gun portion of the registry with a private member's bill.
Angus originally voted in favour of that bill and later on subsequent votes he sided with his own party. Hoeppner took aim at him Monday and said in response to his comments that he had betrayed his constituents in northern Ontario.
All of the motions being debated propose that various clauses in the bill be deleted.
A range of witnesses appeared at the public safety committee during the five meetings it spent on the bill last fall, including representatives from hunting and sports shooting groups, legal and policy experts, police groups and gun-control advocates.
Destruction of data
The bill seeks to eliminate the requirement for gun owners to register their long guns and other weapons that are not restricted or prohibited. It also provides for the destruction of records that are currently held in the Canadian Firearms Registry, a measure that caught many off-guard when the bill was introduced in October.
Opposition MPs were angry that the government is destroying the data, saying the records should remain intact for police or the provinces to use in the event they want to establish their own registry once the federal one is gone.
The government wants to scrap the registry because it says it is a waste of money, ineffective at improving public safety and preventing crimes and it targets law-abiding gun owners instead of criminals. Getting rid of the registry means getting rid of the information in it, the government has said in defending the move to destroy the data.
About 7.1 million non-restricted firearms were registered in the database as of September.
What does this new bill on the gun registry do?
We keep hearing about scrapping the long-gun registry, but really what we're talking about is scrapping the requirement for people to register their rifles and shotguns - that's what Bill C-19 aims to do by making amendments to the Criminal Code and Firearms Act. Once passed, people will not have to register their non-restricted or non-prohibited firearms. It also provides for the destruction of existing records in the Canadian Firearms Registry for those firearms. <em>With files from CBC</em>
What exactly is the registry?
It's a centralized database overseen by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that links firearms with their licensed owners. It contains information about all three types of guns that must be registered - non-restricted, restricted and prohibited. (All firearms must be registered.) To register a firearm, you have to have a licence to possess it.
Does the bill make any changes to licensing requirements?
No. Canadian residents need a licence in order to possess and register a firearm or ammunition and that won't change. There are a couple of different kinds of licences because of various changes to laws and regulations over the years.
What are long guns?
There are three types of guns under Canadian law: non-restricted, restricted and prohibited. Most common long guns - rifles and shotguns - are non-restricted but there are a few exceptions. A sawed-off shotgun, for example, is a prohibited firearm. A handgun is an example of a restricted firearm. Different regulations apply to different classifications of firearms.
How many guns are we talking about?
As of September 2011, there were about 7.8 million registered guns. Of those, 7.1 million are non-restricted firearms.
Why does the government want to get rid of the long-gun registry?
The government says it is wasteful and ineffective at reducing crime and targets law-abiding gun owners instead of criminals, who don't register their firearms.
Who wants to keep it?
Police and victims' groups are big supporters of the registry. Police say the database helps them evaluate a potential safety threat when they pull a vehicle over or are called to a residence. They also say it helps support police investigations because the registry can help determine if a gun was stolen, illegally imported, acquired or manufactured. This year, the RCMP says police agencies accessed it on average more than 17,000 times a day.
When will the registry cease to exist?
The government has passed the legislation and the registry no longer exists. Except for in Quebec, where an ongoing court challenge means the owners must still register their guns in the province.
Why does the government want to destroy the records?
The government is doing this to ensure that no future non-Conservative government can recreate the registry. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has also made it clear that if any province wants to set up its own registry it would get no help from the federal government. The Conservatives are so fundamentally opposed to the existence of the records, because they say they focus on law-abiding citizens instead of criminals, that they don't want them available for anyone to use.
How much does the registry cost?
The registry cost more than $1 billion to set up in 1995 and the cost was the source of much controversy. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said on Oct. 25 that the government's best estimate is that it costs about $22 million a year to operate. That's the entire registry, not just the long-gun portion, but he noted most of the guns in the registry are long guns. He said he didn't know how much money scrapping the requirement to register long guns would save the government. Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner says there are also "hidden costs" that are borne by provincial and municipal police agencies to enforce the registry.