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Tory MP says she's close to having support to kill gun registry

OTTAWA - A Conservative MP says she's close to having enough opposition support to kill the long-gun registry in a vote on her private member's bill Wednesday.

OTTAWA - A Conservative MP says she's close to having enough opposition support to kill the long-gun registry in a vote on her private member's bill Wednesday.

Candice Hoeppner says she has commitments from eight Liberal and NDP MPs to vote in favour of legislation that would end the decade-old registry and destroy existing data in the system on about seven million shotguns and rifles.

"I probably have eight (opposition) members who have indicated they'd support the bill," the Manitoba MP said Tuesday. "I would like to have 12 to really make sure it passes."

A parliamentary vote in favour of Bill C-391 on second reading Wednesday won't make it law, but will send it to the next stage of legislative approval and make it that much more difficult to derail at a later stage.

Repealing the long-gun registry would still leave registration of hand guns and restricted weapons intact, and rifle and shotgun owners would still require gun licences.

While massive cost overruns led to the long-gun registry costing taxpayers almost $1 billion through 2005, according to Auditor General Sheila Fraser, the ongoing cost of the long-gun portion of the registry system is modest - between $2 million and $5 million annually.

That's led some critics of the registry cost overruns to question whether it makes sense, now that the budget has already been blown, to scrap the costly system.

"We might feel the same way about the construction of a new bridge that caused a huge financial scandal, but demolishing the bridge would not fix anything," Bloc Quebecois MP Serge Menard argued during earlier debate on the bill in the House of Commons.

Private members' bills are traditionally free votes in the Commons, meaning MPs don't have to toe the party line. However every Conservative MP in the minority government is expected to support killing the gun registry, and the Tories have also targeted a number or rural opposition ridings with ads and flyers in a bid to influence the local MP's vote.

MP Dominic LeBlanc, the Liberal justice critic, accused the government of "playing political games " to divide rural and urban Canada and pit region against region.

Still, he insisted that votes on private members' business should be free, even if he and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff strongly support maintaining the registry.

"What I can tell you is the leader and I, as justice critic, have continually supported - as do the police chiefs across the country, as do many provincial attorneys general - the gun control registry," said LeBlanc.

"It is an important part of public safety."

NDP Leader Jack Layton also supports the registry, but said his MPs are free to vote as they see fit after consulting with their constituents.

Only Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe seemed sure that all his party's MPs would vote against repealing the gun registry.

The issue is particularly explosive in Quebec.

The long-run registry was brought in by the former Liberal government in response to the 1989 slaughter of 14 women at L'ecole Polytechnique in Montreal.

Now, with the 20th anniversary of that carnage just weeks away, the mother of one of those slain Montreal students has issued a public appeal imploring MPs to keep the gun registry going.

"I am disheartened that the Conservative party of Canada, which claims to be the party of law and order, is ignoring police, ignoring victims and ignoring the vast majority of Canadians to appease the gun lobby," Suzanne Laplante-Edward said in the statement this week.

Her daughter Anne-Marie Edward was among the Polytechnique victims.

"Last April 22 (...) Mr Ignatieff and Mr Layton (...) assured me personally that they would prevent Stephen Harper from getting his way," said the grieving mother.

Conservatives say the registry does nothing to deter criminal acts, but rather makes criminals out of otherwise law-abiding gun owners.

Hoeppner said the long-gun registry "is targeting the wrong people.

"We need to focus on criminals and criminal activity, not law-abiding citizens."

If the registry dies, long-gun owners will still have to pay for licences, complete with background checks and safety training.

 
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