moved that Bill C-391, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (repeal of long-gun registry), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the House on my private members' bill, Bill C-391, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (repeal of long-gun registry).
Bill C-391 is a clear and straightforward bill that would bring an end to the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry. My bill would bring an end to an era of targeting law-abiding citizens who legally own firearms in Canada, and I believe it would help us to refocus much-needed resources, energy and effort onto tackling crime in Canada.
I know full well that gun-crime prevention is an important issue to all members in this House and to all Canadians. We should never forget the tragedies that have resulted from the commission of gun crimes in Canada, and the pain and the heartache felt by victims of gun crime and their families. Victims are so often forgotten, and none of us in this House would want to do anything that would compromise the safety or the security of Canadians or create even more victims of gun violence.
As a mother and a member of Parliament who represents thousands of families in my riding, I believe that ending gang violence, drug crime and domestic violence in order to see our communities be safer and whole should be a priority. It is something I do not take lightly. That is why if I believed that the long gun registry would help reduce crime or make our streets even a little bit safer, I would be the first one to stand up and support it.
Sadly, the long gun registry is doing nothing to end gun crime. It is doing nothing to protect our communities, and it is doing nothing to help police officers do their job. That is why I cannot support it, and I believe the long gun registry must end. That is why I have introduced Bill C-391.
There are numerous reasons why the long-gun registry needs to end and why members from both sides of this House need to represent their constituents' wishes as well as make use of their own good judgment as members of Parliament to help us end the long gun registry once and for all.
We know that criminals do not register firearms. They do not obey laws. In fact criminals scoff at our laws and at the police officers who enforce them. We know criminals are not registering their firearms before they use them, and to suggest that they do is not only ridiculous but it is reckless and dangerous.
We see proof of this day after day. We see front-line police officers fighting gun crime on the streets, while the criminals they are up against are using handguns, not registered long guns. In some jurisdictions handguns are used in 97% of the crimes, and the majority of those handguns are smuggled across the border into Canada illegally.
In fact 93% of gun crimes in the last eight years have been committed with illegal guns and unregistered guns. That is a staggering statistic and one that flies in the face of any argument supporting the long-gun registry. That is also why so many front-line police officers support ending the long gun registry. They recognize that this registry goes after the wrong group of people.
Police officers would rather see time, money and resources going into apprehending criminals who smuggle handguns and the individuals who use them for committing crimes rather than being spent on registering firearms legally owned and operated by law-abiding citizens.
I want to acknowledge and thank the Saskatoon Police Association and the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers for having the courage and the leadership, for speaking out in support of Bill C-391, and for supporting ending the long-gun registry.
The support of front-line police officers across this country is vital, not only to ending the long-gun registry but also to refocusing our attention on criminals and criminal behaviour. Their support is very important because front-line police officers are not sitting behind a desk trying to score political points or gain favour. They are on the streets dealing with dangerous criminals every hour of every day, and we need to listen to what they are saying about tackling crime in Canada.
When the long gun registry was introduced 14 years ago, Canadians were told the cost would be in the range of $1 million. We now know that the cost has ballooned to almost $2 billion, and we can be certain that costs will continue to grow. As the Auditor General said in 2006, it is impossible to tell where the ceiling of those costs will be because so many of them are hidden.
We can only imagine the ways that $2 billion could have helped to fight crime in Canada and could have helped those who are at risk for getting involved in criminal activity. We can only imagine how many officers could have been trained, equipped and on our streets right now. We can only imagine how many programs could have been developed and how much support could have been provided to both families and kids who are looking to belong and instead find themselves involved in drugs and gangs. We can only imagine how many better uses could have been made of $2 billion, which instead has gone into this useless and dysfunctional registry.
However, there is another cost borne by law-abiding citizens in this country. That cost is not only in dollars and cents but is the high cost borne by farmers, hunters, sport shooters and other firearms owners in being called criminals if they do not comply with this nonsensical regulatory regime. Not only that, but they are treated as suspect, as second-class citizens, their only crime being that they legally own and operate a firearm.
Just last week we heard that the personal and private information of firearms owners across Canada, which came from the registry, was passed on to a polling company without the permission of those individuals and without the authorization of the minister.
This is absolutely wrong and a complete misuse of the national registry information. The release of this private information has undermined and compromised the safety of these law-abiding gun owners, and I believe that it compromises the safety of all Canadians.
Many opponents of the long gun registry have expressed deep concern over the years about information like this getting into the wrong hands and the registry becoming a shopping list for thieves and gangsters instead of a tool to protect Canadians. This recent breach of privacy shows why these fears exist and why they are very real. It is yet another compelling reason to end the long gun registry.
What did Canadians get? What benefit are they receiving from the long gun registry? Nothing, absolutely nothing. We know that Canadians have put their trust in this government in large part because of our commitment to actually get tough on crime and to make our streets and communities safer. We have been doing that, and we continue to do so with legislation that gives police and judges real tools to apprehend criminals and keep them off of our streets.
Tackling the illegal use of firearms is an important mandate of our government's public safety agenda. We recently introduced longer mandatory prison sentences for gun crimes and tough new rules on bail for serious weapon-related crimes. Our government has also put more police on the street to fight crimes.
That is why instead of defending the ineffective long-gun registry, the opposition needs to stop stalling and hindering these important pieces of legislation, which our government has introduced, so that we can pass them and see them become law.
I am proud of what this government is doing, and I know the residents of the riding which I am so honoured to represent, the riding of Portage—Lisgar, support our stand and our action on crime. They want to see us continue as do the vast majority of Canadians. We can no longer settle for the false sense of security that the expensive long-gun registry gives.
As a member of Parliament I will never take lightly our responsibility as the governing body of Canada to approach the problem of gun crime. I believe we need to do so with intelligence, sophistication and the best technology, but we also need to do so with a healthy dose of common sense.
In order to do that, we need to look past that initial assumption that all problems can be solved with more of the same thing: another registry, another bureaucracy and another bundle of red tape, because as we have seen to this point, it is not working.
The Auditor General in her 2002 report condemned the long-gun registry as being inefficient and wasteful and as containing data that is unreliable. The Auditor General also stated that there is no evidence that the registry helps reduce crime.
In 2003 only twice was a registered long gun used in a homicide. From 1997 to 2004 there were nine times in total. In each one of these cases the registry did nothing to stop the crime. Obviously we would like to see that statistic at zero for any homicide, whether the gun used was registered or not.
However, these statistics prove what law enforcement is telling us, what the Auditor General has told us, and what Canadians know to be true. The long gun registry is a waste, it benefits no one, and it needs to end.
My legislation would repeal the requirements for individuals and businesses to register non-restricted long guns. What my bill does not do is change the licence requirements and the process for any individual who wants to own a firearm. Anyone wishing to own a firearm, including long guns, will still be required to complete a full safety course. Individuals will still be required to have a full police background check and any individual with a history of violence, mental illness, domestic violence or any kind of criminal or risky behaviour will be denied a licence and will not be allowed to own a firearm. This is a significant point for Canadians to know. My bill only ends the long gun registry. It will not end the licensing process.
Licensing is very important to Canadians because it provides the necessary steps to ensure that firearms do not get into the hands of the individuals who should never have them and of course, police officers will have immediate access to all of this information so they will be able to tell who has a licence to own a firearm and where they live. Furthermore, a registry will stay in place for prohibited and restricted firearms such as handguns.
I have received thousands of signatures from Canadians across the country. I have received letters, phone calls and emails. I believe many members of Parliament from both sides of the House have also been receiving the same communication proving it is the will of the people to get rid of the long gun registry. It is time that we listened to Canadians.
I want to thank my colleagues from across the floor from Thunder Bay—Superior North and from Thunder Bay—Rainy River for all of their support and their courage in regard to Bill C-391. I also want to thank the member for Yorkton—Melville for his assistance and his hard work on this issue in the past.
Many opposition members have stated publicly they could support legislation that is limited to ending the long gun registry. That is exactly what Bill C-391 does. It ends the long gun registry, nothing more and nothing less. I challenge each one of these opposition members of Parliament to stand up for what their constituents want and what they believe is in the best interests of Canadians, and support this bill.
I also want to challenge and encourage the leader of the Liberal Party and the leader of the NDP to allow their members to vote freely on the bill. We are all being watched and we will all be judged on how we handle the issue of the long gun registry, an issue that affects Canadians from every region of this country. I am asking for the support of all members of Parliament to pass Bill C-391 and to work together to eliminate the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. Let us take this opportunity to refocus on tackling real crime in Canada. We need to do this to improve the lives, the safety and the well-being of Canadians for the benefit of all Canadians.