Gun registry survives Commons vote

The Conservatives vow to continue their fight against the gun registry after opposition parties voted to scrap a bill aimed at killing the program.

Despite result, Harper says 'abolition is closer than it has ever been'

NDP Leader Jack Layton, flanked by New Democrat MPs Thomas Mulcair and Libby Davies, vote in the Commons on Wednesday to save the gun registry. NDP support was critical to the vote, which passed 153-151. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))

The Conservatives are vowing to continue their fight against the gun registry after enough New Democrat MPs voted with the Liberals and Bloc Québécois to scrap a Conservative private member's bill aimed at killing the 15-year-old federal program.

Mapping the vote

We've mapped the results of the 2009 vote on the Conservative private member's bill to scrap the gun registry, the results of Wednesday's vote on the motion to kill that bill, and in which ridings support for the gun registry changed between the two votes.

View the maps.

Wednesday's vote was close, with 153 MPs voting in favour of a motion introduced by the House public safety committee to scrap Tory MP Candice Hoeppner's bill, compared with 151 voting against the motion, which would have kept the bill alive.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he would not let the result deter him.

"After 15 years, opposition to the long-gun registry is stronger in this country than it has ever been. With the vote tonight, its abolition is closer than it has ever been," Harper said.

"The people of the regions of this country are never going to accept being treated like criminals and we will continue our efforts until this registry is finally abolished."

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe had long made it clear that they intended to halt Bill C-391. The Conservatives supported the bill, so the registry's fate lay with the NDP, which allows its MPs to vote as they wish on private member's bills.

Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner introduced her private member's bill to scrap the long-gun registry in May 2009. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

Six New Democrats voted with the Conservatives — Nathan Cullen of B.C., Niki Ashton and Jim Maloway of Manitoba, Dennis Bevington from the Northwest Territories and Bruce Hyer and John Rafferty from Northern Ontario.

No Liberals voted with the minority Conservatives.

Wednesday's vote was a marked difference from the vote last fall on the gun registry, when eight Liberal MPs supported Hoeppner's bill, along with 12 New Democrats.


Should Canada keep the gun registry? Take our poll.

Supporters of the registry — including police officers, doctors, women's groups and victims-rights groups — had been vocal over the past few weeks in urging MPs to save the registry. Opponents, including farmers and hunters, also made passionate arguments. They argued, among other things, that the registry is ineffective and a waste of money.

New bill?

The private member's bill to scrap the gun registry has died, but couldn't the Conservatives simply introduce another one?

No, according to House of Commons Procedure and Practice, which states that the House cannot make more than one decision on a given matter in a single session. So a decision on one bill prevents the House from proceeding on any similar bills.

According to parliamentary procedure, the Speaker is responsible for determining whether two bills are so similar that they are essentially the same. If so, the last item to land would be jettisoned.

"Hallelujah, we won," said Elaine Lumley, whose son Aidan was shot to death five years ago after he exited a Montreal bar.

"When [the vote] was all over, I was sitting with another mother who lost her son a week after Aidan died, Susan Jessop, and we hugged each other and we said, 'We did it for our boys.'"

The registry was created in the wake of Canada's worst mass shooting, the 1989 tragedy at the University of Montreal's Ecole polytechnique in which 14 women were shot to death. Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe has been firm in his support of the registry.

Ignatieff said Wednesday he was proud of his MPs for showing unity, while acknowledging the gun registry is an emotional issue.

"I want to bring northern and southern, rural and urban Canada together on this issue. We're willing to improve the long-gun registry to make it acceptable to rural Canadians and it was on that basis that we've maintained unity in the caucus, and I'd like to maintain unity in the country on this issue. And I hope it's now a settled question."

But Hoeppner vowed to fight on and chastised MPs who originally supported scrapping the registry, then changed their minds.

Protesters lay flowers on the front steps of the Parliament Buildings before Wednesday's vote to symbolize shooting victims. They urged MPs to save the registry. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

"I had support from 20 opposition members who said it's a good bill, we believe in scrapping the long-gun registry. They obviously were not being honest with themselves, with me, certainly with their constituents, and today they voted to keep the registry, but we won't give up the fight."

Conservatives have warned opposition MPs that the registry will be a key issue in the next election. They plan to target MPs in rural ridings who changed their votes after initially saying they would support killing the registry.

Layton said voters would not punish his MPs for supporting the registry. He said the electorate has "an appreciation" for his party's approach.

"That is, we want to build bridges and propose solutions, proposals to improve the registry," he said.

The Liberals and NDP have said they ultimately want to propose changes to the registry, such as making a first-time failure to register a firearm a non-criminal ticketing offence and waiving fees for new licences, renewals and upgrades.