I'll start first.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, for inviting us to appear before you today.
My name is Steve Torino. I'm president of Canadian Shooting Sports Association. From 1996 to 2006 I chaired the national advisory committee on firearms to the ministers of justice for the Liberal government. From 2006 to 2014 I chaired the committee for the Conservative government.
I'd like to start with some comments, please.
On the subject of lifetime background checks, as far as our members are concerned, it seems unnecessary and counterproductive to mandate verifications going back to an applicant's distant past, covering past job changes, relationship changes, long-past health issues, even school issues, etc., to determine an applicant's fitness to possess a licence. In 2016 there were over 406,000 licences issued, new and renewal, and 771 were refused, representing 0.018%. Most of these were court-ordered. A grand total of 36 were due to domestic violence. It seems clear that the five-year investigation framework in the current law is producing the desired results of screening out who should not have a licence. We believe that an investigation based on lifetime events will not produce additional tangible benefits. Licence revocations appear to follow the same trend.
Our concerns with the section dealing with lifetime background checks involve the criteria for the information being checked and the training of those who will check it. Are we being screened for any violence issues only? Do we have to divulge any time in our lives when we lost a job? The current questions ask for this for only the last five years. Does the information being collected actually matter, and when can we expect to see changes? What's the training for those people who will evaluate the information? Who actually evaluates the information? What training do they have to make judgment calls regarding an individual's suitability to own firearms? There's the lack of an appeal process. There's no answer to that, at this point. The additional time and costs associated with such investigations will be prohibitive. Such resources, in our opinion, would be much better utilized in other more needy areas, such as the pursuit of those criminals discussed in the minister's recent guns and gangs symposium.
On the subject of licence verification, the Bill C-71 requirement, minus the requirement for a reference number, is merely codifying existing practice. Firearms owners have been verifying licences before doing a transfer, without question. We have never heard of a case where that has not happened. However, the reference number requirement can and will pose some significant issues for compliance. Gun shows, estate sales where the executor does not possess a firearms licence, private sales in remote areas and at odd times without access to 24-7 services, and verification for any loaned firearm at any time come to mind. When current verification methods, diligently adhered to, have had positive results, the necessity of this new requirement seems another restriction on lawful firearms owners. This will have no effect on the criminal possession and illicit movement of firearms.
The licence verification process is basically a registry—not of guns, but of the activity of firearms owners. The proof of this is the multiple verifications done at the same time if more than one firearm is being transferred. If the purpose of this is to check and verify the firearms licence, why do both the seller and buyer have to enter their licences?
With regard to business records, as far as we're concerned, the requirement for detailed recording of all firearms transactions appears to be a return to the registry that was cancelled in 2012. When this is combined with the information required for a licence verification for individuals, it is remarkably close to the cancelled long-gun registry. That is something this government has steadfastly claimed will not happen, yet it appears to be returning to that.
On the subject of new classification categories, all existing classifications have a reason for being. For example, subsection 12(3) is the category for converted fully automatic firearms. This is similar to all existing categories, from subsections 12(2) to (7).
What makes proposed subsections 12(11) and (14) so unique is that both categories prohibit currently legal firearms for no reason. Has the application of Canadian law gotten to this level that property can be confiscated without even the courtesy of a valid reason? Confiscation, in our opinion, is really what this is. At the time a person dies, if there's no one left to acquire this firearm, the government has to pick it up. There is no real means to give any compensation to the estate, to the widow, or whoever it happens to be.
I'll turn over the rest of this presentation to my colleague, Mr. Bernardo.