The federal long-gun registry is dead and MP Bruce Hyer says he’s glad he didn’t give in to party pressure and vote to save it.
Labeled a maverick by the national media, the Thunder Bay-Superior North NDP MP on Wednesday voted with the ruling Conservatives to kill the registry, long detested in rural ridings and Northern Ontario communities where hunting is a way of life.
Fellow Northern Ontario NDP representative John Rafferty (Thunder Bay-Rainy River) also sided with the Conservative government on the third reading Bill C-19, who finally saw the registry scrapped after many aborted attempts under minority rule, winning Wednesday’s vote 159-130.
“Well, for eight years and four elections I’ve been quite clear on what I was going to do and I know the majority of my constituents agree with me,” Hyer said, reached by phone outside the House of Commons in Ottawa. “It was the right thing to do.”
Hyer said there’s a misunderstanding of just what the long-gun registry covered, and pointed out Canadians still have fairly strict gun-control measures in place.
“We will still have the possession and acquisition licence that requires all legal gun owners to jump through many difficult hoops, including police checks, etc. before they can have a gun,” Hyer said.
“It means that police always know who every legal gun owner is and where they live.
"The registration of hunting rifles and shotguns was well-intended and redundant and ineffective, and was very costly and wasteful. It was greatly resented by many rural Canadians, especially those who hunt or fish or trap, and Aboriginal people.”
It has been a costly process for Hyer and Rafferty, who had sanctions laid on them by interim party leader Nycole Turmel, who has also said more consequences could be forthcoming for their latest vote on the long-gun registry.
Both MPs lost speaking and party travel privileges, though Hyer is convinced the sanctions will be lifted soon.
“I’m counting down the day, hours, minutes and seconds until we get a new leader,” he said, adding at least four of the candidates – Paul Dewar, Nathan Cullen, Thomas Mulcair and Niki Ashton – have ruled by persuasion, not dictation and under their leadership the sanctions never would have been put in place.
“I’m hopeful one of those four is our next leader,” he said.
Rafferty in a release issued after the vote took place, said he was proud to stick to his convictions and fulfill a long-standing election promise.
"It is important to stand by one's commitments and to show the people who supported you all these years that you can be taken at your word when the time comes and that their opinions matter," he said.
"Violent crime and gun crime are decreasing, which is good, but at roughly the same pace over the last 15 years before the registry came into being and the five years since there has been a registration amnesty for long guns. I am certain that my constituents will be no less safe with the passage of C-19 or I would have opposed this bill with all my energy."
The bill will now go to the Conservative-dominated Senate for approval.