Scrapping long-gun registry a 'priority' for Tory majority

Oscar Lacombe, 82, holds one of his unregistered guns, a 12 gauge shot gun used for geese and duck hunting, near his home on Wednesday, September 22, 2010, in Two Hills, Alta.


Bryn Weese, Parliamentary Bureau

OTTAWA -- They've been promising it for over a decade and now that they have a majority, scrapping the controversial long-gun registry is a "priority" for the Conservatives.

And the registry's loudest supporters, and some of the MPs who flip-flopped on the issue last fall, paid for it at the polls.

Former Liberal public safety critic Mark Holland, who led his party's defense of the controversial program in a bid to save it in a close vote last fall, was defeated in Ajax-Pickering by Conservative Chris Alexander.

And four of the eight Liberals who flip-flopped lost to the Tories too, while two of the six New Democrats who flipped, while all were re-elected, lost support despite the surprising NDP surge.

Anthony Rota in northern Ontario, Jean-Claude D'Amours in New Brunswick, Larry Bagnell in the Yukon and Todd Russell in Labrador were all given the boot. New Democrats Charlie Angus and Peter Stoffer, who campaigned in 2008 to scrap the registry but later voted to save it, lost support in their ridings by about 400 votes and 1,700 votes respectively.

"They were in safe ridings, but I think definitely voters (in Angus' and Stoffer's ridings) felt betrayed," said Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner, whose private member's bill to scrap the registry nearly succeeded last fall.

"The issue of the gun registry and the issue of credibility was a huge issue in all of those ridings."
According to Mike Patton, a spokesman for the minister of public safety, scrapping the registry is a "priority" for the government.

"The long-gun registry is wasteful and ineffective, and it needlessly and unfairly targets law-abiding Canadians," Patton wrote in an e-mail. "It does nothing to reduce crime, or to strengthen our efforts to keep guns out of the hands of criminals."

Rota, who lost the election by 14 votes and is currently involved in a judicial recount, wouldn't comment Wednesday. Bagnell said his defeat had more to do with vote splitting than his party's support of the gun registry.

"I'm sure there was a few votes involved because of the registry," he said. "I heard it at the door, but not as much as you would have thought."

But Greg Farrant of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters said hunters and gun owners did make a difference on election night.

"Quite clearly the firearms community, the legal law-abiding gun owners in this country who have been demonized by the gun control advocates, are a force to be reckoned with and I think we saw that in this election campaign," he said. "Elections are strange animals and who knows why people vote the way they do, but I certainly believe that the failure of those individuals to stand up and be counted and vote the way their constituents wanted played a role in this election."

Tony Bernardo of the Canadian Institute for Legislative Action said he's "delighted" the registry is on its way out, adding he has every confidence the Conservatives will honour their long-standing promise to do so.

But he and other firearm activists aren't likely to go anywhere anytime soon. Bernardo said they still plan to push for other changes to strengthen Canada's gun laws, despite what his critics suggest.

"We are looking for firearms laws that provide a measure of safety to the general public and at the same time they don't compromise the interests of law-abiding firearms owners. We're not looking to eliminate gun laws," he said.

"What we want are sensible firearms laws that work."
According to Patton, the Tory majority's legislative agenda is still being worked out so there is no specific date when the registry will be abolished.

Hoeppner, though, said she hopes the registry is scrapped "sooner rather than later."

The long-gun registry was introduced by the previous Liberal government of Jean Chretien in 1995.

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