Mr. Speaker, as a rural member of Parliament, it is extremely important for members like me to get an opportunity to speak on legislation that always has an impact, or is perceived to have an impact, in regions like ours. I represent what I think is the sixth-largest riding in Canada and the largest riding in Ontario, with one-third of Ontario's land mass. Hunting and the tradition of owning firearms is a well-known fact in the region that I represent.
In order to get a better sense of the sensitivity and difficulties in these kinds of debates between rural members and urban members of Parliament, I want to take us back a bit in history to get a better understanding of why these things can be complicated.
Since I came to Parliament in 1988, I have had the opportunity to be a part of the debate of two major pieces of legislation. These were major pieces of legislation dealing with firearms. There were three in fact, but one was pulled under the Mulroney government in 1990. There were difficulties going on in the caucus of the day in that particular Conservative government for members of Parliament. Bill C-80 was the bill, and it came in under Justice Minister Kim Campbell. She introduced it in June 1990. Interestingly, that particular piece of legislation created a gun registry for all guns in Canada. It was such a difficult debate within the rural caucus and the urban caucus of the government of Brian Mulroney that they waited for months and months before they started to debate it. They then waited for the prorogation of the House, so they could start over. Therefore, Bill C-80 disappeared. In its place, Bill C-17 came into being. Bill C-17 was also under Justice Minister Kim Campbell, and it was enacted into legislation in November of 1991.
In case people were not aware, in case they want to see how gun legislation has been created over the last 40 or 50 years, this is the piece of legislation where practically everything we are debating today was brought into play, from the possession certificates, the waiting periods, and the background checks. All these things happened under Bill C-17 in the Mulroney government.
I want to give a list of a few things that happened during this process. Applicants for a firearms acquisition certificate were required to provide more background information, including personal history, criminal history, a picture, and two references. Some of the impacts of Bill C-17 were that approximately 200 gun models moved to restricted and prohibited lists. There were limits on magazine size. If we can imagine, years ago we could have very large magazines. Now they are restricted, so that has made a significant difference in how we perceive firearms today. Firearms and ammo must be stored separately. Ammunition, before Bill C-17, was basically in the same box as one's firearm was stored. One had to keep weapons in an operable condition. One had to hide and lock guns during transportation. A 28-day waiting period was imposed for issuing of permits, which is a discussion that is still going on in the United States. It is one where it is hard to imagine how people are having difficulty understanding the importance of it. Then there was the grandfathering of automatic weapons. Of course, the big discussion of that day was whether we should or should not ban semi-automatics.
There is a history as it relates to these kinds of firearms, and the whole issue of firearms and safety of people around the world. Here in Canada, as a society that believes and will continue to believe that firearms have a legitimate use, the debate has always been a difficult one.
I used the example of what happened in the Mulroney regime to make it clear that in those days, rural members of Parliament were arguing with urban members of Parliament in the same government as to what to do and what not to do. Here is something that members should know. Bill C-17 passed by a margin of 189 to 14. In fact, the vote was whipped very strongly in the Mulroney government. There were a lot of people who were absent that day, because the Liberal Party of the day, and that caucus, voted with the government. However, many of the Conservative members of Parliament decided to be absent that day, because it was that kind of debate. Therefore, I agree with the member in the NDP who spoke before me. It would be much more helpful if we could have a debate where it was not so partisan and was not used as a wedge issue, but in fact we would spend some time talking about what is good for Canada.
I want to go back to another piece of legislation, because I want to remind members of Parliament that Bill C-51 was passed in 1978. In 1978, gun legislation was passed that brought in record-keeping by vendors. The record-keeping by vendors, the one we were talking about, which the Tories across the way are saying is a backdoor registry, has existed since 1978. The reason it came out was that when we brought in Bill C-68, the long-gun registry and the other changes, there was no need for the vendor registry, as we put it, a recording, because the registry was going to be individual persons. That was the way each gun would be recorded. However, that came out of the bill for the reason of it being a different way of looking at firearms and the firearms process.
I have been doing this for a number of years now, sitting here as a rural member of Parliament having a discussion about firearms, and trying to bring some sensibility. It is not to score political points, but to make it clear that we need to have laws, and we need to have a gun registry that makes sense. We need to have firearms laws that work or do not work, but the reality is that we need to have some sort of regulation as it relates to firearms.
The reason I am supporting this proposed legislation is because Bill C-71 would bring in a change on the five-year limitation. That would allow the CFO to consider an applicant's entire history. I think one of our major concerns in today's gun scenario, and we see it in the U.S. and in Canada, is that there are a lot of mental issues with people who have firearms. When we think about individuals who have firearms and mental issues, and I am talking about the U.S. now, we can think about what happened to those kids who died in that school. They say that those individuals died because the perpetrator was unstable. It was not because he had a firearm, but because he was unstable. Therefore, I think that this proposed legislation would go a long way to improving the ability for us to keep that particular scenario under control.
As we discuss this proposed legislation and the issues that surround it, we have to make sure we put in legislation that benefits society and is not overly difficult for firearms owners. I think this proposed legislation would do that very clearly, and that is why I will be supporting it.