Of course they find this very funny. Seventy-two per cent of rural Canadians approve of registration. There is strong support for the universal registration of firearms across Canada. Bill C-68 establishes a framework to achieve a number of goals that relate directly to the safety of Canadians in their homes and on the streets.
It creates stiff sentences for those who use firearms in the commission of a crime. It creates systems and sanctions to deal with the smuggling of guns into Canada. It provides that all firearms in Canada must be registered, a cornerstone measure that will help police fight smuggling and do their job more effectively. It does all these things within a framework that respects the rights of responsible law-abiding gun owners.
Let us review for a moment the background of how the legislation came to be. The opposition keeps forgetting how many times we have debated the issue in the House. We were elected on the second mandate because of that piece of legislation. It was introduced into the House of Commons on February 14, 1995 through successive debates including an extensive list of amendments brought to the bill by committee and debated at third reading.
On and on we have debated the issue in the House of Commons. It has gone to committee. Canadians have had a chance to bring forth their opinions. Two major sets of regulations have been processed, the first being tabled in November 1996 and the second set being tabled in October 1997.
The standing committee reviewing the first set of regulations made 39 recommendations, 30 of which were accepted in whole or in part. The government accepted more than 93% of the justice committee's recommendations following extensive hearings on these regulations.
My point in this brief review is to ask the opposition why, in view of the extensive parliamentary involvement in both the legislation and the regulations and in view of the number of changes in accommodations which were made as the legislation passed through the House, we would even consider repealing Bill C-68, legislation that enjoys the support of 82% of Canadians.
Bill C-236 would have us believe that parliament's legislation does nothing to address the criminal misuse of firearms. Opposition members may wish to consult the Criminal Code in this respect. A significant number of offences in the code were modified to carry a minimum punishment of imprisonment for four years.
A significant number of offences in the code were modified to carry a minimum sentence of four years' imprisonment. These Criminal Code offences are found under the headings of causing death by criminal negligence, manslaughter, attempt to commit murder, causing bodily harm with intent, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage taking, robbery and extortion.
Other offences are found for a variety of criminal offences including activities such as weapons trafficking, possession for the purpose of weapons trafficking, manufacture of automatic firearms, automatic firearms importing and exporting when knowing it is unauthorized, and tampering with the serial number of a firearm.
We were very attentive to criminal activities in formulating the offence provisions of Bill C-68. Increasing the minimum terms, as the bill proposes, would add nothing useful to the general approach approved by parliament when it passed Bill C-68.
If the supporters of Bill C-236 really took the time to study the issue, they would also find that there have been a number of appeals of the four year minimum sentences over the past two years. All of them have been upheld on appeal as appropriate sentencing, expressing the will of parliament. They also express the will of the Canadian people, 82% of whom support this legislation, as I mentioned.
The licensing of firearms users is one of the central features of this legislation. Under Bill C-68, only people who are responsible and have not within the past five years been convicted of Criminal Code offences, of an offence involving violence against a person or the threat of such violence, of an offence involving criminal activity or of the contravention of the Food and Drugs Act or the Narcotic Control Act are eligible for licensing.
Registration is an important component of the act. Let me remind proponents of Bill C-236 that this aspect of the legislation was recently validated by the Alberta court of appeal. People who sell guns should know to whom they are selling. If the person buying the gun has a licence, there is some reasonable assurance that the person is a law-abiding, responsible person.
Safety is an essential component, and this is why persons with licences will have completed and passed the Canadian firearm safety course and will have at least the basics in respect of the safe handling and use of firearms.
Many of the lost or stolen firearms eventually come to the attention of the police. A system of registration will assist the police in returning these firearms to their rightful owners.
Since licensed users will have shown they were not involved in criminal activity and are otherwise responsible, and since guns will be registered, the police will have an invaluable tool to assist them in their fight against crime.
Opponents of the legislation contend that criminals will not register guns. However, the licensing and registration provisions will assist the police by providing them with additional tools to charge criminals and to fight organized crime.
Many guns come to Canada from the United States. The attitude in the United States with respect to guns is significantly different from that in Canada. The illegal movement of firearms into Canada is a problem of considerable magnitude and we recognize that. The registration system will register guns coming into and leaving Canada and the movement of those guns within the country.
Illegal shipments will be easier to stop. Customs officers will be able to identify shipments against the registration database.