The final shot in the saga of the long-gun registry has been fired.
On Thursday the Conservative government passed the controversial bill in the House of Commons to end the registry, marking the conclusion of a long political battle over one of the most debated law enforcement measures in recent memory.
The bill passed easily, by a margin of 159 to 130, as the Conservatives used their majority in the House to secure passage. It now goes to the Senate where the Conservatives also have a majority.
For some in the Greater Trail region, having the registry shot down is a welcome salvo.
The “majority” of the constituents in the Southern Interior opposed the gun registry, said Terry Hanik, president of the Trail Wildlife Association.
“It was just a useless registration of firearms,” he said Thursday. “I don’t think it stopped a lot of crime. I’m glad it’s over with and now we can get on to something that will help people out instead of blaming those who don’t do anything bad.”
The mood in the House before the vote was tense, said Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko, although the outcome was never in doubt. Like the majority of his Official Opposition NDP, Atamanenko has been a consistent supporter of the long-gun registry since he first entered politics in 2004 and voted against the bill.
A gun owner himself, he maintained there were good arguments on both sides concerning the registry, but ultimately it was better to err on the side of caution and safety.
“My argument has always been, if there’s a slight chance that it may save a life or the life of a police officer, let’s not tamper with it, let’s improve it,” he said. “This was not the right thing to do, so I guess we’ll have to see what happens now.”
And what happens next is the long-gun registry bill will be introduced in Senate on Feb. 27, with the Senate committee beginning study in early- to mid-March. The bill is expected to pass through the Conservative-majority Senate this spring.
After that, the Canadian Firearms Program begins destroying long-gun data in the registry, while Quebec is expected to file an injunction against the federal government to stop data destruction.
“It’s not a very pleasant situation when you have legal action taken by a province against the federal government,” said Atamanenko. “That will have to be sorted out.”
That will also increase the costs associated with phasing out the registry. And the $4 million per year the federal government spends on the long-gun registry will likely still be eaten up, said Atamanenko.
“Even if some (money) is saved there is absolutely no guarantee that this government would use it to hire more police officers,” he said. “It will likely just be swallowed up somewhere else.”
Nor will the registry be wiped from the books completely. Long guns won’t have to be registered, but the government will still have to pay people to look after the registration of restricted weapons, and gun owners still need to have certificates.
People need to have a permit for owning or buying a rifle, called a Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL). Introduced in 1995 as part of Bill C-68, PAL replaced the FAC (Firearms Acquisition Certificate) system.
The FAC was only required to acquire a firearm, but PAL was required to both acquire and possess firearms and to acquire ammunition.