That, in the opinion of the House, the government should not extend the amnesty on gun control requirements set to expire on May 16, 2009, and should maintain the registration of all types of firearms in its entirety.
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like everyone listening to understand why we are presenting this motion. It is precisely because the government has three times extended the amnesty which allows people not to register long guns, while according to the law all firearms had to be registered.
No doubt the reaction from the other side of the floor will be that this was set out in the law under the Liberals. That is true, but at that time there was a good reason for amending the act in that way. So many people were registering their firearms at the last minute that the computer system was incapable of handling them all, and this would have meant that the people would have ended up registering too late. A decision was therefore made on the possibility of an amnesty to allow people who registered after the deadlines not to be guilty of any offence. That was the purpose of the amnesty.
When the Conservatives came to power, however, they systematically extended this amnesty when it no longer had any reason to exist. The amnesty serves just one purpose, therefore: to allow people unwilling to register their long guns to remain legal. So there is a negative outcome: the registry itself becomes less and less reliable, because there are more and more unregistered guns. By so doing, the Conservatives are hoping that the police forces,—a large majority of whom are the first to support the registry—will finally conclude that this registry is not reliable, and that will become grounds for abolishing it.
Why do we want to register guns? Because there is a direct relationship between gun control and homicide rates. There is, for example, a huge difference between the homicide rates in the United States and in Canada; the U.S. rate is three times the Canadian.
Incidentally, the U.S. homicide rate is by far the highest of nearly all western countries. No doubt it is higher in some other countries, but it is top ranking among the countries most like ourselves.
Why? Ask any intelligent American why there are so many homicides in that country, and he will tell you that the main reason is that it is so much easier to obtain firearms there. In Canada, we have had gun control for a long time, well before the registry was created. That makes us a different kind of society.
In my opinion, anyone who has travelled to the United States will have noticed that the gun culture there is not at all like the gun culture in Canada. I believe that most Canadians consider guns to be dangerous objects that should only be in the hands of responsible owners. That is the basic goal of the gun registry. And I think that most of the Conservative members support that. Guns should only be in the hands of responsible owners.
Obviously, gun control will not prevent all crimes committed with firearms. Such measures might not even have prevented certain tragic events that have hit our society hard, such as massacres. The important thing is for us to realize that there is a relationship among gun culture, lack of gun control and the homicide rate, and that is why the registry is a good thing.
The same could be said about drug laws. Drug laws do not prevent addicts from acquiring drugs illegally.
Does anyone think that we should therefore get rid of laws that prohibit the use of drugs? We do not want Canada to become like the United States when it comes to the prevalence of guns. We often hear people say that this will not prevent thieves from getting guns, but I want to point out that they are not the ones doing most of the killing anyway. People kill for all kinds of reasons: hatred, anger, vengeance. In one case, a lawyer killed his associate to collect the life insurance policy. People kill because they have a vested interest. In the United States, people in the middle of a fight can go out, get themselves guns, and come back to the scene of the fight. In Canada, people cannot do that. That is one thing that makes our two countries different. Guns are instruments of death. They are dangerous. The state should take charge, just as it takes charge when it comes to other dangerous objects, such as cars.
Guns are also the quickest and easiest way to kill, the one that requires the least effort. With the flick of a finger, someone’s life can be endangered or he can be killed. There is no greater way to intimidate than to threaten with a gun. All firearms are inherently dangerous, therefore, and should all be subject to controls.
Our resolution deals with the consequences of the amnesty because the less guns are registered, the more uncontrolled guns there will be and the less reliable the registry will become. It is also necessary to have a firearms registry in order for certain provisions of the act to be fully enforced—an act that was passed by the House and is still supported by many of the members here. For example, a street gang member who manages to acquire a firearms licence could be prevented from buying several guns to distribute or sell to fellow gang members who could not obtain a licence.
There are also some particular uses. For example, if there is an outstanding court order forbidding someone to own a gun, the authorities can check whether he has any and how many they should go and collect from him to ensure that the order is enforced. Some provisions of the act enable the police to take action, usually in marital situations that have turned ugly, for example when a woman fears for her safety because her husband’s attitude has changed completely over time and she is afraid he will turn his guns on her some day. That has already happened in Montreal. The Fraternité des policiers et des policières de Montréal told us about a case where the woman knew her husband had guns. She was afraid he would use them against her in one of his numerous rages, but she did not know how many he had. The police looked at the registry. Frankly, he had an entire arsenal. I have forgotten exactly how many, but it was more than 50 guns and ammunition of all kinds. Once they had obtained a court order, the police knew what to go and get. They could leave the woman’s house knowing all the guns had been removed.
Other provisions of the act are very effective at preventing suicide attempts. Seventy-five percent of the gun deaths in Canada are suicides. If a family sees a family member being overcome by depression and is afraid that he will use his hunting gun or another firearm but does not know what to do, the family can seek a court order.
The court order is issued and, again, the registry allows us to ensure that any firearms are indeed taken away from that person. That is why suicide prevention organizations are the strongest supporters of this legislation and of the fact that it covers all types of firearms. It is also important for planning police operations. That does not mean that police operations will never again end tragically, as it happens each year unfortunately, but it will allow the police to take precautions. All police forces want their officers to know how many firearms there are in a home when they respond to a call.
It must also be understood that the registry drew a lot of criticism. It was said to be a waste of money. I admit that establishing the gun registry was very costly. I will even admit that it was a fiscal scandal. But it is there and it is used every day. It would truly be a waste not to use it fully.
Would anyone think of destroying a bridge that cost 10 times the initial estimate, even if a scandal were involved, to build another one at a lower cost? Of course not. Now that we have it, let us use it.
What is the current cost of gun registration?
The RCMP tells us that it spent $9.1 million last year to register all firearms. It estimates that two thirds of that amount was for the registration of hunting rifles. So this means that it is now costing us $6 million to benefit fully from the law that was passed by this Parliament. No one can call that a waste. I do not want to go overboard here, but how much is a human life worth? I think that $6 million in the federal budget is a not very much when considering the objectives it allows us to achieve.
Since 2004, it no longer costs anything for people who must register their guns, and those who did pay have been reimbursed. Where is the disadvantage? It is very easy to register one's gun. First of all, it is very easy to register it at the gun dealer at the time of purchase or at any gun dealer when a gun is purchased from a private individual. One can go to the police station or do it over the Internet. It can even be done by telephone at the time of purchase. Of course, when someone has a gun registered in their name, it is very important to transfer the registration if someone else buys the gun. This also requires a certain amount of attention. An individual will not sell their gun to just anyone, knowing that it will not be registered, in case it is misused later on. The same is true with a car. We register our vehicles and we do not entrust them to just anyone.
Obtaining a firearm licence is more complicated. That said, obtaining a licence is not the subject of this debate, but even the Conservatives are in favour of maintaining that policy. Once again, registration is necessary to ensure that guns do not fall into the wrong hands.
Now, I know we are up against some tough opposition on the ground. The National Rifle Association is one of the most powerful, well organized lobbies in the world. I know that, especially during campaigns, members are often bombarded with objections to the gun registry and much of what is said about it is simply not true.
I know that these lobbies are experts at making an impression on elected representatives, having delegations go to them and say that they voted for them in the past but will withdraw their support.
This may not be a good reason, but we too believe in polls. Even at the time of the scandal over the cost of the gun registry in 2006, a survey by a major firm—Ipsos Reid, if I am not mistaken—showed that, in Alberta, the province most hostile to gun registration, 51% of Albertans supported some form of registration for gun owners. Gun owners was the expression used in the survey. In Quebec, 76% were in favour. Understandably, a member of Parliament cannot poll his or her 85,000 constituents—that is the average number—and organizations sometimes come to us trying to scare us into voting differently on an issue.
To conclude, we all agree on maintaining this cultural difference between the United States and Canada with respect to weapons and gun control. As requested by many Americans anytime violent incidents happen, gun control legislation will have to be passed, which will apply to all firearms, even though we know that a majority of people will use them wisely and prudently. That is our goal: to have registration for all firearms the same way that there is registration for all cars.
The amnesty presented is a breach of this law, which has had such good results and is the envy of other countries. The registry must continue to be reliable for the purposes of preparing police operations and applying all court orders pertaining to firearms. I spoke about how the registry could be used to prevent domestic violence before it results in death. It can also be an effective tool for suicide prevention. The registry should continue to cover all firearms in order to make it more difficult for petty thugs to obtain guns from third parties.
We must also realize that the reason given the first time for such an amnesty no longer exists. Currently, there is no backlog in the computer registration of firearms and we do not believe that there would be one if the amnesty were not renewed. This reason, if given, borders on hypocrisy.
I can understand that MPs wish to be re-elected. There is something noble about that, because it means they wish to express the will of their constituents. However, we should not be the victims of lobbies. For my part, even if 75% of my constituents were against the gun registry, I would continue to support it. My professional experience with crime—as a young crown attorney, criminal lawyer, minister of public safety and minister of justice—has shown me that comprehensive gun control is one crime prevention measure that works.