I have tried to avoid righting anything about the gun registry in the interests of non-partisanship, but I feel that now is the time to weigh in on it. My colleague Chad is invited to argue this one with me if he so wishes.
The Firearms Registry was established in 1996 after the Chretien government passed bill C-68 in 1995. It requires all citizens owning a gun to purchase a license which costs $60-$80, and is renewable every 5 years on the holders birthday. It was created to make all guns traceable, thus reducing gun related crime.
While it is known that many crimes are committed with unregistered firearms, many crimes are committed with registered firearms. How many criminals have been put behind bars because of this program? How many lives have been saved?
The program cost taxpayers between $1.1-$3.6 million every year to operate, which in terms of savings lives is a small price to pay. Even if the system only saves a handful of lives, isn't it worth it? Can we really put a price on life?
Now, the Conservatives want to scrap the registry because they say it cost too much for what it does. It saves lives. $3.6 million is too much money for saving lives? Bill C-391 (the bill to scrap it) has passed second reading in the house and will proceed to third reading (which is the last vote) this fall. Conservative MPs will almost certainly vote in favour of it, while the Liberals will vote against it. In the previous votes, 8 Liberals voted in favour, however this time around Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has declared it a "whipped" vote which means that all Liberal MPs are required to vote with the party or face penalties.
With the Liberals voting against the bill, it all comes down to the 12 New Democrat MPs that voted in favour of it. The official NDP stance is against the bill, but Leader Jack Layton has yet to declare it a whipped vote which means MPs can vote however they want.
The NDP really does hold the fate of the Firearms Registry, and hopefully with the RCMP's recent announcement, they will vote against the bill.
The RCMP announced that they have completed a 40 page report showing that the "program is cost effective, efficient and an important tool for law enforcement." However, the report which was turned over to the government in February has not been publicly released yet. The Liberals are accusing the Conservatives of purposely withholding the report until after the vote to cover up the facts, and "The Liberal Party is demanding that the Harper government stop trying to cover up key facts in the gun registry debate and release an RCMP report that tells Canadians about its importance to public safety" in a statement released by the party.
Liberal Public Safety critic Mark Holland has submitted a letter to the Speaker of The House of Commons asking him to intervene and force the government to release the report.
And this isn't the first time that the Conservatives have seemingly withheld crucial information about the registry. After the second reading of the bill last November it was discovered that the government was in possession of a report that showed that police agencies accessed the registry an average of 10,818 time per day.
The RCMP isn't the only organisation standing in favour of the registry, the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs also believes that the registry is useful and important.
The program obviously saves lives, and if police forces are saying that they use this regularly than why would we get rid of it. This RCMP report needs to be released so that Canadians and MPs can see just how effective the program is. Hopefully with the release of this report, New Democrat MPs will vote against Bill C-391 even if they aren't "whipped" to do so.