Long-Gun Registry: Party Celebrating Passage Of Bill Prompts Liberal Accusations Of Tory Insensitivity
The Liberals are accusing the Conservatives of being insensitive for planning a party to celebrate the passage of a bill that will scrap the long-gun registry.
Many Conservative MPs have been lobbying for the end of the registry since they arrived on Parliament Hill. They say a reception in Parliament's reading room is just a way to mark the end of a long effort.
“When you promise something for so many years and you are stymied by the opposition to get that passed, it is a celebration,” Ontario Conservative MP David Tilson said.
Liberal interim leader Bob Rae called the festive approach “completely, completely inappropriate in the circumstances,” and “completely insensitive to the sentiment of the good majority of Canadians.” Rae said it is just a further demonstrations that the Conservatives are not in touch with public opinion on the issue.
Tilson said he would tell victims of gun violence who may feel disgusted by the celebratory mood that the gun registry has never stopped a crime.
And despite the overwhelming majority of police organizations coming out in support of the long-gun registry, Tilson said he believes rank and file members support the Conservatives’ plans.
“The (police) chief of my community wants the long gun registry to stay but I talk privately to the rank and file officers and they don’t feel the same way,” he added.
Alberta Conservative MP Leon Benoit said Wednesday’s celebration were just the natural way to mark the end of a long and difficult journey.
One MP joked they’d be doing “shooters” after the vote.
Tory MP Jim Hillyer made headlines last year after he celebrated a gun registry vote with a finger guns gesture. After the video went viral, Hillyer said he had not meant to offend anyone and that blame should land on the person behind the video for posting it on the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.
New Brunswick MP John Williamson said he heard there was a “reception” but that he wouldn’t call it a “party.”
“The real story tonight is that we are finally getting rid of this long gun registry,” he said.
MPs will cast their final votes on the bill to scrap the long-gun registry Wednesday evening. It is assured passage when it is introduced in the Senate, where the Tories also have a healthy majority.
CORRECTION: An original version of the story erroneously reported that the reception was held in the Prime Minister's quarters. It was actually held in the reading room in the Parliament building's Centre Block.
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.