06/09/2015 01:10 EDT | Updated 06/10/2015 01:59 EDT

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson Apologizes For 'Speculation' About Gun Registry

The mayor of Edmonton has apologized for suggesting the loss of the federal long-gun registry could be related to the shooting death of an on-duty police officer.

It was a suggestion that Justice Minister Peter MacKay derided as "ill-timed" and "absurd."

At a press conference Tuesday morning, an emotional Don Iveson paid tribute to Const. Daniel Woodall, 35, who was killed Monday while executing an arrest warrant as part of a hate crimes investigation. Woodall leaves behind a wife and two young children.

"As your mayor, I reflect the sadness that I feel in the community," Iveson said, fighting back tears. "But I feel this most deeply as a father of young children and I'm incredibly sad for them and Mrs. Woodall."

Sgt. Jason Harley, 38, was also shot but is expected to make a full recovery. Iveson said Woodall and Harley both represent "the very bravest and best" of the city.

While Iveson was taking questions, a reporter brought up that an Edmonton police officer was also shot at a traffic stop just three weeks ago. That officer was wounded but is expected to recover.

"Are you concerned that something is happening in the city or in the province in regard to violence against police?" the reporter asked.

"I do have a concern with gun violence and I will say that the loss of the gun registry may be related to this," Iveson said.

"I think every opportunity our police have to have knowledge of where firearms are in this city would be to their advantage. And the chiefs of police have been consistent about that."

On Tuesday afternoon, Iveson took to Twitter to apologize for the remark.

Federal Conservatives successfully scrapped the long-gun registry in 2012 after capturing a majority government the year before. The registry, introduced by the Liberals in 1993, required all rifles and shotguns be recorded in a database managed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Harper Conservatives had long argued that the registry was wasteful and unfair to law-abiding Canadian gun-owners. They also said it was ineffective at reducing crime because criminals don't register their guns.

Police chiefs saw the registry as a useful tool, arguing access to the database helped officers weigh potential threats when approaching a residence or vehicle. The database was also seen as useful in determining if firearms were stolen or illegally imported.

However, former Toronto police chief and Ontario Provincial Police commissioner Julian Fantino spoke out against the registry in 2003, saying it did nothing to prevent gun crimes.

"The firearms registry is long on philosophy and short on practical results considering the money could be more effectively used for security against terrorism as well as a host of other public safety initiatives," Fantino said in a release at the time.

Fantino would go on to win a byelection in 2010 as a Tory candidate and serve in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet.

But Bill Blair, another former Toronto police chief who has made the jump to the political arena, disagrees with Fantino's view.

In 2010, as president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, Blair said officers in both urban and rural communities used the registry to help keep communities safe.

"The registry has worked exceptionally well for us. That information, if lost to us, would directly impact on our ability to conduct criminal investigations and to keep our officers and our communities safer," Blair said, according to CTV News.

Blair now aims to run for the federal Liberals in the next election.

On Tuesday, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said Woodall's death was a cold-blooded murder by a member of a right-wing extremist group.

Blaney said the Harper government over the last decade has done more than any other to create the most stringent laws against illegal gun possession and tough sentences for gun-related crimes.

With files from The Canadian Press, Zi-Ann Lum

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