Canadian government loses bid to ease gun laws

Wed Sep 22, 2010 6:49pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's minority Conservative government narrowly lost its bid on Wednesday to relax the country's gun-control laws, an issue that is likely to feature heavily in an election campaign expected within the next year.

The House of Commons voted 153-151 to retain a national registry of rifles and shotguns the government says is a waste of money and penalizes law-abiding hunters and farmers. The Conservatives enjoy significant support among rural voters.

"The people of the regions of this country are never going to accept being treated like criminals and we will continue our efforts until this registry is finally abolished," Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters after the vote.

Opposition Parliamentarians, most of whom backed the registry, say it helps curb crime. The program was set up in 1995 in the wake of a 1989 massacre in Montreal, when a gunman with a rifle murdered 14 women at a college.

The registry tightened gun control laws that were already tougher than those in the United States. Gun licenses are already mandatory for anyone wishing to use weapons, and registration of handguns has been long been required.

Defenders of the registry say it is one factor that helps explain why Canada's murder rate is just under 2.0 per 100,000 people compared with 6.0 per 100,000 in the United States.

The Conservatives hoped to pull out a victory in the House on Wednesday by targeting rural legislators from opposition parties, such as Liberal Anthony Rota, who initially said they would vote to kill the registry but then changed their minds.

Industry Minister Tony Clement, speaking in the House before the vote, accused Rota of flip-flopping on the issue and added: "Shame on him. He will answer to his constituents in due course."   Continued...

<p>Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa April 20, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>