Gun Registry Bill At Final Stage In House Of Commons
The final stage of debate on the bill to end the long-gun registry began Monday in the House of Commons.
Bill C-19 is at third and final reading in the Commons and is being debated by MPs for two more days before a vote will seal its fate Wednesday evening. Because of the Conservative majority, the bill is expected pass and move to the Senate.
It passed the report stage last week after the opposition tried unsuccessfully to amend it. Amendments were also proposed, and defeated, at the committee stage. Opposition parties want to maintain the registry and are particularly upset that the government intends to destroy the data in the registry.
Government House leader Peter Van Loan said last week that on Wednesday MPs will have "a momentous vote to end the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry once and for all."
As debate got underway Monday, Conservative MP Garry Breitkreuz read testimony from witnesses that appeared at the committee stage who were in favour of the bill and he defended the government's position.
"I've always said that government moves slowly but I never dreamed it would take this long to get rid of something that has been absolutely a waste of time," said Breitkreuz.
Affects non-restricted weapons
The Conservatives have been intent on scrapping the requirement for gun owners to register non-restricted firearms. They argue the registry, maintained by the RCMP, targets law-abiding gun owners instead of criminals and is a waste of money and does little to improve public safety.
Prohibited and restricted guns would still have to be registered and a licence is needed for all guns.
The government used a time allocation motion to limit further days of debate on the bill so that it could move more quickly to a final vote.
Opposition parties and critics are opposed to ending the long-gun registry because they say it helps police forces and is important for public safety.
NDP MP Francoise Boivin talked during the debate Monday about why the registry was set up in the first place and mentioned the Montreal Massacre.
"We have not forgotten any of these young women," she said after reading out names of the victims of the 1989 shooting.
Boivin said the registry did cost a lot of money, but that there is a need for it.
"We need to know who has guns, how many firearms they have, if there are constraints on whether they should have one or not. We need to know how they are being kept," she said.
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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.