West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country MP John Weston is in the bitterly uncomfortable position of choosing between the wishes of his party and many of his constituents when it comes to the federal long-gun registry.
Daniel Veniez, the Liberal candidate in the riding for the next election, penned an open letter to Weston this week in the hopes that he would vote to save the registry. To qualify his position he claims that West Vancouver Mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones supports the registry. So too do the West Vancouver Police Board, the WVPD’s chief of police and the chief of the Vancouver Police Department.
Weston, it should be said, is not above speaking out against party policy. In the wake of Natasha Richardson’s death at Mont Tremblant from a ski accident he called for laws requiring helmets while you’re skiing or snowboarding. That went somewhat against the wishes of his party, which didn’t before seem too enthusiastic about introducing the laws.
He’s supported one policy aimed at saving lives, somewhat against the wishes of his party. Now he’s in the position to decide whether to support another.
Veniez’s letter is attached below.
Dear Mr. Weston:
In our riding of West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, those on the front lines of keeping our communities safe have called on you to support the Canadian Firearm Registry. Just last week, the West Vancouver Police Board urged you to cast your vote this week in the House of Commons to save the registry.
This is not a partisan issue. It is not a rural versus urban issue. This is a public safety issue. By overwhelming numbers, police chiefs and community leaders across the country have told us that we must maintain this registry so that law enforcement in our communities have the tools they need to do their job to protect us, themselves, and keep our streets safe.
Mrs. Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, mayor of West Vancouver and chair of the police board, has spoken out in favour of the registry. West Vancouver’s Chief of Police, Peter Lepine, has done the same. He said that his officers use the registry on average 18 times a day. Chief Lepine said it would take more time for residents to register their dog than it would to get on the Internet and register their long gun.
Jim Chu, a 30-year veteran with the Vancouver Police Department, has added his voice in support of the gun registry. “The registry helps us protect the public,” said Mr. Chu. “It does help us save lives.”
According to Clayton Pecknold, who heads the B.C. Association of Police Chiefs, the untold story of the value of the gun registry is the unknown number of spousal homicides, accidental deaths, suicides-by-cop or other potentially fatal interactions it has prevented. B.C. police officers use the registry 2,700 times a day. Vancouver Police Union president Tom Stamatakis, who supports the effort, noted that rural residents must have a driver’s license for their vehicle, and argued that mandatory registering of a firearm was not onerous. “We don’t see that as being difficult,” he said.
In a recent study, RCMP and external auditors confirmed the effectiveness of the registry and estimated the annual ongoing operating costs to be $1.7 million to $4 million annually, which works out to an annual cost of 12 cents per person.
Mr. Weston, to those who need it and use it – our police forces – the facts are not in dispute: The registry is an indispensible tool to fight crime and keep us safe. Frankly, under these circumstances, I am perplexed that we are even having this conversation with you, an M.P. that purportedly represents a “Tough on Crime” government. Here’s an opportunity to answer the urgent calls from law enforcement and health care professionals, as well as municipal leaders to keep the registry in place.
Your constituents support the registry. They also trust the judgment of those whose job it is to protect them and fight crime. And we all have a responsibility, as Mayor Goldsmith-Jones has very correctly said, to support the police in their work on our behalf.
Since this is a Private Members Bill, I urge you to support and represent the interests of your constituents and vote to save the long-gun registry when the House of Commons votes on this matter this week.