The federal government has given MPs on a parliamentary committee copies of an RCMP evaluation report on the long-gun registry that the Conservatives are trying to eliminate.

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A Toronto gun shop owner checks the scope on a hunting rifle in this file photo. The federal government released an RCMP report on the long-gun registry to MPs on the House public safety committee on Monday. ((Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press))

CBC News has obtained and published the full report, which was conducted with the help of outside auditors and dated February 2010.

The report, as first reported by the CBC's Brian Stewart last week, concludes the program is cost effective, efficient and an important tool for law enforcement and public safety.

"The firearms registration is a critical component of the entire firearms program," the report says.

INSIDE POLITICS: Read the full RCMP report

 

"An acceptable level of compliance toward long gun registration is essential for improving the registry’s utility as a tool to promote public safety."

Opposition MPs on the House public safety committee accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government of trying to hide the report's contents ahead of a critical vote next month on whether a Conservative backbencher's bill to repeal the registry should proceed.

But in a letter to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews dated Aug. 27 that accompanied the report, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott said the Mounties "regret the delay in providing this material to you which resulted from the time required to be translated."

Layton pitches registry changes

Meanwhile on Monday, NDP Leader Jack Layton proposed a compromise on the fate the federal long-gun registry that he said would address frustrations of northern, rural and aboriginal Canadians.

But Layton would not commit to making his MPs vote with him in the House of Commons on Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner's private member's bill to repeal the registry.

"We're not there yet, and we're continuing to work within the caucus," he told reporters on Monday in Ottawa.

He said his party would introduce legislation in the House to make a first-time failure to register a firearm a non-criminal ticketing offence and to waive fees for new licences.

The proposed legislation would respect aboriginal treaty rights and allow municipalities to ban handguns, he said.

During the last session of Parliament, Hoeppner's bill passed second reading 164-137 in a House vote with support from 12 New Democrats and eight Liberals, most of whom represented northern and rural ridings.

Liberals whipping vote

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NDP Leader Jack Layton says Prime Minister Stephen Harper is using the long-gun registry as a 'wedge' to divide rural and urban Canadians. ((CBC))

Unlike Layton, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has since declared the next vote on the bill on Sept. 22 a whipped vote, meaning all caucus members must vote with the party's position or face discipline.

In April, Ignatieff proposed similar changes to the long-gun registry that would give police the tools they need to make communities safe, while removing the "frustrating" elements of the registry to address "legitimate criticisms" from rural Canadians.

Layton's appearance on Monday drew ridicule from Liberal MP Geoff Regan, who said the NDP and the leader's "failure of leadership" should be blamed if the registry is scrapped.

"Mr. Layton is suggesting that the NDP would improve the gun registry after they allow it to be killed," Regan told reporters on Monday in Baddeck, N.S., outside his party's summer caucus retreat. 

"How can you improve it if it's dead?"

'All-or-nothing showdown'

Layton said stopping gun violence has been a priority for him for three decades in public life. But he added he's also heard the frustrations of rural, northern and aboriginal Canadians who say they feel the registry "makes them feel like criminals."

He also accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of trying to drive a wedge between urban and rural Canadians with the "all-or-nothing showdown" on the bill, instead of working to stop gun violence.

"Instead of reaching out, his party is running radio ads vilifying urban registry supporters as the enemy," Layton said. "They’re stoking resentments as a fundraising tool to fill their election war chest."

Registry a duplication: Van Loan

The Conservatives have denounced the long-gun registry, which was brought in by the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien in 1995, as wasteful and ineffective.

Trade Minister Peter Van Loan said the registry duplicated the firearms licensing process. He also said legal questions have been raised over whether the federal government would have jurisdiction to enforce the registry if violations are decriminalized.

"We think the simpler approach would be to eliminate the long-gun registry," Van Loan told reporters in Ottawa on Monday. "The sooner that happens, the better for all Canadians."

Last week, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police endorsed a national firearms strategy that includes a recommendation for a public relations campaign to explain the value of the long-gun registry to officers.

But some police officers have expressed support for eliminating the registry, saying it doesn't give frontline officers any comfort when they are entering a home or pulling someone over.