Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on Bill C-269, an act to amend part III of the criminal code and the Firearms Act, introduced by the hon. member for Fundy Royal.
The bill's proposed amendments to the Firearms Act would exempt all non-restricted rifles and shotguns from registration. The requirements to register restricted and prohibited firearms would remain unchanged, as we have heard. The proposed amendments to part III of the criminal code would exempt the non-restricted rifles and shotguns from offence provisions that deal with possession of a firearm without a registration certificate.
The amendments proposed in Bill C-269 are inconsistent with the goals and aims of the Firearms Act. This act is a very important public safety initiative. It requires the licensing of firearm owners in Canada and the registration of firearms in Canada by the end of 2002.
The bill's proposed amendments would negate the most innovative part of the registration phase of the Canadian firearms program, which is very important to the public safety of Canadians. The requirement to register prohibited and restricted firearms has been in force for decades. It is the registration of non-restricted rifles and shotguns that the Firearms Act, passed in 1995, initiated that is its most innovative feature.
The Minister of Justice cannot support the changes to the legislation that would challenge this contribution to public safety. She cannot condone amendments that would reduce in any way individual responsibility and accountability among firearms owners.
Rifles and shotguns are the most numerous and easily acquired types of firearms in Canada. They are also the types of firearms most often recovered from crime scenes. Over 40% of women killed by their husbands are shot. Most of these women, 78%, are shot with legally owned firearms, usually rifles and shotguns.
Registration links owners to their firearms. This accountability for registered firearms also increases the likelihood of compliance with safe storage and handling practices. It encourages owners to be more careful when they loan firearms and to tell police when firearms are stolen. Excluding rifles and shotguns from registration would remove the vast majority of guns in Canada from this increased accountability.
Registration of non-restricted rifles and shotguns provides police with a new tool to investigate and prosecute firearm related crime involving firearms. Registration will assist in deterring illegal sales of firearms in Canada as all firearms are registered to new owners at the point of sale. Registered firearms cannot easily be given or sold to an unlicensed individual as they can be traced back to the original owner.
Registration is also an important link in the process of keeping firearms from people who pose a threat to public safety. The transfer of ownership of a firearm initiates a background check of the person buying a gun, whether it be a pistol, rifle or shotgun.
Registration is also important to curbing illicit trade and smuggling in firearms. Registration also allows firearms to be traced and tracing can reveal the paths and sources that smugglers use. Such information is essential to finding and stopping the illegal flow of firearms into and out of Canada.
Canada has important obligations in the area of countering firearm trafficking and preventing firearms from going into the black market. In fact this summer Canada joined several countries in signing a firearms protocol toward that end, at a UN small arm's conference.
The Firearms Act is essential to public safety and the registration of rifles and shotguns is a major part of the Canadian firearms program. The Firearms Act, including its registration component, is supported by more than 350 public health, domestic violence, police and community organizations and numerous polls done over the past years show it has the support of more than 70% of the Canadian public. The law enforcement community supports the firearms program as a valuable tool in reducing the number of crimes involving firearms and assisting police in investigating and solving crimes involving firearms.
Firearms owners will see benefits too. Stolen firearms that are registered can be returned to their lawful owners. Registered firearms of sentimental or antique value can be more easily passed on through inheritance and registration papers are proof for use in insurance purposes. The firearms program is a success in terms of public safety.
For these reasons the Minister of Justice does not support the bill and the proposed amendments to part III of the criminal code and the Firearms Act.