March 7, 2005
RCMP tragedy shows gun registry doesn't work, says Tory
By BRUCE CHEADLE
OTTAWA (CP) - Rather than being a lesson in the evils of pot cultivation, (all twenty plants!) the horrific murder of four Mounties is yet another example of the failure of Canada's gun registry, says a Conservative MP.
Garry Breitkreuz, a longtime gun registry opponent from Yorkton, Sask., said James Roszko's murderous rampage with an assault rifle last Thursday in Alberta illustrates a fatal flaw in the $2-billion federal program: criminals simply ignore it.
"Incident after incident like this clearly indicate the gun registry does not prevent this kind of crime," Breitkreuz said Monday outside the House of Commons.
"It does not keep guns out of the hands of criminals. It is a paper-pushing exercise."
Breitkreuz argues Canadian citizens would be much safer if Ottawa simply invested the $2 billion spent on the registry in boosting the resources of front-line police forces.
"In this case, (Roszko) was already prohibited from owning firearms. The gun registry has no effect on this case."
The debate over the weekend by activists, politicians and police concerning Roszko's small marijuana grow op "was almost a diversion," he added.
But a leading gun control advocate said she's heard Breitkreuz's reasoning before and likens it to dropping seatbelt laws just because someone dies in car crash while wearing a belt.
"The fact that in this case the law obviously wasn't sufficient is not an argument to say therefore it doesn't work at all," said Wendy Cukier of the Montreal-based Coalition for Gun Control.
"What a tragedy like this does is highlight the fact that we can do better."
Roszko, 46, gunned down four young RCMP officers who were guarding his farm in Mayerthorpe, Alta. He then took his own life.
He used what police described as a military-style assault rifle. Family, acquaintances and even Roszko's former lawyer said it was well-known to police he had weapons hidden around the 200-hectare property.
One media report said Roszko proudly displayed an HK .308 assault rifle on the living room wall of his trailer.
Such automatic weapons, capable of firing 600 rounds a minute, were banned in Canada in 1995. But registered owners of modified assault rifles were allowed to keep those already in their possession.
Police have not yet provided specifics on the gun Roszko used, or where he got it.
New Democrat MP Libby Davies questioned Monday why everyone from Public Security Minister Anne McLellan to RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli reacted so swiftly to the marijuana angle while ignoring the weapons question.
Over the weekend, McLellan had flatly rejected a media question suggesting the tragedy may say more about Canada's gun laws than about marijuana regulations.
But Davies said that's exactly what happened.
"There was a very early analysis about marijuana laws and people calling for tougher sentences," said the Vancouver MP.
"It strikes me that one of the key issues is gun control. How did this guy have so many guns?"
Davies said she believes getting rid of the gun registry would be a "serious mistake," although she acknowledged there are differing views within the NDP caucus.