Long Gun Registry: PQ Requests Meeting With PM On Quebec, Harper Says 'Non, Merci'
MONTREAL - It never hurts to ask.
Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois sent a letter Friday to Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking to meet him about the federal gun registry.
If the provincial opposition leader was holding her breath waiting for a reply, she needn't have waited very long. The response from the Prime Minister's Office was an immediate and unequivocal refusal.
In a letter dated Friday, Marois noted that the registry was set up in the wake of the Ecole polytechnique massacre of 14 women in 1989 and says it has since proven useful to police.
Marois also said that since Ottawa has voted to abolish the registry, Quebec would like to set up its own system and use the information gathered by the federal government — even though the feds have steadfastly refused such a request.
The letter does carry a whiff of internal Quebec politics.
The PQ frequently makes demands of the federal government even when — and perhaps especially when — there's a high likelihood of refusal from Ottawa.
Such cases offer the separatists a potential win-win scenario. In the event of any concession, they stand to gain credit. And, if they're refused, there's always potential for a nationalist backlash.
In her letter, Marois acknowledges that Harper has already declined to meet with Premier Jean Charest over the issue. But she says she's hoping Harper might still agree to meet with her.
''As leader of the official Opposition, I'm prepared to go to Ottawa to meet you on this issue or to receive you in Montreal or Quebec,'' Marois said.
''I sincerely hope that you agree to this meeting which would demonstrate your respect for the Quebecois nation.''
Harper used a House of Commons motion to declare the Quebecois a nation in 2006. Since then, sovereigntist politicians have cited that distinction multiple times when asking for special treatment from the federal government, such as on the issue of the number of Commons seats allocated per province.
On the gun registry and on other issues, Marois has sought to cast the federal government as out of touch with Quebec values and has actively promoted disagreements with Ottawa in an effort to isolate and embarrass Charest.
In this case, the response from the feds was swift.
''Mrs. Marois wants to create fights and we're not getting involved in her game,'' said a statement from Harper's office.
''The provinces are free in their jurisdiction to act (in creating a registry) if they want to. However, we wouldn't encourage them to create an expensive registry that unnecessarily targets hunters and farmers. For our part, it's promise made and promise kept toward Quebecers from rural regions.''
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.