Mr. Speaker, when the former minister of justice put the bill forward I appeared in front of the justice committee as a witness and took apart the then justice minister's arguments piece by piece.
First, let us argue through the issue of public safety, which my colleagues on the other side argue very vehemently in favour of in the bill. Let us look at public safety.
The question is: Will the gun registry make our streets less safe or more safe? Let us look at the three parameters: the suicide rates, the criminal use of firearms and homicides. Let us first look at suicides. The then justice minister said that suicides would go down. I can tell the House that people contemplating suicide do not get a firearms acquisition certificate, do not wait for their obligatory background checks, and do not wait six months and then buy a rifle and blow their head off. That does not happen.
On the issue of the criminal use of firearms, as my colleague mentioned, criminals, who make up the bulk of the individuals who are using long guns in the commission of an offence, do not get the firearms acquisition certificate nor do they take the course. Most of these weapons are actually smuggled in from the United States and are used to commit those offences. The problem is that in the judicial system the penalties are not being applied. Often times weapons offences are plea bargained away or are run concurrently, not consecutively. Therefore, to use a weapon in committing a criminal offence does not often result in much of a penalty.
On the issue of homicides, if we look at Statistic Canada's own facts, we know that between 1993 and 1997 the homicide rate from long guns and handguns in Canada went down. The reasons were multifactorial, but what we can clearly say is that the gun registry had absolutely nothing to do with the decline in homicides due to firearms in Canada.
If we were to look at the international experience, it would be impossible for us to find one example in the world where a gun registry has worked to decrease homicides, to decrease criminal activity or to decrease suicides.
We are as committed as members of the government to making our streets safer. When I have discussed this with members on the other side it has been asked what the price of a life is, that if we spend a billion dollars to save one life that is money spent on a worthwhile endeavour. I would argue that there is something called opportunity costs. In other words, if we put our money in A versus B we had better get more effect in A rather than in B.
The fact is that if we are going to spend a billion dollars on a gun registry are we going to save more lives putting it there or putting it into prevention, such as preventing fetal alcohol syndrome, fetal alcohol effects, ensuring that children have proper nutrition and giving the police forces the tools and the enforcement powers to go after those individuals who are using weapons in the commission of an offence?
This party is firmly on side with making our streets safer but which ever way we look at the facts, and we are arguing about the facts, this gun registry will not make our streets safer, and we have offered solutions to make our streets safer. We certainly hope the Minister of Justice will work with us to employ those methods of prevention, treatment and stronger enforcement penalties for those criminals who are using weapons in committing offences.