The Quebec government wants to make it easier for gun owners to register their long guns since so far less than half of the firearms in the province have been registered.
The province heard on Tuesday why making concessions may not be enough to break the boycott against the firearms registry.
“It’s no secret there is an unwillingness among hunters to register their firearms,” Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said during public hearings while addressing Quebec’s hunters and anglers federation, the Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs.
The numbers tell the story: only 700,000 out of 1.6 million firearms have been registered since the deadline passed last January.
The National Assembly is studying this week Bill 25, which aims to make registration simpler, in hopes more people will comply with the registry.
The Quebec hunters and anglers federation said it already encourages its members to comply, but said many of them think the registry is bureaucratic and a waste of money. There is also currently a backlog: 150,000 people are still waiting for their applications to be processed.
“The registry is not working now so that’s why we want the government to get rid of it,” said Alain Cossette, the federation’s director general.
Another person to testify before the committee said the government has forgotten Quebec’s northern communities.
“The Cree, Inuit and Naskapi have already stated that they are in favour of a registry in the interest of public security,” said Miles Smart, executive secretary of Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Co-ordinating Committee.
“It would take an adapted program because you have hunters who might not speak French or English or have access to a computer for an online application program.”
However, long-time proponents of Quebec’s long-gun registry said the real problem is the government’s weak enforcement.
“We think the government needs to put a bit of teeth behind the law. I mean, there have been zero fines and yet thousands of gun owners are deliberately not respecting a public safety law,” Heidi Rathjen, spokesperson for PolySeSouvient, a gun-control advocacy group.
Members of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City — where six people were gunned down in January 2017 — also want to see the government crack down on firearms.
“The law calls for penalties, we’re asking the minister to apply the law,” said president Boufeldja Benabdallah.