Mr. Speaker, what is the alleged purpose of Bill C-68? To listen to the Liberals, Bill C-68 is somehow magically supposed to keep our homes and streets safer. However, simply put, Bill C-68 will not prevent the criminal misuse of firearms.
There are two principal parts to the bill to which many people object. The first is the registration of rifles and shotguns. Criminals will not register their guns. Even the Liberals admit that. Therefore, the legislation will do nothing to prevent premeditated crime. Criminals do not rob banks with hunting rifles. If shotguns are used they invariably use a barrel that has been sawed off, which makes it illegal and not registrable. Consequently, Bill C-68 will not effect any positive change.
The second part involves the banning of hundreds of thousands of currently legal sports firearms. I speak of .25 calibre, .32 calibre, and handguns with barrel lengths of 105 millimetres or less. According to the minister, the reason for the ban is the fact that these firearms are inaccurate and ineffective and therefore there is no justification for owning them. What is really inaccurate and ineffective is the minister's research that came up with this whole rationale.
The .32 calibre is the World Cup and Olympic calibre. Canada has won many cups and medals with this so-called inaccurate and ineffective firearm. Linda Thom, who used a firearm proposed to be banned under Bill C-68 to win a gold medal for Canada in an Olympic competition, said that she represents the minister and stated that the firearm she used was so inaccurate and ineffective that her winning that medal for Canada must have been a fluke.
Many people who have never used a gun assume that recreational shooting involves only buying a gun and a box of ammunition, going to the range, pointing at the target and pulling the trigger. If that were true it certainly would suggest that there is little sport involved in the activity. The truth is that real recreational and competitive shooting involves much more. The firearm itself requires much consideration and work, both in the selection and refinement of its use. Purchasers must consider barrel length, sighting radius, the type of sight, type of action, type and fit of grips, trigger pull, as well as many other considerations. Many of these items require changes and modifications to suit the type of shooting gun as well as the style and ability of the individual.
Ammunition is rarely bought at the store but instead is custom loaded by the individual. Custom loaded ammunition is much more accurate than store bought. The actual loading is a specialized activity in itself. Each firearm shoots differently and the development of the best ammunition is an activity that requires time and dedication to the sport.
When one gets down to shooting, it involves much more than pointing at the target and pulling the trigger. Each club competition is rigidly controlled for both safety and enjoyment. The objectives of each shoot are designed to be both challenging and enjoyable. Participants compete against both their own abilities and those of other competitors.
Shooting involves the development of a series of skills, a great deal of practice and friendly competition, just like any other sport. Stereotyping of the sport of competitive shooters is not justifiable. Enthusiasts range from labourers to office workers, mechanics to doctors, men and women.
The minister claims, in rather vague terms, that registering rifles and shotguns will prevent crime and thus save lives. A total of 1,354 people died from firearm related incidents in 1992. This includes suicide, homicide, accidental death and legal intervention. The minister has not given any figures on his projections of lives to be saved as a result of the legislation or even demonstrated that any lives will in fact be saved. At the same time, he implies this is the principal reason for his action.
Many of the current supporters of the legislation do so with the rationalization that if it saves any lives at all then it is worth whatever it costs. Let us have a look at these costs. In doing this, I am going to use the minister's own figures despite the fact that I believe them to be inaccurate and misleading.
According to figures tabled by the minister at the justice committee it will now cost $118.9 million to set up the registration system. This is up from the original estimate of $85 million. What the minister avoids talking about is the actual cost of registration.
All handguns are registered now so we know the cost to the system to register a firearm. That cost is $82 per firearm. The minister and his advisor, Wendy Cukier, have estimated the number of rifles and shotguns in the country to be about six million, which is curious given the auditor general puts the figure around 18 million. Using the six million figure and the known cost of registration, puts the actual cost of registration at $492 million. If the true amount is halfway between the two
estimates on the number of firearms then there goes another billion dollars in bureaucratic spending.
Somehow I think that if we really worked at it we could find something better to spend that money on.
One in nine women will develop breast cancer during their lives. This year alone 17,000 women will be newly diagnosed with the disease and over 5,400 of those will die of breast cancer. If cancer of the testicles had statistics like this the men on the other side of the House would cross their legs and pass $500 million worth of funding for research and prevention before the end of a single day. They would tell the women on their side of the House how to vote as is the Liberal procedure.
However, as it stands now, they would rather spend $118.9 million setting up a registration program for rifles and shotguns without any evidence that it will save a single life.
I have done some research into the use of $118.9 million for the detection and treatment of breast cancer. The results were very interesting. This $118.9 million could double detection screening of women in the appropriate age group. Experts tell me that this would prevent about one-third of the current deaths from this dreaded disease. That amounts to 1,710 women a year. That is more people than the total number of firearm's related deaths and we have not heard one single word of evidence that even a single life would be saved through following the minister's ill-conceived legislation.
There would be those who would point out that this expenditure for breast cancer treatment would be an annual cost whereas the setting up of the registration system is a one time cost. Ignoring the fact that setting up the registration system does not include the cost of registration itself, which is many times the initial cost, I looked at what a one time funding of $118.9 million would do for the problem of breast cancer in the long term.
As we all know, each disease has an associated health care cost. The cost of a terminal breast cancer patient for hospital time, chemotherapy and other expenses averages about $100,000. This does not include the human cost of the victim or her family. If we could prevent the death of 1,710 women a year with an associated health care savings of $100,000 each we would reduce health care expenses by $171 million.
Although the initial $118.9 million spent on the real saving of lives versus the minister's wild fantasy of forcing his values on others would be a one-time expenditure, 70 per cent of the health care system's savings would provide this amount each year while continuing to save the health care system an additional $52 million a year. In light of this, the minister's fantasy does not seem very supportable.
We are at a very troubled time in our country's finances. The government is talking about many cuts in federal spending. The cuts are necessary but it means the government has to learn how to set priorities in order to preserve the quality of life while addressing the financial problems we face.
It seems the government, particularly the Minister of Justice, has some very mixed priorities. It is time to tell the minister that restricting the activities of law-abiding citizens is not a priority. Its legislation is a waste of the taxpayers' money at a time when we have none to waste.