Cullen calls for full debate on gun bill

Nathan Cullen is worried the federal Liberals' firearms bill is at risk of getting "caught up in politics of Parliament" and might not get the attention it needs.

"There is the process and there is the product itself and the process worries me a bit right now as the Liberals are starting to ram it through parliament," the NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley said this week. "This is how mistakes get made."

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He said the Liberals have invoked time allocation after the Conservatives launched a filibuster over the Grits' refusal to allow the prime minister's national security adviser testify in front of a committee about the Jaspal Atwal affair.

The Tories called off their attack last Friday and the House is currently on hiatus but Cullen is still worried debate on the bill will suffer as a result.

"There are other forces that are coming to bare in Parliament right now and I don't want any laws to become (the victims of) unintended consequences," he said.

Cullen said he supports the bill's general intentions - to reduce gang-related gun violence, account for a prospective purchaser's mental health and bringing greater clarity to how guns are classified - but has heard concerns from constituents.

"Some gun owners have come to me and have said they do not like being the RCMP being the ones who define guns," Cullen said in reference to a section of the bill that would take away cabinet's power to override Mounties' decisions on such matters.

Cullen said he had no trouble with that stipulation "but again, this is why you have to have a good debate. If someone can stand up and try to convince me with some evidence why that's going to be a problem, we can talk."

However, Cullen said he would like to see provisions to ensure RCMP decisions are made in a transparent manner and with input from stakeholders, including the firearms community.

Other measures in the bill, tabled March 20, include extending background checks for criminal activity to a purchaser's entire life from five years, requiring gun retailers to keep records of firearms inventory and sales for at least 20 years and require the purchaser of a hunting rifle or shotgun to present a firearms licence, while the seller would have to ensure its validity.

"We're all for safer communities, just don't use your total power to shut off peoples' conversations because that is a way to only encourage more suspicion," Cullen said.

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