Police unite to defend long-gun registry

Three national police associations came together for the first time on Parliament Hill Thursday to defend the long-gun registry.

Three national police associations came together for the first time on Parliament Hill Thursday to defend the long-gun registry.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Police Boards are in Ottawa to present a united front against the Conservative government's bill to scrap the registry.

"This should not be about us versus them. Or rural versus urban, or even police versus politicians," said Charles Momy, who is the president of the Canadian Police Association, which represents rank-and-file officers.

"The firearms registry represents a valuable tool in assisting police in doing their job. It is a valuable tool, which has significant preventative and investigative value in keeping our communities safe."

The groups say perceptions about the registry are dated and full of misconceptions. They say while it got off to a bad start years ago, it now costs taxpayers just $4 million a year.

The Conservatives countered with their own news conference in Ottawa with retired members of a Winnipeg SWAT team.

Jack Tinsley is a former officer who described a recent example of an officer who was shot.

"He was shot in the line of duty by a drug dealer who had no firearms licence with a shotgun that was not registered. The long-gun registry provided nothing to prevent this tragedy."

The Conservatives argue that police are actually divided on the issue and that those within the forces who oppose the registry are being muzzled.

Victim's group protests

A victim's group protested on the lawn of Parliament Hill, lighting candles and reading the names of the women killed in the Montreal Massacre at École Polytechnique in 1989.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff joined them.

"We can't understand how a law and order party doesn't get that and doesn't stand with the police on this," Ignatieff said.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson countered: "When people look at our criminal law legislation, I think people are quite pleased we're standing up for victims and law-abiding Canadians."

Opposition MPs are not united on the issue, as the bill has already passed second reading in the House of Commons, with the help of eight Liberal MPs and 12 NDP MPs.

Ignatieff has promised to lessen the penalties for not registering a gun and will drop the registration fee if his MPs defeat the bill.

With files from Louise Elliott and The Canadian Press