Politics

Gun registry queries by police jumped last year

The number of police officers using the firearms registry jumped last year, according to a report prepared by the RCMP.

The number of police officers using the firearms registry jumped last year, according to a report prepared by the RCMP.

Figures in the Mounties' annual performance report show the number of queries to the Canadian Firearms Registry rose 24 per cent in 2008-09.

The report also says the government spent $8.4 million on the registry last year — a third of what had been budgeted, in part because it needed 66 fewer full-time workers than the 131 anticipated.

But Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan told reporters on Thursday that of the 3.5 million times police accessed the Canadian Firearms Registry last year, only 2.4 per cent of those requests dealt with long guns.

He said that statistic proves that "the long-gun registry is not used by police to prevent crime. It's thoroughly ineffective."

On Wednesday, Liberal and New Democrat MPs from rural ridings voted with the government to scrap the long-gun registry, which covers hunting rifles and shotguns.

That bill, put forth by Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner, must now go to committee for further study. However, opponents concede there is little chance of stopping it from becoming law.

The report released on Thursday blames confusion over the future of the registry for a sharp drop in the number of firearms owners who renewed their licences. The report says 100,000 gun owners failed to renew their five-year licences despite the government's decision to waive the fees.

Owners of rifles and shotguns still need to be licensed, even if they are no longer required to register those firearms.

Some of the information included in the annual performance report comes from the commissioner of firearms' 2008 report, which has yet to be tabled by Van Loan, despite Friday being the deadline.

With files from Chris Hall

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