Government presses ahead with plan to ease gun laws

Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:35pm EDT
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The government pressed ahead on Tuesday with plans to scrap a registry of shotguns and rifles, brushing off police complaints the move will make their life tougher.

The Conservatives - who enjoy considerable support in rural areas - have long argued that the long-gun registry is wasteful, does nothing to cut crime and unfairly targets law-abiding farmers and hunters.

"Our government will continue to uphold our commitment to effective gun control measures that help keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and off our streets," Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said in a statement.

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.

The previous Liberal government set up the long-gun registry in 1995 in the wake of a 1989 Montreal massacre when a gunman with a rifle murdered 14 women at a college. The Conservatives say criminals do not register their weapons and point to huge cost overruns when the registry was set up.

Toews spoke after unveiling legislation to eliminate the registry and destroy all records gathered since 1995, on the grounds that he wanted to prevent efforts to recreate the list. The Conservatives control a majority of the seats in the House of Commons, which means the legislation will be approved.

Critics, including police officials, say the registry allows them to trace the owners of firearms used in crimes.

"Rifles and shotguns make up a substantial proportion of the guns recovered in crime in this country. They are the guns most often used to kill police officers," said Denis Cote, head of the Quebec police federation.

Defenders of the registry also 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.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson)