Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-637, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (firearms storage and transportation), introduced by the hard-working member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette.
In relation to what was just said by the last speaker—that we have cut back—an additional $300 million have gone to Canada's security agencies and of them CBSA is one. Where we pulled these 1,000 jobs out of our hat, I cannot believe. As far as food safety inspectors go, each and every day 40 inspectors are at the former XL plant. Much of what was just said is fiction, and I do not know where it comes from.
However, on this side of the House we have been clear. We believe firearms policies should make sense and keep Canadians safe. In practice, that means we lock up criminals who use firearms and wreak havoc on our communities, but we eliminate needless red tape that does nothing to keep Canadians safe.
We have a strong record in this regard. It was our Conservative government that, for example, created tough new sentences for those engaging in drive-by or other reckless shootings. We have also taken action to reduce needless red tape, as I mentioned. Chief among those actions was ending the $2 billion boondoggle that was the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. We were pleased to end the needless bureaucratic mess once and for all, and we are pleased that all the data have now been deleted.
We have also tabled the common-sense firearms licensing act, which would crack down on dangerous individuals who should not have firearms, while reducing needless paperwork. Individuals from all walks of life have come out in support of this important legislation. We have heard support from hunters, trappers, fishers and sport shooters. We have also heard support from the law enforcement community and former Olympians.
Despite what the Liberals and New Democrats would have us believe, there is a strong consensus that we must support these Canadian heritage activities.
That brings me to the bill before us today.
Currently, an individual can face jail time for storing a paintball, BB gun or pellet gun without “reasonable caution”. That may seem like common sense, but the devil is always in the details. What does “reasonable caution” mean? Does it mean in a cabinet? Does it mean out of reach of a child? Does it mean a trigger guard or lock and cases such as that? Or does it mean something completely different? It is impossible to know because the term is not defined.
I encourage all Canadians listening at home to safely store their pellet guns, their BB guns and their air rifles, just because it is a good example that we can show our children when they become of an age when they can possess a firearm, because they get to form good habits. However, I do not believe it is reasonable that people could spend jail time for not doing so.
Let me give an example. My riding is in a rural area. It would not be uncommon for one of my constituents to take an air gun or a BB gun, put it in a backpack or walk down into the woods or a ravine to shoot some pop cans off a tree stump. Target practising is one of those things we do, either for straight enjoyment or to prepare ourselves for hunting or for some friendly competition, for instance like a turkey shoot.
Individuals today are at risk of running afoul of the Criminal Code if they should do so. That is why Bill C-637 is so very important. I cannot put too fine a point on this. There are up to two years in prison for careless storage of a BB gun. How many members of the House could be caught keeping a BB gun in the closet or at the cottage? This law, as written, simply does not make sense.
Bill C-637 would put forward the same exemptions that prevent owners of paintball guns and pellet rifles from requiring a licence and would apply these exemptions to the Criminal Code offences relating to storage and transportation. This only makes sense. These items are clearly not firearms. They are not treated as firearms under the Firearms Act; they should not be treated as firearms under the Criminal Code. However, the bill would maintain the ability for someone to be charged criminally for careless use of a firearm. This is an important point to remember.
Members on the other side of the House have repeatedly said that this bill is unsafe, that it would lead to the unsafe use of pellet guns, and so on. This is simply not true. I grew up using a BB gun. It is what I used before I was old enough to use a legal firearm. I was taught the appropriate respect for and the power that firearms have, and the BB gun was an introduction as to how to properly handle a firearm. My father was quite fastidious about that.
With the law written as it currently is, it dissuades individuals from wanting to use air rifles. The threat of criminal charges for simply making a mistake will turn many people off. When I and members who are pretty close to my age were younger, BB guns were a very common thing and today there is a resurgence. Perhaps this is exactly the intent of the other parties. We all remember former Liberal cabinet minister Allan Rock, who said that he came to Ottawa with the firm belief that only police and the military should have access to firearms. We on this side of the House clearly disagree.
Hunting is a part of our heritage. Sport shooting is a part of our heritage. Using pellet guns and BB guns is part of our heritage. These sports are very important to what it means to be Canadian. On this side of the House, we will always stand with law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters.
I am pleased to note that support for this legislation has been expressed by groups from coast to coast, including the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, as well as the Canadian Shooting Sports Association. This legislation would continue our safe and sensible approach to firearms rules in Canada, and I am pleased to support it.
I continue to hope that members opposite will drop their ideological opposition to any measures that reduce the needless red tape for law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters. Given that both the Liberals and NDP have expressed a desire to bring back the long gun registry, I am not terribly hopeful, but I know that two million licensed Canadian gun owners will not forget the actions of these parties come this October.