The federal Conservative Party has launched a website and a series of radio ads to boast that the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has finally killed the registry that records the ownership of rifles and shotguns.
“The Harper government has followed through on their promise and has scrapped the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry,” proclaims the website that can be found at www.scrappedtheregistry.ca.
But opposition members and gun-control advocates say the messaging is premature. The bill to end the registry, a long-time goal of the Conservatives, has not yet made it through the House of Commons, been passed by the Senate, or given royal assent.
The Conservatives have a majority in both the House and the Senate, so the legislation will likely become law early in the new year.
But Michael Bryant, the former attorney-general for the province of Ontario and a supporter of the registry, says the ad announcing its demise could be construed as contempt of Parliament.
“The government, and that includes the Conservative Party, cannot misinform the public that a bill has passed when in fact it’s not passed,” said Mr. Bryant. “And it’s contemptuous of Parliament because it presumes a parliamentary result before there’s been a vote.”
New Democratic MP Jack Harris said the claim that the gun registry has been scrapped is preposterous. “They have the website that literally says ‘scrapped,’ past tense. That’s absolute nonsense,” he said.
Mr. Harris is also dismissive of the website’s claim that the scrapping of the registry means it can no longer be used by the opposition for political purposes. In fact, said Mr. Harris, it has been the Conservatives who have been “obsessed” with the politics of the registry and who crafted a faulty law in their haste to eliminate it that will end the registration of assault and sniper rifles.
Francis Scarpaleggia, the Liberal critic for Public Safety, said he believes the Conservatives released the advertising at this time as a way to generate party funding. “Obviously with no election looming, they are not doing it to build voter support,” said Mr. Scarpaleggia.
The radio ad is less definitive than the website about the passage of the bill. It features a woman telling her husband: “Hey honey, so, it’s almost gone …”
Candice Hoeppner, a Conservative MP who once introduced her own private-member’s bill to scrap the registry and who is now the parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Public Safety, said the bill is not quite finished working its way through Parliament but “we’re nicely through the process.”
The ads, said Ms. Hoeppner, were created to make sure people across the country know that the registry is ending. The Conservatives maintain that the registry has demonized law-abiding farmers and hunters, while doing nothing to prevent crime.
The distraught young man who opened fire on an Alberta highway last week and killed three other young people before turning the gun on himself used weapons that had been registered.
“This is a much, much bigger issue than someone owning a firearm,” said Ms. Hoeppner.
“There are other cases where individuals have legally owned firearms, they’ve licensed them and they got them registered and they still snapped …” she said. “I believe very strongly in the licensing and if we have any chance of red flagging something like this and stopping somebody from legally having firearms, that’s where we do it.”