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Liberal Leadership Saves the Gun Registry

Posted on February 14, 2011

On Sept. 22, 2010, Parliament voted to keep the Gun Registry, defeating a private member’s bill by Manitoba Conservative MP Candace Hoeppner. It happened because of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s decision to make this issue a matter of principle. Only when Liberal MPs stood as one did NDP leader Jack Layton finally start pleading with the members of his party to do the right thing and vote against the bill.

There is no doubt the registry has had a troubled past. Its set-up costs were very high – although that is because it included transferring the handgun registry from paper records to digital format, which was costly but ultimately worthwhile. In comparison to the security costs for the 3-day G8/G20 Summit, it is starting to look like a bargain.

But the RCMP now reports that the registry costs about $4.1-million a year to run, and is accessed 13,000 times a day by police forces across Canada.

But the Conservatives dismissed fact-based reports, like the one issued by the RCMP, which argued that the “full registry” be maintained, calling it a valuable tool that has helped reduce gun deaths nationwide.

Many of the arguments made by Conservatives have been simply irrational: On August 30, Tory MP Garry Breitkreuz posted an article on his blog that said of the Canadian Chiefs of Police, “They won’t admit it, but it appears they don’t want Canadians to own guns. To that end, they need a database that will help them locate and seize those firearms as soon as a licence or registration expires.”

Earlier this year, Breitkreuz had to “recall” a press release in which he referred to the Chiefs of Police as “a cult.”

What Mr. Breitkreuz and other Conservatives haven’t considered is that Chiefs of Police don’t have a problem with gun ownership, but they do want their officers to know if there may be guns at the scene.

While the vast majority of gun owners are law-abiding, rifles and shotguns are still used by criminals. Most firearm-related deaths are caused by rifles or shotguns with suicides the leading cause of death by firearms in Canada, and the victims are often women.

The defeat of this bill was a win for public safety and for Canadians. Michael Ignatieff deserves the credit for taking a principled stand and keeping the registry alive.


  • 85% of domestic violence incidents involving a firearm are incidents using a rifle or long gun.
  • 74% of all suicides involving a firearm are incidents using a long gun or rifle.
  • More than half of all firearms- related crimes are incidents using a long gun or rifle.
  • Of the 16 police officer shooting deaths in Canada between 1998 and 2009, 14 were killed by a long gun.

Police Chief Bill Blair

“It is not a matter of ideology. It’s just a matter of public safety, it’s just a matter of officer safety. We need to help [politicians] understand that this is a tool that we need, that we use every day. And if you take it away from us, you are diminishing our capacity to keep our communities safe.”
Bill Blair, President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) and head of Toronto’s police department. At a meeting in August, The CACP voted unanimously in support of the registry.

In April 2010, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff proposed the following reforms to improve the gun registry:

  • First-time failures to register firearms would be treated as a simple, non-criminal, ticketing offence, instead of a criminal offence as they are currently;
  • Fees for new licenses, renewals and upgrades would be permanently eliminated; and
  • The registration process – especially the forms – would be streamlined to make registration as easy as possible.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff

“It would be wrong to ignore the frustration and legitimate criticisms that we have heard about the gun registry, particularly from rural Canada,” said Mr. Ignatieff. “That’s why we would make the gun registry more effective, and to respond to these concerns.”