House of Commons Hansard #75 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was firearms.

Topics

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member who just spoke what he thinks of the fact that the Bloc Québécois had to present amendments, including one that conveyed exactly what Quebec's National Assembly wanted. The request came not just from some of the members, but from three ministers who specifically asked the Conservative government to let the Government of Quebec use the information that belongs to the people. After all, Quebeckers contributed some of their own tax dollars to pay for the gun registry. The only thing Quebec wants—and I am talking about the whole province—is access to the information so that the province's police forces can use it wisely.

Why is the government denying that request and refusing to vote in favour of the Bloc Québécois's amendment, which will be put to the House this evening?

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question.

It is a pretty simple question to answer when we look at the registry and the information in it. I talked a little before about the data and how poor the quality of the data are in the registry. It was emphasized earlier in the debate that we had somewhere between 43% to 90% error rate in some of the information in there. Furthermore, the registry is the data. It would be very disingenuous of the government to say that it will get rid of the gun registry and not get rid of the data, which is the gun registry.

I will make another point on this that I think is quite important. It was pointed out by the member for Yukon and I think it is important to say it again. We also heard that in the manual search conducted it was discovered that 4,438 stolen firearms had been successfully re-registered. With these errors, how responsible would that be for us to pass that over to any province?

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I found it interesting that the Liberal member's defence was that the previous Liberal government only wasted $800 million on the gun registry.

I am from an urban riding. In my riding, this issue is probably one of the most corresponded on issues in my six years as an MP, probably running about 95% in favour of abolishing the long gun registry.

From the hon. member's standpoint, why does he thinks Canadians feel so strongly about the need to get rid of the long gun registry?

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, in my remarks I pointed out three major reasons. One is about public safety because, if we look at what is in Bill C-19, we still have the licensing provisions and we still have the safety and the background checks. That is gun control, not a registry system.

The other thing people tell me when I am out in the riding every weekend is to get rid of the long gun registry. It is about the inaccuracy of the information and the waste of taxpayer dollars.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on Bill C-19, which seeks to abolish the firearms registry.

We have heard a host of good reasons as to why the firearms registry should be kept, such as its usefulness to the police forces and the prevention of violent acts. As a hunter, however, it is important that I speak about one particular argument that has not been the subject of much discussion since the start of this debate. I hope that my colleagues from the Conservative Party will listen closely to what I have to say, because I believe that I know what I am talking about, since I am a hunter myself.

I started hunting at three years of age. I did not hunt with a real weapon. My father built me a small wooden shotgun and took me hunting with him. I would sit on the three-wheeler and hunt partridges with him. I have not stopped hunting since. I have five weapons of my own at home: three 22-calibre shotguns, a 303 rifle and a 270 rifle. I hunt moose, bears, partridges and other small animals. So I think I know what I am talking about and that is why I want to discuss the issue.

When hunters ask me why I am in favour of the firearms registry, I talk to them about firearm theft. I explain it in simple terms. Before the firearms registry existed, wrongdoers, who perhaps needed the money, would enter houses and steal firearms. These were regular people, just like all the Canadians we represent. They would place a short advertisement in the newspaper in order to sell the firearm. When there was a potential buyer, the thief would explain that his grandfather had given him the weapon and that he was selling it because he did not really go hunting. He would say that he no longer had the papers because it was a long time ago and he did not know where they were anymore. That would always be a bit of an annoyance, but the seller would seem to be acting in good faith and knew what he was talking about. The buyer would tell himself that this was normal and would go ahead and buy the firearm. Consequently, when a firearm was stolen, there was no way of locating it.

Since the registry was created, when people put an advertisement in the newspaper, for example, to try to sell weapons they have stolen from other people’s homes, it is no longer possible. This is because when a potential buyer goes to see the weapon and expresses an interest in buying it, since it is a good model at a reasonable price, the buyer suggests calling to make the transfer. The person at the other end of the phone line tells him that the weapon was reported stolen, according to the information in the registry. That person then strongly advises the would-be buyer against buying the weapon. Of course, the police are notified and may take action to get the firearm back. If a person has stolen a firearm to use it for hunting, he runs the risk of being in the woods and having a law enforcement officer ask for the registration papers. If the person does not have the papers, the officer will check and see that the weapon was stolen. In either case, there is a chance of locating the weapon, which was not previously the case.

We have to understand that many firearms are part of family tradition. Many people have firearms that belonged to their grandfather and their great-grandfather and have been passed down from generation to generation. If they are stolen from us, even if someone could offer us a similar firearm, it would not be exactly the same. It would not be the one our grandfather went hunting with. There is great family attachment to these firearms.

Some firearms are now practically impossible to recover. Without the firearms registry, if they are stolen, there is virtually no way to recover them. The police have no way of recovering these firearms, unless they have some uniquely special feature. But when we talk about firearms from the 1960s, for example, one 22-calibre weapon with a wooden stock looks just like another 22-calibre weapon with a wooden stock. It is therefore extremely difficult, unless it is marked, to know whether that firearm is in fact the one that was stolen. It is practically impossible. Since we have had the firearms registry, thefts of firearms have declined significantly.

We paid for these data, as did hunters. That is why we want to preserve them. That is why, in Quebec, we think this is logical. The registry provides a degree of security because the police use it, but it also protects us as hunters because it reduces theft. If a theft occurs, and that cannot always be prevented, we have a chance of recovering the stolen firearms.

Another thing I must stress is the value of the firearms. Some of these firearms are worth a lot of money. Because they are used for hunting, a lot of money is invested to make sure they are functional. If the firearms registry is abolished and people start stealing firearms again, the owners might lose the money they have invested in this sport, which is an economic activity in Canada.

I have a firearm, a Ruger SR 10/22. I paid $600 for the firearm alone and nearly $300 for the sight. So I would be extremely unhappy if it were stolen, and even more so if there were no database that would allow it to be recovered. At least, with the firearms registry, a police officer can type in the serial number and the name of the firearm and see the ones that have been stolen. I would have a chance of recovering my firearm, but without the firearms registry, I would have no chance of that. It would be extremely complicated. The person who had stolen it would simply have to say, if asked, that they had lost the registration, that it is in their truck, that they do not know where it is. I think it is important to talk about this aspect because not much has been said about it.

Since I have enough time left, I would like to address another point. As some members know, I am a nurse by training. I have worked in hospitals and I come from a rural area where there are a lot of farmers. We know that farmers have suffered a great deal as a result of climate change, economic crises and the mad cow crisis. All those factors have had a considerable impact on farming. Some of our farms became unstable, economically, and were in distress. The stress level rose significantly among farmers. Most farmers have a firearm at home and use it for activities on the farm. For example, if a cow was attacked by wolves, the farmer could shoot it rather than leave it to suffer. It is reasonable for farmers to all have firearms. That is legitimate when you have a farm, I think.

I believe that the firearms registry can be used to protect people from themselves. When doctors and nurses see that a person is depressed and not doing well, they are able to determine whether the person has firearms at home and, consequently, whether they are a suicide risk. Firearms are not forgiving; it is not possible to save these people’s lives. When they are taken to emergency, it is often too late. Doctors and nurses can use this tool to determine whether a person is in possession of firearms. If the person does have firearms, they can be asked whether they would be prepared to take them to the police station until they feel better and get help getting back on track. Conversely, if the database is not accessible, this kind of prevention—helping someone and preventing something irreparable from happening—is not possible. That is another important point that I wanted to stress.

I want to ask the public to support us when it comes to the registry. I am a hunter and I really believe that the firearms registry can help to prevent the theft of firearms and stop people from burglarizing houses and stealing weapons. Without the registry, this is impossible.

I paid for these data and I would like them to be kept. At the very least, if the federal government does not want to keep them, it should transfer the data to Quebec so that people like me, who paid for the data, are protected. If this kind of thing occurs, there needs to be a chance of finding the weapons. That is what I want to emphasize.

I would ask everyone who does not consider my idea crazy and who thinks that I am perhaps right to write immediately and send a clear message to every Conservative member who is against this idea.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to rise in support of Bill C-19, Ending the Long-gun Registry Act. The state broadcaster, the CBC, has confirmed that $2 billion in taxpayer money have already been squandered on the long gun registry, with no tangible impact on preventing gun crime. This leads me to ask why some members in this place want to continue this wasteful program when the money could be put to much better use.

Our government is committed to cracking down on crime. We are committed to providing law enforcement officers with the tools they need to do their jobs. On this side of the House, our goal is to put criminals out of business, in stark contrast to those across the way who would rather harass law-abiding hunters, farmers and sports shooters.

When the long gun registry was introduced in 1995, the previous government promised it would cost approximately $2 million to implement over five years. In her 2002 audit, however, the Auditor General of Canada reported the program's costs had skyrocketed to more than $600 million. Moreover, due to a lack of solid financial information, she believed this figure did not fairly represent the true costs of the program. It is small wonder that when I ask people in my riding how they would describe the long gun registry, the response is always the same: an absolute boondoggle.

Apart from the cost to taxpayers and the financial burden on law-abiding citizens, there is also no evidence the long gun registry has stopped a single crime or saved a single life. This is not only my personal belief, but the belief of a vast number of my constituents, as well as law-abiding Canadians. It is also the belief of the Auditor General of Canada, who, in her 2006 audit, stated that the Canada Firearms Centre did not show how it helped minimize risks to public safety.

It is also the belief of veteran police officers such as Gilbert Yard, a retired RCMP superintendent, who has said in the past:

I believe that Canadians are much too astute to believe [the long gun registry] is anything other than a waste of time, effort and money. Wasting public funds that could really make a difference in acute justice issues, in my view, borders on criminal activity.

When our Conservative government came to office, we pledged that our approach to crime would generate the kind of practical results demanded by our law enforcement community rather than wasting taxpayer dollars on initiatives such as the long gun registry, which does nothing to reduce gun crimes. We promised to make our streets safer by tackling the deadly combination of drugs, gangs and guns. We promised to increase sentences for violent and repeat offenders, especially those involved in weapons-related crimes. We promised to work with the provinces and territories to fight the root causes of crime through community-based prevention. We made those promises and we have kept them.

Over the last six years, we have passed legislation to tackle violent crime. We introduced mandatory prison sentences for serious gun crimes, as well as reverse bail provisions for serious offences, changes that were long overdue. Our government has also passed legislation that creates a new offence to target drive-by and other intentional shootings that involve the reckless disregard for the life or safety of others. Those convicted of such acts are subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison, with a maximum period of imprisonment of 14 years. If these acts are committed by or for a criminal organization or with a restricted or prohibited firearm such as a handgun or automatic weapon, the minimum sentence has been increased to five years.

More recently, our government introduced comprehensive legislation which would make our communities safer by: extending greater protection to the most vulnerable members of society, as well as victims of terrorism; further enhancing the ability of our justice system to hold criminals accountable for their actions; and helping improve the safety and security of all Canadians.

In particular, the safe streets and communities act would: better protect children and youth from sexual predators; increase penalties for organized drug crime and house arrest for serious crimes; protect the public from violent young offenders; eliminate pardons for serious crimes; enshrine in law a number of additional key factors in deciding whether an offender would be granted a transfer back to Canada; increase offender accountability and support victims of crime; support victims of terrorism; and protect vulnerable foreign nationals against abuse and exploitation.

In addition to taking action on the legislative side, our government has provided more money to the provinces and territories so they can hire additional police officers. The government has also helped the RCMP recruit and train more personnel.

Our government has shown, through these measures, that it is serious about getting tough on gun crime, but we also need to ensure that we have a system of gun control that makes people safer rather than simply making people feel safe. That is why the government is investing $7 million annually to strengthen front-end screening of first-time firearms licence applicants, with a view to keeping firearms out of the hands of people who should not have them.

We have to ensure that our gun control keeps firearms out of the hands of those who threaten our communities, our safety, our lives. Our government is determined to maintain an effective firearms control system, while at the same time combatting the criminal use of firearms and getting tough on crime.

We also believe the radical notion that gun control should target criminals not law-abiding citizens. It should save lives not waste money. That is why our government is moving forward with Bill C-19. This would reduce the burden on farmers and hunters who use rifles and shotguns to protect their livestock or hunt for wild game. Ending the registration of non-restricted guns would also free up money that we could reinvest to combat the criminal use of firearms.

This government is taking a balanced approach to firearms. On the one hand, we are fine-tuning the law so it targets criminals and not law-abiding citizens. On the other hand, we have spearheaded legislation that gives the police and the courts new tools to fight weapons-related crime, especially related to gangs and organized crime.

It is a two-pronged approach rooted in common sense and one that will enable us to make our firearms control program truly effective, enhancing public safety for all Canadians.

I encourage all members to stand in the House and support this important legislation before us today.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, in addition to limiting the time allowed for us to debate Bill C-19, the Conservatives are accusing us of treating farmers like criminals. In my riding, 80% of which is farmland, farmers want to keep the firearms registry. I am a hunter myself and come from a family of hunters, and I want to keep the firearms registry. The member promised earlier that she would work with the provinces. I would remind the member that the Government of Quebec wants to keep the data from the firearms registry.

Why does the member across the floor refuse to listen to what Quebec and the people of Alfred-Pellan are calling for?

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Madam Speaker, earlier today a couple of members observed that the members on this side of the House were consistent in our messaging. I would simply say that when representing the facts on this argument, the arguments remain the same.

We have long opposed this wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. It unfairly targets law-abiding farmers and duck hunters and not criminals. Finally, there are more effective ways to tackle crime and protect families and our communities.

I would encourage the member to stand and vote for the legislation later tonight.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Lise St-Denis Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, listening to the speech by the member opposite, I almost feel as though I am in an old western, with good guys and bad guys. I do not understand how, on the one hand, there can be evil criminals whom the Conservatives want to punish and send to prison, and on the other hand, there are the good guys, the farmers and other people who do nothing wrong, but who have shotguns.

After looking at this kind of situation, can you not make a distinction or accept or try to see the positive side of a solution like the firearms registry, which could bring something positive to your fight against crime and—

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order. I would remind all members to direct their comments and questions through the Chair.

The hon. member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Madam Speaker, contrary to what the member has implied with that question, our government does support gun control that actually works. While we are open to improvements, Canada's gun control laws, including very important licensing requirements, are robust and effective.

I want to get back to a quote that one of my colleagues highlighted. It was in the testimony given by Detective Sergeant Murray Grismer of the Saskatoon Police Service:

The cornerstone of public safety is the training, screening and licensing of owners, not the registration of non-restricted rifles and shotguns.

He went on to say that he does not rely on the Canadian firearms registry to protect his life at all.

I would encourage the member to recognize that our government supports gun control measures that actually work. She should be supporting this piece of legislation.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, it is with a great deal of sadness that I rise today to speak to the bill before us. I am opposed to the dismantling of the gun registry. I am disturbed by the actions of the Conservatives who feel they have to ram through, or railroad, a piece of legislation that is ill-thought out. Once again, they have moved time allocation to stop informed debate.

I do not know what they are afraid of. Do they wonder if some of the points made by the opposition could actually persuade some members across the way? Or do they just not want the public to have this fulsome debate?

I heard in the House today that this has been debated for 17 years. If we were to take that attitude toward other legislation that comes before this House, we could say that everything has been discussed in one way or another forever. Therefore, there would be no need for parliamentarians to discuss it. Let us just bring it here, vote on it and get out of here. That is not what parliamentary democracy is about.

I have also heard quite a few things about the cost of the registry. I agree that when the registry was first brought in there were extraordinary, and quite outrageous, expenditures as the system was put in place. However, by 2010, the cost of operating the registry was $4 million a year. Let us not keep quoting the $1 billion spent at the beginning.

The Conservatives are used to making economic arguments. It puzzles me that, although we spent over $1 billion as it was a bit of a mess at the beginning under my friends, the Liberals, the cost is down today. Therefore, I do not understand the minister's position that the gun registry has to be destroyed.

Even if this legislation is adopted and we do not keep a gun registry, surely the data we have collected should be kept. The provinces co-paid for that data to be collected. There is at least one province that wants the data because it may want to have its own registry. What kind of economic sense does it make to destroy data that we already have? Once again, it seems to be something else that is driving my colleagues across the way.

No legislation, even when one considers the penalties, is ever by itself enough to stop all crime. For example, we have all kinds of fines for people who speed, but that does not stop them from speeding. However, we do not say that we do not need to register cars or have drivers' licences any more. We continue to have registration.

It is very sad, but there are people who know better who still drink and drive. That can lead to tragic consequences. At the same time, we do not say that because that happens we are now going to stop selling alcohol or that we are not going to have cars on the road.

This piece of legislation says that we need to make accommodations for the farmers and hunters. I agree. I thought the registration would be onerous so I decided to do a little research. I found that once one is registered, that is it. To transfer the registration into somebody else's name is not a huge deal. It can be done over the phone. Once again, it is not costly at all. Also, it does not cost to register guns.

I sometimes think we live in a country where we have licences and registrations for almost everything. My grandchildren got a little dog, and we had to get a licence. We drive cars and we do all kinds of things that require licences and registrations.

A gun, to me, is far more dangerous than little Sam, who is only about this big. A gun is far more dangerous than many other things that we accept as part of our civil society that require registration.

The NDP, in previous iterations of this bill, had offered to make accommodations for farmers and for hunters. Obviously that is not what our colleagues have in mind. They are willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead of addressing the issues around farmers, hunters and law-abiding citizens, they are doing away with it all.

This opens up the possibility to have guns on the streets that may not otherwise be there. For example, semi-automatic weapons, like the Ruger Mini-14 used by Anders Behring Breivik in the recent Norway shooting and by Marc Lépine in the Montreal massacre in 1989, come under the category of unrestricted weapons. Ask the families of the women murdered in that massacre, or the people who lost loved ones in Norway, how much comfort it gives them to know they were unrestricted weapons.

This legislation does not just do away with the gun registering. It does away with the absolute requirement for the seller to demand licensing and to keep a record of the sales. As I said earlier, this is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I live in an urban riding that has a small part that is rural. In my riding people have mixed opinions on many issues. There have been eight shootings there since Christmas. When it comes to guns of any sort, unrestricted or restricted, long guns or other weapons, as a mother I want them off the streets.

I want to do whatever it takes to keep them off the streets. If they are not on our streets, then there is less likelihood of someone young dying in my community yet again.

I come from a riding where, not unlike many others, the rates of domestic violence are on the increase. There are pressures on families, economic pressures and all kinds of other pressures. This is not an excuse for violence. However, we know that when there are pressures on people, they will take action. Once again, by not keeping a record, we are making it easy for weapons to be on our streets and in our homes. I would urge my colleagues across the way to just stop this insanity today.

Here is a quote from Chief William Blair. He is the Chief of Police in Toronto and past president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. This is what he had to say:

The registry gives officers information that keeps them safe. If the registry is taken from us, police officers may guess but they cannot know. It could get them killed.

I know that just having a registry is not going to keep our police officers safe, but it is one of the tools they carry in their backpack that ensures their safety. Surely we do not want to take away one of those tools. For the sake of the young people in my community and for the sake of the safety officers who put their lives at risk for us, please defeat this ill thought out—

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Madam Speaker, it was suggested yesterday and twice today that, yes, we spent more than we ever intended to, but that money has already been spent, and since it will only cost a mere $4 million more a year to maintain the registry, why not keep it? My question to the member is, why does she want to continue this wasteful program when this money could be put to better use to actually protect Canadians and save lives?

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, let us talk about waste. Let us talk about $19 billion that would have to be spent to build prisons for a very ill thought out crime-fighting agenda. Let us talk about the billions of dollars, not millions but billions, being given to corporations as tax credits because, after all, their profit margins were so gargantuan we had to give them more.

Four million dollars spent across the country from coast to coast to coast is worth every penny if it keeps one officer safe and one citizen from getting killed.