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Justice minister calls gun registry link to Edmonton police shooting 'absurd'

OTTAWA - The mayor of Edmonton is reacting to the latest deadly police shooting by suggesting the loss of the federal long-gun registry may be a factor — a position that federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay calls "ill-timed," "unhelpful" and "absurd."Mayor Don Iveson told a news conference Tuesday in Edmonton that police always want to know whether firearms are on hand when they answer a call.Const. Daniel Woodall, who worked on the hate crimes unit, was shot dead by a man wielding a large-bore rifle Monday night after going to a home to issue an arrest warrant. Sgt. Jason Harley was shot in the lower back.Asked whether there is anything afoot to explain a recent spate of police interactions with armed assailants, Iveson waded in to explosive political territory."I do have a concern with gun violence and I will say that the loss of the gun registry may be related to this," said the mayor.His observation comes at a sensitive time for the Harper government, which is currently rushing an overhaul of gun licensing and transportation rules into law before an expected fall election.The justice minister, in Ottawa, strongly denounced what he described as speculation by Iveson."The comments by the mayor, quite frankly, are unhelpful, inappropriate and ill-timed," MacKay said."Making that declaration that somehow this might have been prevented by gun registry data, frankly, I find absurd."Iveson subsequently took to social media to offer an apology for his remarks."Speculation about gun registry this morning was premature," Iveson wrote on Twitter. "Focus should remain our condolences & safety of EPS members & public. Apologies."The Conservatives killed the program to register non-restricted firearms in 2012 and subsequently say they destroyed all the records, except for those in Quebec, which remain under a legal challenge.The government is currently pushing through Bill C-42, dubbed the Common Sense Firearms Act, which Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney calls "the first substantive change to the firearms regime since it was brought in 20 years ago."The government says its working with the firearms community to strike a balance between what Blaney calls "streamlining" firearms paperwork and ensuring public safety.The bill includes a mix of measures, including relaxing rules on the transportation of guns and simplifying the licensing system by combining two types of firearms licences into one, as well as new mandatory gun training for all licensee and a lifetime prohibition on firearms ownership by those convicted of domestic assaults.Blaney appeared before a Senate committee Tuesday to promote Bill C-42 and although the Edmonton shooting was not raised by senators, Blaney twice used unrelated questions to address the matter.Blaney made note that the Supreme Court of Canada has said firearms ownership is a privilege, not a right, but the minister said he preferred to think of it as "a responsibility."And he noted that he was in Moncton last week to mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting deaths of three RCMP officers."You know our government in the last decade has probably been the one who has adopted the most stringent regulation toward possession of illegal firearms and towards crimes committed with firearms — especially those horrible crimes," Blaney told the Senate committee.Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is currently in Poland wrapping up a five-day trip to Europe, issued a release of condolences for Woodall's death."On behalf of all Canadians, Laureen and I offer our deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. We also pray for the full and speedy recovery of Sergeant Jason Harley who was shot in the same incident," Harper said in the release."It is a very difficult reminder that police officers across our country put their lives on the line every day to serve and protect our communities and keep us safe."Follow @BCheadle on Twitter

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