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Rural Canada

Michael Ignatieff addresses police and rural concerns with gun registry reforms

Posted on April 19, 2010
parliament

In a speech to hundreds of frontline police officers, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff proposed improvements to the long-gun registry that would address frustrating irritants for rural Canadians while giving our police the tools they need to keep our communities safe.

“You are the frontline of our system of justice, and we’re committed to giving you the tools you need to do your job,” Mr. Ignatieff said to the gathering of the Canadian Police Association.  “That’s why the Liberal Party proudly stands with Canadian families and Canadian police officers for effective gun control.”

In 2009, the long-gun registry was consulted by police 11,000 times per day. The long-gun registry is supported by the Canadian Police Association, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Canadian Association of Police Boards.

“It would be wrong to ignore the frustration and legitimate criticisms that we have heard about the gun registry, particularly from rural Canada,” said Mr. Ignatieff. “That’s why, today, we’re announcing what a Liberal government would do to make the gun registry more effective, and to respond to these concerns.”

Mr. Ignatieff announced that a Liberal government would implement the following improvements to the long-gun registry:

•    First-time failures to register firearms would be treated as a simple, non-criminal, ticketing offence, instead of a criminal offence as they are currently;

•    Fees for new licenses, renewals and upgrades would be permanently eliminated; and

•    The registration process – especially the forms – would be streamlined to make  registration as easy as possible.

“Canadians want gun control that works, and that treats gun owners fairly,” said Mr. Ignatieff.  “But we won’t abandon gun control. Not when rifles and shotguns are responsible for half the police officers killed in the line of duty in the last few years. Not when the gun registry is a vital tool that law enforcement uses every single day.”

“Let me be perfectly clear: the Liberal Party opposes the Conservative government’s effort to scrap the gun registry altogether and we will vote against the Hoeppner bill at third reading in the House of Commons,” said Mr. Ignatieff.  “Instead, we’re proposing sensible changes that address the legitimate concerns of our rural caucus, while upholding the integrity of the gun registry.”

“Police across Canada are taking the lead on crime prevention, and finding new ways to keep our communities safe,” said Mr. Ignatieff. “We have supported tougher sentences, when they are appropriate. But we also support giving police the tools they need to prevent crime.”

In addition to committing to support the police with proven crime prevention measures, Mr. Ignatieff pointed out that the Conservatives failed to spend half of their crime prevention budget last year.

“Today, on the first day of the National Victims of Crime Awareness Week, I’m also calling on the Harper government to reverse its cuts to the victims of crime initiative,” said Mr. Ignatieff. “We support victims’ rights – and by improving the gun registry and preventing crime, we will have fewer victims in the first place.”

Backgrounder:
Strengthening Public Safety

A Liberal government would improve the long gun registry so that it better serves police, rural Canadians and Canadian long-gun owners, and will oppose the Conservative government’s effort to scrap the gun registry altogether.

According to the Canadian Firearms Centre, in 2009, the long-gun registry was consulted by police an average of 11,000 times per day. The long-gun registry is supported by the Canadian Police Association, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Canadian Association of Police Boards.

Since the creation of the long-gun registry, over 90% of Canadian gun owners have registered their firearms.  Rural Canadians and Canadian long-gun owners, however, have expressed legitimate frustration and criticism of the fees, paperwork and criminal charges related to the registry.

The Liberal Party wants to maintain the integrity of the gun registry in order to protect public safety, but also wants to address the legitimate concerns of Canadian long-gun owners by committing to making the registry more effective.  A Liberal government would improve the long-gun registry with the following measures:

1.    No longer make it a criminal offence for the first time that gun owners fail to register their firearms by issuing a ticket instead, in the absence of aggravating factors.  By ensuring legitimate gun owners would not receive a criminal charge for forgetting to register a firearm, this change would give front line officers the legal tools to differentiate between an honest mistake and a threat to public safety.

2.    Permanently eliminating fees for new licenses, renewals and upgrades.

3.    Streamlining forms and making registration as simple as possible. Although forms are available on-line, many in rural and northern areas continue to find the system inaccessible.  A Liberal government would simplify forms and improve community access to registration services through Service Canada locations across the country.

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Remarks to the Canadian Police Association