SOUTHERN ALBERTA: The Conservatives launched a new bill Tuesday to try and axe the long-gun registry, and while victims groups, gun control organizations and some police have historically opposed plans to scrap it, many in Southern Alberta welcome the change.
"If the crooks would register their automatic machine guns, then I think the registry would be very effective," said Lethbridge Fish and Game Association president Rick Blakely. "But as it is, it doesn't work. The registry doesn't make a gun safe. It just registers it."
The issue of long-gun registration has long polarized Canadian residents. Certainly in September 2010, when the Conservatives nearly succeeded in scrapping the registry but were defeated by a razor thin 153 to 151 MP vote, divided opinions on the matter surfaced.
Women's groups, like the national YWCA, which provides shelter to women and children, said the registry should stay. In an open letter written this spring, a YWCA representative noted shot guns and rifles are the guns most commonly used in spousal homicides, especially when women are the victims. In the last 10 years 71% of spousal homicides committed with a firearm involved a shot gun or a rifle.
Some police organizations - like the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police - supported the registry, saying it was a "useful tool" for police. Lethbridge Police Chief Tom McKenzie told Country 95 News at the time that although the registry wasn't perfect, it was one of the many tools officers use on a day-to-day basis to keep themselves and residents safe.
An RCMP internal report released in 2010 called the registry a "useful tool" for police. The report found the registry prepared officers for urgent on-duty calls, helped them trace weapons found at crime scenes and assisted in keeping guns from the mentally unstable. "The majority of firearms in Canada are long guns," the evaluation said. "The majority of firearm deaths in Canada are caused by long guns." Knowing that individuals and businesses are responsible for their firearms and the use of them decreases the likelihood that an individual will misuse, traffic or commit a crime with a gun, the evaluation added.
Meanwhile, many Southern Alberta farmers and hunters say the registry is inconvenient, targets the wrong people and is a waste of taxpayer funding. Some also worry the list could get hacked. "We're now looking at conflicts around the world and governments taking guns away from people to control them. These lists, if they get into the wrong hands, could give the wrong people information that they could use to acquire guns and break into houses that are targeted and steal them," said Blakely.
For many rural residents, long-guns make the difference for a successful livelihood. They use firearms to protect their property or livestock from predators. Many say it's for that reason they oppose the inconvenience of registering a long-gun, which takes from one day to three weeks. And while registration comes at no cost to individual gun owners for now, Blakely said the money government now devotes to it would be better spent on something else. "It's almost a criminal use of money. They could be using that cash to actually do something productive," said Blakely. "That goes beyond the inconvenience and all the other issues."