Long-gun registry on the chopping block

By Rhonda Cooper

After years of campaigning for the dissolution of the long-gun registry, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative federal government introduced a bill Oct. 25 to do just that.

The Harper government has been trying to get rid of the long-gun registry since it first came to power in 2005. But as a minority government, the federal Conservatives were unable to keep their campaign promise. In May the electorate gave Harper a majority allowing the party to move forward on its promise regarding the registry.

“It’s about time,” said Meadow Lake’s John Lawson, chairman of the zone one’s SAFE (Saskatchewan Association for Firearms Education) and instructor of the provincial hunting course. “It will make a bunch of people who were considered illegal now legal.”

Lawson, a strong advocate of the safety requirements around gun use and ownership, said that part will remain for both Canadian residents and visitors. “Americans (hunters) still have to get their PALs (Possession and Acquisition Licence) so the safety aspect remains.”

The northwest is a popular hunting destination and Lawson believes there may be an increase in the sport as people who were once reluctant to participate because of the paperwork, may be more inclined to get involved.

“We are very happy to repeal the long-gun registry,” added Rob Clarke, MP for Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River. “We campaigned for many years on this and we are now able to keep our promise.”

Clarke noted the tabled legislation repeals the requirement to register non-restricted firearms (long-guns) and provides for the destruction of all records pertaining to the registration of long-guns while still maintaining controls over restricted and prohibited firearms.

“There is nothing out there that showed the registry saved even one life,” said Clarke. “Over $2 billion was spent to register seven million guns. It was a huge waste of money.”

For his home riding, Clarke believes that from an aboriginal standpoint, it is going to make it a lot easier for people to hunt and gather for sustenance as well as those who consider themselves recreational hunters.

“It is also about farmers protecting their livestock,” he said.

As a former RCMP officer, Clarke noted opposition raised to the dissolution came from associations rather than the front line officers. Law enforcement officers have and will to continue to use the same precautions and safety measures when responding to a call that predates the registry.

Firearms owners will still require a valid firearm licence to purchase or possess firearms and to purchase ammunition. They will continue to be required to undergo background checks, pass a firearms safety training course and comply with firearms storage and transportation requirements. Individuals will continue to be required to register prohibited and restricted firearms such as handguns.

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