Protesting owners swap firearms in ‘Great Canadian Gun Registry Shuffle’

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

The Conservative government killed the national long-gun registry but one of Canada's major gun-owner groups wants to poke the corpse to prove it's dead.

The Canadian Shooting Sports Association, which claims more than 15,000 members, has launched what it calls the Great Canadian Gun Registry Shuffle, aimed at demonstrating why it's pointless for some provinces to maintain their own registries.

"In order to support federal Bill C-19 that specifies the data must be deleted, responsible gun owners are swapping their firearms to illustrate that the data was — and will always be — useless," the association said in a news release.

"The Great Canadian Gun Registry Shuffle removes any wrong-headed notion that the data could help build subsequent registries."

The idea is for trustworthy gun owners to buy, sell, trade or lend previously registered rifles and shotguns to protest legal attempts to preserve registry data.

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Last spring, the Tories, long opposed to the registry created by the Liberal government in 1995, passed Bill C-19 abolishing it and requiring existing data be destroyed.

Opponents, notably the province of Quebec, have gone to court to prevent destruction of the database. The Quebec government wants the information preserved while it sets up its own registry. The province's portion of the database is being spared while the issue is dealt with in court.

The Parti Québécois has used the initiative in the election campaign as an example of how Quebec and Canadian values have diverged under the Conservatives.

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The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, which works with victims of violence, has also challenged the legislation in court and is seeking an injunction to prevent the data from being destroyed, CBC News reported.

"The firearms owners of Canada are a little bit sick of all this injunction stuff," association spokesman Tony Bernardo told CBC News.

"The House of Commons has spoken, the law of the land says there is no long-gun registry and because of that we think that the people that are opposing the destruction of the data should be obeying the law just like we had to."

The gun swap is designed to demonstrate that registration is an ineffective tool in combatting gun crime, he said.

"The registry data was never any good to begin with and what we want to do is make sure that if there's any shred of doubt out there at all, that that shred of doubt is removed," Bernardo said.

When people take part in the gun swap, "no one will know which owners have which firearms," he said. "And that's perfect, because it's nobody's business."

Lawyer Shaun O'Brien, who's acting for the Schlifer clinic, called the association's swap campaign "a publicity stunt."

"We think the registry is very valuable," O'Brien said, referring to arguments that police frequently use the registry database when responding to domestic violence calls. "The people using the registry think it's helpful, they didn't want it taken away."

But Bernardo was unmoved.

"More than two million law abiding Canadians are sick of being portrayed as criminals so we are calling on them to swap their guns so we can make the old data totally useless,"  he told the Toronto Sun.

"More than 2,000 guns were shuffled on Thursday."

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