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Wild Rose candidates set out gun registry views

The four Wild Rose riding candidates have weighed in on whether the nation's controversial long gun registry should be retained, abolished or examined further.

The four Wild Rose riding candidates have weighed in on whether the nation's controversial long gun registry should be retained, abolished or examined further.

The candidates in Wild Rose are Liberal John Reilly, Conservative incumbent Blake Richards, NDP challenger Jeff Horvath and Green Party challenger Mike MacDonald. The election goes May 2.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper reopened the long gun registry debate last week when he renewed his call for abolition of the controversial legislation, which requires the registration of all guns, including rifles and shotguns, under the federal Firearms Act.

“Our government has long opposed the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry,” said Harper. “We must stop targeting law-abiding gun owners, and instead focus our resources on real criminals.”

Green Party Wild Rose candidate MacDonald said if elected he would meet with law enforcement personnel in the area before deciding whether to support the registry.

“I would like to look at the program a little more closely and speak with those who are using it,” said MacDonald, an early childhood mental health consultant. “I would like to know more from the enforcement people if they find it useful, whether they feel at this stage of the game is it worth keeping or does it continue to be a waste of money.

“I'd like to hear from the people who make use of the program. Is it something that has value or not? I guess now it's a question of throwing good money after bad. Does there come a point when scrapping it would actually cost more than keeping?”

Liberal candidate John Reilly, a former provincial court judge, said he would like to see the registry scrapped.

“I wouldn't support keeping,” said Reilly. “I would probably agree with him (Stephen Harper) on that point. I understand that the law enforcement agencies largely think the money would be better spent on more personnel or other things. You don't get good financial return on the money it costs.

“The official party (Liberal) position is that they will streamline it and reduce the costs and also reduce the inconvenience of it. But my view is that if it came to a decision on that I would want to poll the law enforcement personnel in the riding.

“I don't know if I'm going against the party line. I appreciate that there has to be some change made, that it is an unnecessary inconvenience and an unnecessary expense. That can be rectified by reducing the inconvenience and expense and that would be one way of dealing with it. I wouldn't be opposed to it being eliminated altogether if that's what appears to be the consensus of law enforcement people.”

“I continue to be very supportive of that, getting rid of the long gun registry,” said Richards. “It's something I worked to do in the last Parliament and it's something I will continue to fight for until it happens.

“What it boils down to is that the gun registry punishes farmers and hunters and ranchers and does nothing really to prevent crime. I would like to see the money that's spent on it be spent instead on fighting crime, rather than punish law-abiding firearm owners.”

Asked where he would spend the money, Richards said, “There are lots that can be done with it. It could simply be a matter of spending more on police officers.”

Richards says he has spoken to law enforcement officers in Wild Rose about the registry.

“I hear very little support for it amongst the officers. A lot of them feel the same way I do, that the money could be far better spent.”

NDP candidate Horvath says he would support keeping the registry.

“Our party has given us a free vote on this and if I was elected MP I would vote in favour of keeping the long gun registry,” said Horvath. “The vast majority of police chiefs support it and I'm a supporter of law enforcement. If it helps them out in their jobs I would support that.

“I've talked to a couple RCMP officers in Canmore and they were mixed about it, but I'll take the police chiefs' word and what they want.”

The Wild Rose riding includes Sundre, Olds, Didsbury, Carstairs, Cremona and Caroline.