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Can't scrap the registry? At least amend it

Prime Minster Stephen Harper vowed that the recent 153-to-151 vote in Parliament that preserves the long-gun registry is just the beginning of the fight to scrap it.

Prime Minster Stephen Harper vowed that the recent 153-to-151 vote in Parliament that preserves the long-gun registry is just the beginning of the fight to scrap it.

Many westerners, especially of the rural variety, rejoiced at the commitment, but you have to now wonder if there's a better way.

Now, don't get me wrong. The stupidity associated with this gun registry has been well documented. Beginning with a $1 billion implementation cost for something that was supposed to only cost taxpayers a couple million (based on $119-million operational costs versus $117 million fee collections), the registry has been Ottawa bureaucratic bungling at its finest.

And much of the problem was wrong-headed notions driving the Liberals' determination to see it in place. For example, one of the more specious arguments was that gun registry would somehow prevent suicides. Of course, it hasn't and it can't, largely because of the unpredictability of depression and that reality that a depressed person has other means of committing suicide other than registered or unregistered guns.

But what may have been lost in all the politically driven rancour like what we saw last week is that registry has been in place for 15 years, and, has become more of a symbolic irritant than anything.

Sure, no one likes paying those $60 fees, but that tends to be par for the course for any government fee. And given that provinces like Saskatchewan have always refused to prosecute (a decision made by the former NDP government) and given the federal government has since 2006 provided amnesty for those refusing to register (that will be in existence until at least next May) the reality is that legislation now imposes no real threat to anyone peaceful long-gun owners.

In fact, one big problem with the gun registry, at least as it now sits on the books, is that it now exists to serve the Conservatives' political purpose of rally supporting against Liberals and New Democrats. It even makes one a little suspicious that Stephen Harper is quite content to keep the registry, knowing that his party can re-visit it at anytime and that it will be an instant vote-getter in places like rural Saskatchewan.

The problem here is, emotion and partisan politics have taken over reason in this debate, making it impossible to get a fair and balanced assessment of anything.

One such point is the cost-effectiveness of today's registry. Notwithstanding those idiotic costs of getting the system up and running that still angers many but is money we can't get back anyway, the entire Canadian Firearms Registry (including handguns, prohibited weapons, etc.) cost $66.4 million. The administration of long-gun registry is estimated to cost between $1.1 million and $3.6 million per year. That's not overwhelming in the context of a national government.

But what's more irksome is how easily it was for politicians to discount the views of those who put their lives on the line for public safety, the police, which includes both the chiefs and duty officers, who argue the registry has become a useful tool in fighting crime.

It's easy for politicians to make baseless and untrue claims like the ones we heard from Cannington MLA Dan D'Autremont that police chiefs are a bunch of politicians, anyway. But there is a reason why those that send their officers into unpredictable situations like Mayerthorpe or Spiritwood see value in the gun registry.

Given that the gun registry won't be repealed any time soon (or perhaps at all, if we have an election and a change of government) wouldn't now be good time for the Conservatives to propose amendments that the Liberals and NDP would simply have to support?There's got to be a better way than another unhelpful political fight.

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