A vote that narrowly saved the long-gun registry will not stop the Conservatives from fighting to get rid of the registry long despised by his constituents, says the MP for Westlock-St. Paul.
“I want our constituents to know we’re not going to give up on this,” said Brian Storseth in an interview, following the vote that ended with 153 MPs voting to save the registry against 151 who wanted to see it gone. “When we get a majority, we will get rid of the long-gun registry.”
Storseth was particularly disappointed with the opposition Liberal and New Democrat MPs who originally voted with the governing Conservatives to kill the registry and then changed their stance in the lead-up to the Sept. 22 vote. “Some have them have promised for 13 years to get rid of the registry and they broke their promise to their constituents,” he said.
A private member’s bill to eliminate the long-gun registry passed in a preliminary vote last November, with the help of eight Liberals and 12 New Democrats, but party politics saw stances shifting last week. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff whipped his party, forcing his 75 MPs to vote along party lines to save the registry, while 48 Bloc Quebecois members also voted in favour of the registry. NDP Leader Jack Layton allowed his MPs a free vote, but through further discussions, six NDP MPs who’d originally voted to kill the registry changed their position.
The registry has been in effect for 15 years, and in that time, has cost more than $2 billion.
“This is not only a waste, but I believe this is something that puts people’s lives at risk,” said Storseth. RCMP members in his constituency tell him they go into every situation, particularly domestic violence situations, acting as if there is a firearm in the residence, even though the registry may tell them there are no firearms in the home. “You can’t be relying on inaccurate information from the registry.”
Storseth lambasted the registry, calling it a tax that most hurts the rural Canadians that are the predominant users of long-guns. “It’s part of our culture,” he said, pointing to farmers looking to control pests, such as coyotes, or hunters.
Part-owner of Warehouse Sports in St. Paul, Darryl Lotoski, explained that the outdoor sport retail outlet has campaigned against the long-gun registry, and had pre-written letters expressing opposition to the registry available at the store. People could sign the letters, which were then sent to the local MP’s office, he explained.
“Everybody that walks into the store does not support the long-gun registry.”
When asked about his thoughts on the defeat of the bill, Lotoski asked first, “Can I swear?” For the average hunter or farmer, the long-gun registry is seen as a waste of taxpayers’ money, he said.
However, Rob Fox, Liberal candidate for Westlock-St. Paul, says that there are statistics to show that the long-gun registry has in fact cut down on certain crime, specifically spousal murders. “If it saves one lady’s life, is it not worth it?”
To throw out the registry after the money has already been spent would be foolish, he feels, adding, “Whatever the cost, to throw it out now would be a waste.”
Fox, as a gun owner, attests that the guns he uses for hunting and target shooting are registered. As a gun owner, he agrees the registry is not “100 per cent,” but feels opposition parties were right to save the registry and to call for discussions to come up with ways to improve it and compromise on the issue.
The Conservatives “milk” the long-gun registry issue for money, he added. “This has been one of their best fundraisers throughout.” So in the end, he thinks they win from the vote, because they can continue to campaign and collect donations in opposition to the registry, while they also get to keep the potentially useful tool in the fight against crime.
However, for Lotoski, the fact that the opposition parties were responsible for the defeat of the bill to eliminate the registry will not be forgotten. “I think it’s going to have a definite impact on the next time we’re going to vote.”