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Gun registry: Committee eyes fate of firearms database

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/4/2010 (3831 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA -- In three days, the House of Commons public safety committee will begin hearings on a bill to get rid of the 15-year-old registry for legal long guns.

If it passes, Bill C-391 will wipe out a computer database of more than 6.8 million non-restricted long guns that cost an estimated $2 billion to develop.

It promises to be a highly emotional debate filled with all the usual political half-truths and mudslinging all the parties can muster. Because depending who you ask, the gun registry is either a financial boondoggle that does nothing to stop gun crime while serving only to criminalize law-abiding gun owners, or a genuinely valuable tool for police that could protect front-line cops, reduce domestic violence and even cut down on suicides.

One poll says Canadians are in favour of it, another poll says Canadians want it gone.

Bill C-391 belongs to Manitoba Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner. The Portage-Lisgar MP said she isn't a gun owner but she feels strongly the registry is riddled with errors, has been too costly and doesn't do anything to curb gun crimes.

"The registry from the start has been flawed," she said. "Licensing is where you control guns."

That, said Toronto police Chief William Blair, is nonsense, noting police can't ensure they have seized all the guns from a suspect if his guns don't have to be registered.

"A licence tells us a person can have a gun," he said. "The registry tells us what guns he has. There is a huge difference."

Blair is the president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which released a joint statement in support of the gun registry this week with the Canadian Association of Police Boards and Canadian Police Association.

The CACP also says 16 of the 18 cops shot to death in Canada since 1998 were killed by long guns, not handguns, and that 48 per cent of gun murders in rural Canada and 15 per cent in Canada overall involve long guns.

It is a rarity for the Conservatives and the police to be on different pages on an issue.

Hoeppner says the police associations are political entities which don't represent the feelings of their members.

"Individuals from those associations are divided," she said.

She has Calgary police Chief Rick Hansen to back up that idea, as he said publicly this week the gun registry has done little to affect street crime.

The Winnipeg police this week wouldn't discuss the Hoeppner bill specifically. But spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said the registry "is an important investigative tool" that "has proven to be valuable."

The RCMP 2008-09 departmental performance report says in 2008-09, the firearms registry was searched more than 3.5 million times, up 24 per cent from the year before and evidence the registry is valuable to police.

Pro-registry advocates also say it may have cost a lot to establish the registry but its annual costs are now minimal. The RCMP report said in 2008-09 the cost was $8.4 million, $5.2 million less than anticipated.

Hoeppner said that cost doesn't take into account the number of unregistered weapons which still have to be registered but haven't because of the four-year amnesty the Conservatives have implemented for registrations. Nor does it deal with the myriad of incorrect information in the registry including addresses and serial numbers.




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