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A rifle owner takes aim at a hunting camp near Ottawa on Sept. 15, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A rifle owner takes aim at a hunting camp near Ottawa on Sept. 15, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Tories to pull trigger on gun registry this week Add to ...

The Conservative government will introduce a bill Tuesday to scrap the registration of long guns – a long-awaited moment for many who oppose the controversial database.

The Tories offered a preview Monday of the battle to come, saying it wouldn't help provinces set up their own firearms registries once the federal one is gone.

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Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is among three Tory MPs who plan to visit a farm near Ottawa on Tuesday to discuss the plan to kill the registry – a move that's almost certain to succeed under a Conservative majority.

The Tories argue the registration of rifles and shotguns is a wasteful and unnecessary burden on law-abiding firearms owners.

However, the government says it continues to support licensing of people who own firearms and the registration of prohibited and restricted weapons such as handguns.

An internal RCMP evaluation made public in August 2010 found the federal gun registry was a useful tool for police. Just weeks later, MPs defeated a Tory private member's bill to kill the long-gun registry.

But Prime Minister Stephen Harper immediately promised to continue his party's fight against the database.

Since its inception in the 1990s, the registry has been the focus of controversy – lambasted by critics as a needless intrusion into the lives of farmers, hunters, sport shooters and other responsible gun owners, and touted by others as a worthy tool for police who use it daily to glean crucial information.

In the Commons on Monday, Liberal public safety critic Francis Scarpaleggia said even though the government is giving up on the long-gun registry, several provinces are ready to assume the responsibility.

Mr. Toews said the government has “consistently opposed this wasteful, ineffective measure” that does nothing to keep guns out of criminal hands.

“Provincial governments are free to proceed as they wish but we will not assist in setting up another registry. Records held by the Canadian firearms program will not be shared with the provinces.”

New Democrat MP Jack Harris said Mr. Toews's position was disturbing.

“It's rather surprising to hear the minister of Public Safety say that valuable data that could protect the lives of Canadians will ... not be allowed to be used for that purpose.”

Mr. Toews has argued that the more than $1-billion spent on the registry would have been better spent putting police officers on the street.

The internal RCMP evaluation released last year said the gun registry was a “useful tool” for police, but noted there was widespread confusion and misunderstanding about the firearms program.

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.”

Universal licensing and registration of firearms create an atmosphere of accountability, the authors concluded.

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.

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