Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
My comments this morning will be relatively brief, and if there are no questions after that I'll be out of here very quickly.
I want to thank all of the honourable committee members for the invitation to appear here before you today to help with your deliberations on Bill C-19, the Ending the Long-gun Registry Act. So if there are any committee members with some questions about where they stand on this bill, I'd be more than happy to answer those.
For too long, law-abiding farmers, duck hunters, and sports shooters have been criminalized by the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry. Bill C-19 is fulfilling our government's long-standing commitment to scrap this failed boondoggle once and for all.
For many years it has been clear that the long-gun registry does not work, does nothing to prevent crime or protect front-line officers. We have, on record, testimony after testimony by police officers who have told us in no uncertain terms that they do not trust the accuracy of the registry, and they openly question its value as a tool to protect police officers responding to a house call. These witnesses have provided eye-opening accounts of how truly flawed the registry is. One officer went so far as to say that he wouldn't risk the lives of his own staff, based on the results of a registry search. That is very troubling, Mr. Chair.
Furthermore, we know that the long-gun registry has no ability to prevent crime, and there is no evidence that it has stopped a single crime or saved a single life. It does not prevent anyone from using a firearm for violence and it does not keep guns out of the hands of criminals. It is clear that on all fronts it is a failure.
Our government believes in measures that actually protect law-abiding Canadian families. As committee members are aware, we have taken decisive action to ensure that those who commit serious crimes face serious consequences. This includes putting in place tough punishment for gun-related crimes such as drive-by shootings and gang-related violence. It includes increasing the minimum penalties for specific offences involving firearms, including attempted murder, sexual assault, and kidnapping, among others.
We have also introduced legislation that requires people charged with serious firearms offences to show the court why they shouldn't be kept in jail while awaiting their trial. They will not benefit from a presumptive entitlement to bail.
We believe that these amendments are starting to have a positive impact on homicide rates in this nation. The fact remains, however, that even one murder a year is too many and we must continue to work hard to improve our laws and focus on the most effective measures to crack down on crime.
It's telling that in a place like Winnipeg, which has the highest per capita murder rate in Canada, the provincial NDP government does not support the long-gun registry and views it as a waste of time, a waste of resources. And it's clearly onboard with our government in respect to the amendments that we're bringing forward in Bill C-10, which police officers admit would do a much better job of focusing on criminals and preventing crime.
It is our belief that laws should protect and not burden law-abiding citizens. That is why, with Bill C-19, we are moving to scrap the failed long-gun registry once and for all.
First of all, Bill C-19 will eliminate the requirement for firearm owners to register their long guns—in other words, their rifles and shot guns.
The second part of Bill C-19 would see the destruction of all records related to the registration information on long guns in the Canadian Firearms Registry and under the control of the chief firearms officers. This item has been the subject of much discussion since we tabled this legislation, but we have plainly stated that we will not share the personal and private information of more than seven million Canadians who have registered their long guns.
These, in simple terms, are the proposed changes to the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code.
I'd like to take just a moment to mention what will not change under Bill C-19.
What will not change, Mr. Chair, is the current and strict licensing system that is in place for controlling firearms. Firearm owners will still require a valid licence to purchase or possess firearms and to purchase ammunition. They will still be required to undergo background checks, pass the Canadian firearms safety course, and comply with firearm safe storage and transportation requirements. We believe this to be a reasonable requirement for those who want to legally acquire and use firearms. Moreover, owners of restricted and prohibited firearms will still be required to register their firearms with the RCMP.
We believe that this is the most effective measure of control regarding restricted and prohibited firearms such as handguns. Handguns are the firearms of choice in homicide crimes in Canada. It's time to stop burdening legal long gun owners with red tape. When you step back and think about it, the long-gun registry isn't actually targeting criminals. Rather, it targets the law-abiding Canadians who own long guns and who have to jump through various bureaucratic hoops to register a rifle or shotgun for which they already have a legal licence. It's an unfair burden, and it does nothing to stop criminals from using illegal or smuggled handguns to commit violent crimes in our community.
In closing, I would urge all committee members to consider carefully the important amendments we are proposing to this bill. After a legacy of waste that has lasted almost 17 years, it is time to swiftly and decisively end the long-gun registry once and for all.
Thank you, and if there are questions, I will take them now.