bc-100915-police-chiefs

Police chiefs from across B.C. lined up to support the federal gun registry Wednesday in Vancouver. (CBC)

B.C.'s police chiefs have sent a letter to the province's MPs asking them to save the federal long-gun registry as Parliament prepares to vote on a private member's bill to scrap it.

Clayton Pecknold, who is the president of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police and chief of the Central Saanich police department, says partisan politicking on Parliament Hill is overshadowing what's in the best interests of citizens and police officers.

The fate of the registry is being hotly debated in Ottawa as MPs prepare to vote on Tory MP Candice Hoeppner's private member's bill, C-391, which would do away with the registry.

Pecknold made the plea to save the registry at Vancouver police headquarters Wednesday morning.

"I want to be perfectly clear here. The B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police supports the continuation of the firearms registry as a crucial component of both the public and police officer safety," said Pecknold.

"The registry gives police officers across this country timely reliable information going into potentially deadly situations. Eliminating the registry will inevitably and needlessly endanger the lives of police and the communities they serve across Canada."

Used to deal with teens

West Vancouver police Chief Peter Lepine said his officers use the long-gun registry an average of 18 times a day in preparing for domestic violence calls or when dealing with potentially dangerous offenders — and even troubled teens.

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"We've done it when a student has advised friends through their Facebook page that they're tired of being bullied and are finally going to do something about it, or they can't take it anymore, and they're going to end their misery," said Lepine.

"Early intervention — when we get to separate troubled youth from easy access to their parents' firearms — may be a crucial first step as we deal with the underlying issue causing them to consider this option."

The minority-government Conservatives have denounced the long-gun registry as wasteful and ineffective, arguing it unfairly criminalizes law-abiding Canadians who fail to register a firearm.

The Liberals and the Bloc Québécois have promised to vote against the bill on Sept. 22, leaving the deciding votes with the NDP, which allows its MPs to vote however they want on private members' bills.

But federal NDP Leader Jack Layton said Tuesday enough members of his party will vote to save the registry.