National Newswatch

MONTREAL — A new survey conducted for a gun-control advocacy group suggests that two-thirds of Quebecers are in favour of the registration of long guns.

Leger's poll for PolySeSouvient comes as provincial lawmakers study Bill 64, which, if passed, would create Canada's only provincial long-gun registry.

The survey, a copy of which was provided to The Canadian Press, found that 69 per cent of those polled were in favour of a registry, versus 26 per cent who were opposed. Five per cent had no opinion.

The online poll surveyed 1,004 Quebecers between April 15 and April 17.

Respondents were asked: "Do you agree with the implementation of a firearms registry (the registration of long guns) in Quebec so as to be able to link each weapon to its legal owner?"

The results, to be made public Wednesday, also found that 90 per cent of Quebecers were in favour of an obligatory verification of firearms permits to ensure they are valid before a weapon is sold. Proponents argued during recently concluded public hearings it is a necessary amendment

"There was more and more talk coming from the opponents (of the registry) that the majority of Quebecers don't support registration," said PolySeSouvient spokeswoman Heidi Rathjen.

"We wanted to get the latest measurements of public opinion regarding the registry in Quebec and one of the main amendments that has been called for by us and expert groups is the mandatory inspection of the permit at time of sale."

Quebec is looking to set up its own registry after the former Conservative government abolished the federal database for non-restricted guns in 2012.

The province fought Ottawa in court to save the Quebec data, ultimately losing at the Supreme Court before moving forward on its own last December. 

But the debate surrounding the Quebec bill has caused political wedges and ideological divides.

Grassroots opposition to the bill has emerged, with much of it coming from hunters and sport shooters. They argue Canadian licensing regulations are sufficient, while gun-control advocates counter most Quebecers want a registry and that licences aren't enough.

Rathjen says her goal is an effective registry minus "loopholes" and "grey areas."

A spokesman for grassroots group Tous contre un registre quebecois des armes a feu (All Against a Quebec Firearms Registry) says the poll results are not surprising given who commissioned the survey and the way the questions were asked.

"But if we asked the questions in a different way — looking at cost versus utility, for example — it could completely change those results," Guy Morin said. "The survey at some level is leading, giving them the numbers they were looking for."

Some rural politicians have been targeted in the past because many voters in their ridings are opposed to the bill. There are also concerns about the costs of the registry and Morin says the protests will continue.

"We're here to make sure this bill doesn't pass," said Morin.

The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

- Follow @sidhartha_b on Twitter.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

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