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The Globe and Mail

MPs invoke family traditions, safety concerns in gun-registry duel

A duck hunter waits in the reeds near Fenelon Falls, Ont. on Oct. 25, 2011.

FRED THORNHILL/fred thornhill The Globe and Mail

For Larry Miller it's not about the hunt or the kill – it's about family. And for the Conservative MP from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, it's also about getting rid of the long-gun registry.

Mr. Miller characterized the registry as a "farce" and "dictatorial legislation" foisted upon Canadians by the previous Liberal government.

On Tuesday MPs of all stripes told Canadians where they stood as they debated the Harper government's controversial bill to scrap the registry and all of the data along with it. Divisions along party lines were stark and emotions about the registry are still raw.

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Mr. Miller has owned guns all of his life. And registering his long guns was one of the toughest decisions he has ever had to make. "I was made to feel like a common criminal if I didn't comply and it still sticks in my craw," he said.

Mr. Miller noted that he, his 79-year-old father, his four brothers, his two sons and his nephews will be deer hunting next week – it's a Miller family tradition. "It's just not about the hunt or the kill, it's a family thing that has been going on for years in our family."

For Rosane Doré Lefebvre, a 27-year-old rookie NDP MP from Quebec, the registry is about safety. She also hunts but says she's "pleased" to register her guns.

Her father introduced her to deer hunting four years ago and she was hooked. "I really enjoyed it: being out in the outdoors, the wind, and seeing how hunting actually worked," she said, adding that a year later she took a course and earned her firearms license.

"When my father explained how one goes about hunting, he talked about my uncles and cousins and he really taught me a lot about safety. ... One has to be very cautious because firearms can kill," she said. "He also emphasized the importance of the firearms registry and showed me how easy it is to register a firearm."

Ms. Doré Lefebvre, however, is concerned about the destruction of the registry data. The Quebec government has expressed interest in setting up its own registry and would like to use it.

"I don't understand why we can't work as a team," she argued in the Commons. "The provinces that want to keep the firearms registry should be able to do so and other provinces can get rid of it."

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Conservative MPs counter that implicit in their promise to scrap the registry is the destruction of data, which will also ensure that no other government can use the information to resurrect the registry.

Mr. Miller referred to how the data was collected "with a gun to our head." He added: "In our view, in my view, this is simply wrong."

For David Wilks, the Conservative MP for Kootenay–Columbia, the gun registry is not a "viable tool" for police officers. The former 20-year RCMP veteran says his experience proved to him it was useless.

"Whenever I investigated a murder, domestic dispute, robberies break and enters or any other crime, I always assumed there was a firearm involved," he said. "It is simply better to be safe than sorry. Your gut instincts will serve you much better than relying on computer entry data."

Mr. Wilks argued that the estimated $2-billion spent on the registry could have been used more effectively to keep crime down by paying for more police officers, better investigative tools, surveillance equipment or more police vehicles.

The cost of one member of the RCMP is $130,000 a year, which includes salary and equipment. "That would have equated to a total of 1,538 new member out on the road," he said. "That in itself would have benefitted all Canadians."

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MPs will vote Tuesday night to send the bill to committee.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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