moved that Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to begin debate on Bill C-19, Ending the Long-gun Registry Act.
This is a great day for Conservatives across Canada. It marks the beginning of the end for a nearly 17-year-old legacy of waste thrust upon Canadians by the previous Liberal government. I know I speak for many of my colleagues when I say that this has been a very long time in coming. For years, many of us have stood in this place even when we were on the other side and took a stand for law-abiding hunters, farmers and sports shooters.
We repeated time and again that the long gun registry was wasteful. It was ineffective. It did nothing to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Yet still the parties that now form the opposition stood against us and against the law-abiding Canadians for whom we were standing.
It is true that occasionally we found allies across the aisle as long as they could be assured that their vote against the registry would not actually result in the registry being dismantled. Those individuals ended up listening to their Ottawa bosses rather than standing up for the voices of their constituents. However, we are here today to look forward, not back.
On May 2, Canadians gave our Conservative government a strong mandate to end the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry once and for all, and this is exactly what we are doing.
I would like to take a moment to discuss that mandate. From personal experience, I have received literally thousands of phone calls and letters advocating a quick end to the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. I know from talking to my colleagues that they have had similar experiences.
Conservative candidates from across Canada stood at doorsteps and spoke to their constituents. Time after time they heard people say “When are you going to end the long gun registry?” Specifically, the members for Yukon, Nipissing—Timiskaming, Sault Ste. Marie and Ajax—Pickering heard from their constituents how important it was to elect a member of Parliament who stood against the wasteful long gun registry.
There have been many discussions over what the bill would do and what it would not do. What it would do is ensure that law-abiding hunters, farmers and sports shooters would no longer be treated like criminals simply because they owned a rifle or a shotgun. What the bill would not do is eliminate effective gun control.
The fact is, and this is no secret, the Conservative government is committed to keeping our streets and communities safe. We have brought in measures to do just that. Specifically, we have brought in mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes and targeted those who engage in dangerous criminal activity such as drive-by shootings. We have also funded numerous programs through the national crime prevention strategy that helps stop gun crime before it happens. That is how we keep Canadians safe, through tough and effective laws and smart prevention programs, not through needlessly increasing red tape and targeting law-abiding Canadians.
The bill would also provide for the destruction of records held by the Government of Canada relating to the registration of long guns and it would only make since. If we are getting rid of the registry, we get rid of the registry. The registry is comprised of information. We are getting rid of that registry.
The reason for this is the simple fact that we do not want to assist anyone to set up a back door registry. As we heard from the NDP members during question period, they have clearly indicated that they will reimpose a long gun registry should they ever have the opportunity to enter into a coalition with the Liberals on that fact.
The reason for this being unacceptable is that it focuses on law-abiding Canadians who should not have been targeted. This information should never have been collected in the first place. To maintain the registry and the information is a complete violation of law and the principles of privacy that all of us in the House respect.
I would like to bring this back down to a fundamental truth. In rural Canada oftentimes long guns are simply a part of everyday life. Whether it is owning hunting rifles for sport or using a shotgun as an everyday tool on the farm to protect their crops or livestock, there are a plethora of reasons that law-abiding Canadians would own long guns.
As we have said consistently, long guns are not the weapon of choice for criminals. Primarily criminals use hand guns or other restricted or prohibited firearms, the registration requirement of which is not affected by the bill here today. I would like to emphasize that.
The current system imposed by the previous Liberal government and supported by the NDP opposition is blissfully ignorant of this fundamental fact. The justice minister who ushered in this proposal, Allan Rock even went so far as to state that it was his firm belief that the only people in Canada who should have firearms are police officers and the military. That is a frightening statement and our government completely disagrees with this premise.
Frankly, the fact is there is no evidence that the long gun registry has prevented a single crime in Canada. Let us think logically about this for a moment. Is it reasonable to assume that thugs and criminals who have no problem committing armed robbery or other serious offences with firearms will sit down and fill out the paperwork? The response is obvious and it is a resounding no.
Rather than preventing criminals, the long gun registry has actually created criminals. The opposition has frequently used the analogy of registering cars and boats or other everyday items. This is simply not an accurate analogy. If people let their car registration lapse, they do not contravene the Criminal Code. They do not receive a criminal record. More important, they do not face the prospect of serious jail time. This is the case with the long gun registry. Again, reasonable people find this unacceptable.
As I stated earlier, one of our government's main priorities is keeping our streets and communities safe. I note the Canadian Police Association just came out with a statement saying that our government has received a mandate from the people on May 2 and that it is moving past the issue of the long gun registry. It wants to work with us on issues like the ingredients of Bill C-10 and the lawful access legislation. We, in fact, are committed to working with the police in that respect.
Some proponents of the long gun registry maintain that eliminating it will cause anarchy. This, again, is simply hyperbole and is not the case.
First and foremost, all individuals will still be required to be licensed to possess a firearm. We are committed to ensuring that only responsible and qualified individuals own firearms. Even after the passage of Bill C-19, to obtain a licence, individuals must still be able to pass the required Canadian firearms safety course and comply with safe storage and transportation requirements. They will also need to pass a background check, including a review of the individual's criminal record, any history of treatment for mental illness associated with violence, or history of violent behaviour against other people.
There will still be proper controls over restricted and prohibited firearms. We will continue to ensure that they are registered, as we have for many years.
In essence, Bill C-19 retains licensing requirements for all gun owners, while doing away with the need for honest, law-abiding citizens to register their non-restricted rifles or shotguns, a requirement that is unfair and ineffective. Let us be clear. Canadian firearms owners are law-abiding members of our society and deserve to be treated as such. Burdening these citizens with unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy at the risk of a criminal record is not only unreasonable, it is unfair and it is wrong.
The NDP members said they had a solution. They said they would not make it a criminal record but rather an offence. If it is no longer a criminal record it is then outside the area of criminal law which makes it unconstitutional. Although they realized that the bill would be unconstitutional, they were trying to foist it on Canadians in order to save this unfair and unreasonable legislation.
We have heard loud and clear from Canadians who own long guns that they want the long gun registry eliminated. They want to ensure that their private information is not distributed to others. That is what is proposed under Bill C-19.
We are not proposing a fundamental overhaul or scrapping of the entire licensing or registration system. Rather, we are proposing changes that do away with the need to register legally acquired or used rifles and shotguns, many of which are owned by Canadians living in rural or remote areas. Put simply, we are scrapping the long gun registry just as we said we would do.
We need a system with effective measures in place to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, not law-abiding hunters, farmers or sport shooters. That means we need to put more police on our streets. The government has acted on that. That also means our laws must be tough and effective. Again, the government has acted on that. The government is determined to ensure that law-abiding citizens are treated fairly while it is combatting the criminal use of firearms and getting tough on crime.
The bill before us today is about making sure that we invest in initiatives that work. It is about making sure we continue to protect the safety and security of Canadians without punishing people unnecessarily because of where they live or how they make a living.
We must ask ourselves how laws that penalize law-abiding citizens on farms or in the north can help reduce gun crimes in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg or Vancouver. The answer is clear: they do not.
When we hear statements made by members of the NDP, such as “Guns gotta go, folks. I'm for a full-out ban on these things” from the member for Davenport or “To destroy the gun registry is to destroy lives” from the NDP leadership contestant from Outremont, it is clear that there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the issues at play in a country like Canada.
I will also touch on the issue of cost. When the idea of registering long guns was first discussed, the Liberals said it would be a simple process and would cost no more than $2 million. I remember Allan Rock coming into my office when I was the attorney general of Manitoba telling me that Manitoba must enforce the long gun registry. I told him that Manitoba would not enforce the long gun registry because it was a bottomless pit and that it was a law the federal government would have to enforce. He threatened to sue me.
Allan Rock is long gone and the lawsuit never materialized. Unfortunately, the effects of what Allan Rock and the Liberals did, which is now supported fully by the NDP, continues on. That is no understatement. The CBC, the state broadcaster, reported that the costs have ballooned to over $2 billion. That is unacceptable.
From 1995 to 2011, the money was spent on a program that did not save one life. Imagine how many police officers that money could have paid for or how many crime prevention programs it could have funded. The legacy of waste is shameful. I am proud to be part of the Conservative government that is putting an end to this wasteful and ineffective boondoggle.
As my time for debate is coming to an end I will sum up my arguments as to why all members should support this important legislation.
First, the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry does not do a single thing to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Front-line police officers, notably with the Canadian Police Association, agree with the government that the best approach to combatting gun crime is to ensure tough and effective sentences.
Second, the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry targets law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters. Those people who own guns as a part of their rural way of life or simply as firearms enthusiasts are treated like criminals because of this unbalanced policy. As a government and as a country we must ensure that the measures we take on important public safety issues are effective.
Third, the costs associated with this program are inexcusable. Two billion dollars to implement a policy that does not do a whit to protect Canadians is unacceptable and must not continue.
Most important, Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to end the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. Canadians expect no less of us than to implement this key plank of our platform without delay.
As I stated earlier, several former Liberal and NDP members are no longer in this place because they listened to their Ottawa bosses instead of their constituents.
I call on all members opposite to listen to Canadians and pass this important legislation quickly.
I will specifically mention the members for Timmins—James Bay, Welland, Sackville—Eastern Shore, Sudbury, Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, Nickel Belt, Malpeque, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor and Avalon. They promised their constituents that they would oppose the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. I hope they will live up to their word.
I will reiterate the fact that Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to end this wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. That is exactly what the bill will do.