Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand today to speak to Bill C-391.
Fourteen years ago the biggest boondoggle, I believe, in the history of Canada started. Thanks to the 14 or 15 years of work by the member for Yorkton—Melville and with the culmination with Bill C-391 brought forward by the member for Portage—Lisgar, we finally will correct something that has been an anvil around the necks of the taxpayers of the country for 14 to 15 years.
The member across the way and some of her colleagues always embellish figures. If they would even talk about something close, we might slightly believe them, but the figures are so far out that it is just beyond imagination. There is absolutely no evidence that the firearms registration has played any role in the reduction of crime.
Domestic firearm deaths were declining at the same rate prior to the implementation of the Firearms Act in 2001, as after, not only in Canada but in the United States as well. What may have been a factor was the vastly increased screening provided by the licensing system. Although that is still unproven, the licensing system has had a significant impact in denying legal firearms to those who should not have them.
While each incident of domestic homicide is very tragic, spousal homicide with a long gun, thankfully, remains a very rare crime in Canada. We will as a government, however, continue our efforts to ensure the increased safety of all Canadians.
That is why Bill C-391 does not change anything in the licensing system. Licensing of the individual is the key to identifying potential threats and taking appropriate action. We have already made considerable effort to significantly expand the screening process for new licences and those changes are in place and working effectively.
The registration of the individual firearm has never been a significant factor in the prevention of violent acts, domestic or otherwise. A good example of that is Canada has had one of the toughest handgun laws in the world since the mid-1930s and it does not eliminate crime or even reduce it to a fair extent.
However, this has nothing to do with that. We have no intention of taking away the handgun registry. Instead, we should take the money out of this wasteful long gun registry and put it toward trying to stop the smuggling of illegal guns coming in from the U.S. and other countries around the world. That is where we need to put our resources.
Another thing the opposition always likes to touch on are all the hits on the gun registry on a daily basis. The RCMP claims there have been 10,288 hits per day in 2009, but only 20 of them deal with registration inquiries of all types, non-restricted, restricted and prohibited. That comes out of the Canada Firearms Centre. All other information inquiries will still be available to police as they are from the licensing database. As well, only the non-restricted registration inquiries will be absent. Handguns and prohibited firearms will still be available.
I have a brother-in-law who has served on the police force in Toronto for quite a few years and is now with the Kitchener-Waterloo force. I have not asked only him this question but many police officers because a lot of them are friends of mine. If they were to get a complaint on a domestic incident, they checked the registry and found there were no guns in that house, would they be expected to leave their guns in the car expecting there to be no guns in the house? Of course they would not. They have to treat every instance as if there could be. The gun registry does absolutely nothing.
Whenever police officers access a Canadian Police Information Centre for whatever reason, such as for a simple address check, an automatic hit is generated even though we all know the information has nothing to do with it. Those members are fudging the numbers and doing it deliberately. I am sure they do not honestly believe it.
The Toronto Police Service, which I mentioned, has 5,000 officers. The Vancouver police force has 1,400 officers. Ottawa, where we all work out of on a fairly regular basis, has 1,050 officers. The B.C. RCMP has more than 5,000 officers. Not counting all the other police forces in between, when we add them all up, we can just imagine how those members come up with this number. However, the bottom line is only 20 out of all those hits actually mean anything.
Additionally, every legal purchase of a firearm generates three administrative hits to the registry, for the buyer, for the seller and for the firearm itself. These changes to the computer records are conducted by police agencies and are counted in the totals. Given the seven million firearms registered in the system, legal transfers and computer-generated inquiries account for the majority of hits. Clearly, a hit on the registry does denote actual investigative use. It is pretty clear to me.
Our government has consistently made the safety of Canadians a higher priority than any government in history. Elimination of the registration requirement for non-restricted firearms, and that is the key, while retaining strength in the licensing system, will have no negative impact on public safety.
Over the years that I have had the pleasure of working out of the House, I have done a number of polls in my riding, through my householders, comments that feed back and whatnot. Consistently, those surveys have come in between 84% and 95% in favour of getting rid of the gun registry. The most recent one done in my riding by a radio station last spring, May or June, came back at 92%. It remains very strong. That is not going to change.
However, the one thing I think I put a lot of weight on is what police officers and police chiefs say, and I have talked to a lot of them. A local police chief in my riding, from the biggest urban centre there, said to me “Get rid of the gun registry. It's an anvil around our necks”, meaning his force. I have never yet met a police officer in my riding who will tell me that the gun registry helps him in his job.
I had something sent to me. This is from an RCMP corporal who requested to remain anonymous for fear that his statements might affect his job. I can understand that and I will honour that. However, he offered this assessment:
I certainly do not understand how the CAPC can claim that the registry is a useful tool. I think their doing so is more a statement of how long it has been since any of them has been in touch with front-line policing. I have never once in my career found the registry to be in solving a single crime, and can say without a doubt that I have never witnessed the long-gun registry prevent a crime.
I have another comment from a Mr. Robert H.D. Head, assistant commissioner now retired, of the RCMP. He states:
As a life member of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, I have watched with interest their endorsement of the long-gun firearms registry since it was first introduced in the House of Commons as Bill C-68. At that time, it was reported that Bill C-68 was wholeheartedly endorsed by the CACP. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Those are his words. He goes on to say:
Although the Chiefs did have majority support, it was far from “wholehearted”. At that time and apparently continuing to this day, their endorsement seems more political than practical. Members of Parliament from all political parties have an opportunity to right a wrong and support Bill C-391. Let us all hope that they have the intestinal fortitude to act accordingly.
I certainly will be supporting the bill. It is time to quit the charade and quit wasting Canadian tax dollars. Let us take this money we will save, and put it in to stopping the smuggling of guns and whatnot, especially in our large urban centres. I realize there is a problem with illegal handguns there. Let us do that. At least we will get some benefit out of our dollars.