Gun owners challenge feds over firearms program

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You’d almost think we didn’t trust them or something

Gun owners challenge feds over firearms program costs, transparency, dispute registry has been destroyed

Firearms owners who backed Prime Minister Stephen Harper through a decade of battling against the federal firearms registry are now challenging his government in court and turning against the Conservatives over transparency about ongoing firearms program costs and allegations the government has not yet destroyed the registry for rifles and shotguns.

New Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, pictured in this file photo. Mr. Blaney’s office spokesperson said ‘all data related to the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry has been destroyed, except that which relates to the Province of Quebec.’ The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright

By TIM NAUMETZ|
Published: Tuesday, 09/17/2013 4:48 pm EDT
Last Updated: Tuesday, 09/17/2013 5:00 pm EDT

PARLIAMENT HILL—Firearms owners who backed Prime Minister Stephen Harper through a decade of battling against the federal firearms registry are now challenging his government in court and turning against the Conservatives over transparency about ongoing firearms program costs and allegations the government has not yet destroyed the registry for rifles and shotguns.

Part of the confrontation will take place in a Federal Court hearing in Ottawa on Sept. 19, when a lawyer for the National Firearms Association will argue the Federal Registrar of Firearms, the Firearms Commissioner of Canada, and RCMP Commissioner Robert Paulson are illegally collecting information about rifle and shotgun owners in Quebec despite a Quebec Superior Court ruling earlier this summer that the province had no legal right to retain information about gun owners in the province that had been collected in the federal registry.

The Supreme Court of Canada has not yet ruled whether it will hear an appeal in the case, but the National Firearms Association says a bulletin was posted on the RCMP Canadian Firearms Program website saying that because of the litigation, the RCMP will continue to accept registrations of non-restricted firearms from Quebec residents.

Another controversy over the former registry is growing in Mr. Harper’s (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) backyard, where another faction of the National Firearms Association is assisting in efforts to mount a class-action lawsuit against the RCMP over the contested seizure of hundreds of firearms, mostly rifles and shotguns, from homes that were vacated by their owners as floodwaters raged through High River, Alta., in June.

Dennis Young, a former RCMP officer and also a former Parliamentary assistant to Conservative MP Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton-Melville, Sask.), who led the charge against the long-gun registry throughout the now Reform Party, Canadian Alliance and Conservative Party opposition years, told The Hill Times the class-action lawsuit is in its formative stages, and still has to be certified in court.

Mr. Young, Alberta chair of the National Firearms Association, is also involved with another battle that angry firearms have taken up with their former ally—over the absence in RCMP spending estimates in the past two years of a direct reference to about $86-million in continuing firearms program costs, such as licensing and related programs.

The head of the National Firearms Association told The Hill Times Tuesday that the High River experience with RCMP gun seizures during the June flooding led to evidence that the long-gun registry still exists, despite legislation the Conservative majority government passed through Parliament last year ordering its destruction.

National Firearms Association president Sheldon Clare said the association believes the registry’s continued existence is related to the Quebec court case—and a court order there that prevented the federal government from destroying data on firearms registrations in the province until a final decision on Quebec’s position that has a legal right to maintain its own registry from the federal records.

In order to maintain the Quebec registrations, the RCMP had to maintain the entire registry and make it available to Quebec police services through the federally-maintained police database, the Canadian Police Information Centre, or the CPIC.

“There is some dispute about whether they got rid of the data,” Mr. Clare said.

“With the information we’ve been getting from the High River events it would appear, that since the Quebec registry still exists, the Quebec registry is the complete registry of the whole country, and it seems that other police forces have access to that, and they are using it,” he said.

”The Quebec firearms registry is a complete firearms registry as it was up until all the other provinces quit registering firearms,” Mr. Clare said.

“There is no new registry, this is one of the clues we found in High River, because one family went to pick up their firearms and the constable said, ‘Hey, you have two here you didn’t register,’ and they were two that were newly purchased,” he said.

Jean-Christophe de Le Rue, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney (Levis-Bellechase, Que.), did not directly respond to allegations the government is burying the cost of the remaining parts of the firearms program, in an email to The Hill Times.

“Our Conservative government is always interested in ideas for common sense firearms policy that keeps Canadians safe without needless red tape for law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters,” said Mr. de Le Rue.

“In 2011, we told Canadians that we would scrap the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry once and for all, and we were proud to do exactly what we promised,” Mr. de Le Rue said.

Mr. de le Rue insisted the data in the federal registry for rifles and shotguns has been destroyed.

“As we have said previously, all data related to the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry has been destroyed, except that which relates to the Province of Quebec,” Mr. de Le Rue said.

The Canadian Press quoted documents obtained under the Access to Information and Privacy Act to report this week that the government had estimates that it would cost the government $1-million to destroy the long-gun registry, at the same time that the RCMP was refusing to divulge the cost.

Mr. Clare said the association believes the bill would have been much higher had the government actually deconstructed the massive gun registry base in order to remove it from the national CPIC and destroy it.

Originally published at hilltimes.com.

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