To burn or not to burn

MP Nathan Cullen takes aim at long-gun registry records destruction.

A dangerous precedent.

This is what Skeena-Bulkley MP Nathan Cullen would like to avoid, but if the Conservative government gets their way, he feels it is the first step on what may be a slippery slope.

While the Conservatives did campaign on an open promise to end the long-gun registry, and Cullen himself was in favour of this, he is puzzled at the introduction of some new additions to the bill.

“The government had a clear mandate to end the long-gun registry and I support that declaration,” said Cullen.

Instead of simply ending the registry itself, the Conservatives have now proposed the actual destruction of all of the current gun registration records.

Local RCMP officers use these records every day when responding to calls in order to establish whether there are guns in the house or not. While not finding anything on the registry doesn’t mean RCMP don’t still plan for a worst-case scenario, if they know there are guns on the premises, they will take this into consideration.

According to an RCMP officer at the local Fort St. James detachment, the registry information is not only used in these everyday incidents to improve safety for officers, but it can also be used in investigations in order to help track a gun or connect a firearm used in a crime to a particular household.

But it isn’t just the potential usefulness of the records for the sake of law enforcement that Cullen wants the records maintained for the time being, it is also the cost of the record destruction.

RCMP say the destruction of the records could potentially cost millions, according to Cullen, but they don’t have a solid figure for the entire process, because each individual record would have to be deleted, as well as any connection to other records within the government system.

“If this is a cost-saving measure, this is a strange way to save money and it’s not going to bring the two billion dollars back that we’ve already spent,” said Cullen.

In order to make the destruction of the records even possible, the bill has to overstep a number of other Canadian laws preventing the government destruction of records.

“There’s a reason that governments around the world, except for the most nefarious ones, governments don’t destroy records, even ones that they philosophically oppose, because the precedent is a dangerous one,” said Cullen.

In addition, Quebec would like to maintain some sort of long gun registry, and if the government destroys the current records, the Quebec government will have to start from scratch, which would not only be a huge cost, but a big pain to gun owners in that province.

Cullen is working on amendments opponents would like made to the bill to remove these provisions.

He said he will also be speaking to his constituents about their opinions regarding the changes.

“I feel quite conflicted that they put this poison pill into the bill,” he said.

When asked to comment on Cullen’s concerns, the office of the Minister of Public Safety Vic Towes, who introduced the bill, only a brief email comment was given.

“Don’t have that much to add to all that has been said,” wrote spokesperson for the Minister of Public Safety’s office Michael Patton.

He wrote the bill was introduced to “scrap the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry once and for all.”

“Our legislation will also eliminate the records, which are inaccurate, unreliable and becoming increasingly so over time.”

While he said requirements for licensing firearms will still be maintained, “our Government will continue to take action to make our streets and communities safer by getting tough on real criminals and not law-abiding farmers and hunters,” he wrote.