—something the Reform members clearly lack this morning—in order to clearly grasp the issue as a whole.
It must be recognized that in proposing the repeal of the Firearms Act the hon. member appears to wish to defend a legitimate right, the right to unrestricted right of ownership. The importance of that right cannot be overemphasized. Enjoyment of property is a fundamental right, and one that is protected by a number of important legal instruments.
In Quebec, for example, section 8 of the charter of rights and freedoms recognizes the following: “No one may enter upon the property of another or take anything therefrom without his express or implied consent”. The protection of right of ownership is nothing new.
There is a common law principle four centuries old and well entrenched in law, which states “a man's home is his castle”. Therefore, one cannot intrude on someone else's property with impunity, without incurring the anger of his fellow men. However, it would be against good citizenship to contend that our rights can be exercized irrespective of the common good.
Gun use cannot be viewed from a strictly personal point of view. Any argument solely based on individual property rights would just not fly. Living in a community necessitates compromises and, sadly perhaps, gun registration is one of these compromises, these reasonable measures to ensure our collective safety.
Living in society requires limitations on the exercise of our rights. These limitations are justified when public interest is at stake. Combating crime is certainly a collective concern. Rights may legitimately be limited when the safety of our fellow citizens is the basis for the proposed measures. On the face of it, the firearms legislation met that criterion.
As lawmakers, we could legitimately pass legislation for greater firearms control. We had to do it to ensure the safety of our children and the people around us.
Let us not fool ourselves: firearms are not like any other property, firearms can kill. In many cases, firearms are manufactured for a specific purpose: to harm or even to kill. That is not insignificant. Few if any people will argue with the fact that, even in the hands of conscientious individuals like police officers or hunters, firearms have all the makings of dangerous and potentially lethal weapons.
Out of respect for the victims of the misuse of firearms, we had to do what was necessary. As legislators, we had to approach this issue responsibly.
I have no doubt that, deep down, the Reform Party member is, as I am, very concerned about the safety of his fellow citizens. But suggesting that the Firearms Act be repealed is taking this concern much too far. There is no denying—and I am choosing my words carefully here—that the legislation has a number of flaws, but this does not mean it should be repealed.
One flaw is undoubtedly the fact that the Liberal government is moving much too quickly, criminalizing something that should not be criminalized, in order to look good or cover up its failure to give the public what it wants.
The government's bill is poorly drafted, costly and unenforceable, and the government has failed to build a consensus among the main groups of firearms users, particularly hunters and suppliers, who are fiercely opposed to it.
Nonetheless, it is very important to remember that a gun control bill is primarily intended to reduce crime and bring about a drop in the number of accidents caused by the mishandling of firearms. It is thus possible to be in favour of gun control but to question certain important aspects of the legislation, the unfortunate effects of which could have been avoided. That is the position in which I find myself.
However, the Reform Party member questions the very legitimacy of the Firearms Act, and that is where he loses me. Repeal is not the same as improvement.
By suggesting that this legislation simply be scrapped, the member is closing the door to any constructive discussion that might lead to a workable consensus benefiting everyone.
In the circumstances, it will come as no surprise to anyone that I have great difficulty supporting such a bill.