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compromise proposal

A rifle owner takes a walk through his hunting camp west of Ottawa on Sept. 15, 2010.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Charlie Angus keeps two guns in a locked box under his bed in Cobalt. A rabbit situation at the NDP MP's Northern Ontario home necessitated the firepower.

Then there was the bear in his garage. His wife dealt with that, he said. "I think she threw a bucket of water at it."

Admitting he is a bad shot, he added: "This is rural life."

Last November, Mr. Angus was one of the 12 New Democrats who voted with the government to scrap the gun registry. He has since changed his mind; next Wednesday in the House of Commons he will vote to make sure it survives.

At a news conference Thursday, Mr. Angus sat with his leader, Jack Layton, who offered a challenge to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "Today I have a message for the Prime Minister: You don't have the votes to adopt your bill."

Mr. Layton implored Mr. Harper to work with the NDP on a compromise.

This week, after his party's caucus meeting in Regina, the NDP Leader announced he had the votes to ensure the registry's survival. Four of the original 12 had declared publicly their intention to switch their votes at the time, and on Thursday Carol Hughes became the fifth.

"This is not a decision I have taken lightly," Ms. Hughes, who also represents an Northern Ontario riding, said in Canadian Press report. "I have reviewed a years' worth of input from people across this riding - hundreds of mail-back cards, phone calls, notes from meetings and reports. And I can tell you that their views about the registry are rich and diverse, just like they are everywhere else in the country."

More New Democrats are expected to publicly announce their intentions over the next few days. Nova Scotia MP, heretofore an ardent opponent of the registry, could fall in line behind Mr. Layton's compromise position Monday.

At the Ottawa news conference, meanwhile, Mr. Angus said his mind was changed, in part, by the aggressive tactics being employed by Mr. Harper and his team to pressure MPs not to change their votes.

"The Conservatives have taken our votes for granted. ... They have not addressed our rural concerns," Mr. Angus said. "They've attacked the credibility of our front-line police officers. Now in these last desperate days they have taken to their attack billboards and their radio ads in trying to intimidate MPs into voting for them."

He was referring to the latest Tory campaign of placing billboards and running radio ads in the ridings of the 12 New Democrats and the eight Liberals who initially supported the Conservative private members bill to scrap the registry.

Mr. Angus said he rejected Mr. Harper's "division tactics."

The NDP also laid out more of its plan for new compromise legislation on registry. It includes asking the Auditor-General to ensure the system is running efficiently, addressing mental health issues around gun ownership and dealing with issues concerning inherited firearms.

As for Mr. Layton, he too said he's fired guns in the past. But his form of "hunting" as a teenager involved knocking beer cans down with his friends.