It started its journey some time ago, in May of 2009, when a relatively unheard of Manitoba Conservative MP brought forward a bill to repeal the long gun registry. The House of Commons voted it past first reading, and then second reading in November.
The bill received support along the way from both NDP and Liberal MPs, who voted in favour of Bill 391. But when it came down to the line, both parties' members didn't stick to their guns, and the bill failed to pass by a vote of 153-151.
With the Liberals, members who initially supported the bill came to feel the wrath of the party whip, which enforced compliance with the party's pro-long gun registry stance. The NDP, although allowing what is deemed a “free vote,” fired rhetorical blanks. Leader Jack Layton managed to “convince” enough members to stick their beliefs, and the will of constituents, in their holsters and put the bill to rest.
The result of the failure to repeal the long gun registry will be determined in the months to come and in the next general election. The NDP stands to feel backlash from the MPs, from rural ridings, who switched votes in line with the party's largely urban base. The Conservatives have the most to gain by cementing their reputation in Western Canada as the only party able to maintain a consistent position on the issue.
The bill's failure to pass raises questions about the character of the House and its ability to move forward decisively, regardless of which way, on an issue. Imagine the time and taxpayers money that could have been saved had the debate been defeated on first reading instead of playing out the political drama all the way to a third reading nearly sixteen months later.