Harper's comments on gun registry spark debate
Gun owners and gun control advocates are speaking out about the prime minister's idea to scrap the long-gun registry.
Stephen Harper, who does not have a bill in Parliament that would abolish the registry, urged members of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters on Saturday to contact opposition MPs and pressure them to support legislation that would end the six year old program.
Long guns, which are typically used by farmers and hunters and not criminals, are not adding to the city's crime problem, said one women attending the Toronto Sportsmen's Show on Sunday.
"It's not the people that have got legal guns that are the problem," she said. "It's the people that don't have licences."
Michael Thompson, a city councillor in Toronto's Scarborough region, said he would like to see the federal government get rid of the expensive program and use that money to fight crime in at-risk communities.
However, Harper's suggestion did not go over well with gun control advocates who argued that a registry helps authorities keep an eye on the weapons floating around the country.
"Even in Toronto, a substantial proportion of the guns recovered in crime are rifles and shotguns," said Wendy Cukier, with the Coalition for Gun Control.
Even at the Sportsmen show, participants were split on whether the registry is worth maintaining.
"I believe the registry is important to keep track of all the firearms in Canada and be used for law enforcement use," said Larry Brownridge, a gun owner who lives in the Greater Toronto Area.
The Conservatives always voiced their displeasure with the registry, a Liberal initiative that has been criticized for being too costly and for punishing law-abiding gun owners rather than criminals.
While a lack of support from opposition parties have stopped the Tories from attempting to pass legislation to get rid of the registry, the Conservatives have reduced the registry's budge and have waived fees for gun owners.
However, a Conservative backbencher has introduced a private member's bill on scrapping the registry. During Harper's speech on Saturday, the Prime Minister said he would like to see the matter put before a free vote in the House of Commons.
Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff said Sunday on CTV's Question Period that he wants to see the "fine print" of what the Tories are proposing before making a decision.
Nonetheless, he was quick to say that he would not support a bill that proposes getting rid of the registry altogether, saying it does the police a great service.
"We've got to keep control of these firearms," he said.
"I'm not going to vote for anything that guts the gun registry, because I think when I look at my own riding in Toronto and I talk to my police superintendent, he uses the gun registry every day," Ignatieff said. "He checks out every address he sends his cops to, to make sure that there are no guns in that house. In other words, the gun registry plays a crucial role in making our police safer."
"And I think Canadians don't want to gut any registry that makes our cops safer and makes, I think, on balance, makes our streets safer," he added.