Williams Lake native band sets up own gun licences

A native Indian band in central B.C. plans to start issuing its own firearms "licences" as a protest against the federal gun registry.

"We're just trying to show we can look after our own affairs," Chief Ervin Charleyboy of the Williams Lake-area Tsilhqot'in Nation said Monday. "I don't like their legislation. I'm not comfortable with it. It's unconstitutional. And it's so computerized and people know you've got guns and everything. I'm not a fan of computers and all these fancy gadgets they have.

"To me, it [the federal law] is an underground communist movement to disarm the public."

Williams Lake RCMP Sergeant Merv Pointer said Monday he is not sure what, if anything, police will do about the band's plan, but he said he will discuss it with RCMP headquarters in Vancouver.

"It caught us by surprise. I hadn't heard anything about it."

The federal department of justice in Ottawa could not be reached for comment on the matter Monday.

The Tsilhqot'in Nation says it will begin issuing its own firearms licences Friday and that licences will be sold from the headquarters of what is called the Tsilhqot'in National Government office in Williams Lake.

Licences will be issued to band members who live on or are on the band lists of the six reserves in the area.

The band has not yet decided how much it will charge to buy a licence, only that it will consider them valid.

Although he had no other details about the plan, Charleyboy said the band can do a better job than the federal government.

"First of all, we know our people better than everybody else. We know who the bad ones are and the good ones and who are law-abiding. We've got to be careful who we issue these licences to."

Charleyboy said the band expects to sell up to 4,000 licences.

He also said they'd consider selling licences to non-natives in the area who are also uncomfortable with the gun legislation. Charleyboy said he is not afraid of possible legal action against the band. "It's under [our] authority. I'm not scared. I'm willing to fight this."

He also said he has not informed the RCMP of the band's plans.

"They don't need to know. It's within our own nation."

Justice Minister Martin Cauchon said recently the federal firearms registry is "there to stay" despite fierce opposition from gun owners and provincial demands to scrap the system or at least suspend it until audits of ballooning coasts are completed.

He said the government intends to use the registry to instil a new gun culture in Canada.

However, Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper said his party would not only discard the registry if it wins power but also destroy information now contained in the system on firearms owned by nearly two million Canadians.

Eight provincial governments have called for suspension of the firearms registry following federal auditor-general Sheila Fraser's disclosure in December that the program will have cost $1 billion by 2005.

At least two gun owners have deliberately provoked police charges to appeal the law in court, while others have flouted the law but not been charged by police. The law providing for the registry, the Canadian Firearms Act, took effect in 1998, but its licensing and registration provisions have been introduced in stages.

Several hundred thousand gun owners, perhaps more than one million, are believed to be avoiding registration.

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