Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today and speak in support of Bill C-19, Ending the Long-gun Registry Act.
On Tuesday, the hon. Minister of Public Safety tabled in the House this very important legislation that would end the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry once and for all. This was, and will be, an important moment for so many Canadians across the country who have been waiting so very long to see this happen.
It is also an important moment for every government member who has fought so hard against opposition blocking, obstruction, games, false accusations, and so many other sad attempts to stop ending the long gun registry. I am so proud of our government members, my fellow members of caucus in the Conservative Party, who have stood up long and hard against some of these terrible tactics in their commitment to their constituents to end the long gun registry.
I am especially thankful to our police caucus. We are very proud to have at least seven, I think now 11, members of the police force, either active or former police officers, as part of our caucus. They have also stood with us, shoulder to shoulder, in ending the long gun registry.
Today, I stand here proudly, a Conservative member of Parliament, representing the riding of Portage—Lisgar, together with my fellow colleagues to see this bill passed and to see the long gun registry finally ended.
With this new legislation before the House we will all have the chance to do the right thing and vote against the long gun registry. In the past, we have seen members on the opposite side who have made very strong commitments to their constituents, publicly, in some of their ten percenters, some of the mailings they have sent out and in newspaper articles. There are members across the way who have made firm commitments to their constituents to vote against the long gun registry, and I trust that when this bill comes forward for a vote that they will honour those commitments to their constituents, do the right thing, and vote to scrap the long gun registry.
Like my colleague, the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville, I do have a deep and very strong interest in this issue. I want to say why this is an important issue to me.
I am not a gun owner, I am not a hunter, and I have only shot a gun a few times. However, I grew up in a rural community in Manitoba where guns were used by the people that I lived with. I live in a very strong Mennonite area and there are a lot of farmers and people who grow crops and have livestock. I know it might be difficult for people who live in large cities to relate to, I can understand that, but I want to describe where I live. In my neck of the woods, if I walk onto a farmyard and see a farmer carrying a shotgun or rifle, I would have no fear of that individual at all because he may be trying to shoot a rodent or a skunk. He may need it because there are coyotes attacking his livestock. He needs it as a tool. Just like many of us in this room use our BlackBerrys every single day as a tool, there are farmers who use it as a tool to do their work.
I grew up in an area like this. I grew up where individuals went hunting. They used guns for sport shooting. A lot of my brothers and my cousins loved to go shooting. It was a great activity for them to do with other family members.
When I decided to run for office and I had the honour of becoming the member of Parliament for Portage--Lisgar, ending the long gun registry was one of the top issues that my constituents brought forward to me. They saw the incredible waste of money, almost $2 billion, that was spent on the registry and they knew that they were being blamed, as rural Canadians, for the horrific crimes and the horrific tragedies that were happening in big cities. It was wrong then when it was introduced, and it is wrong today.
I am very proud to stand up for gun owners in Canada. I am proud to stand up for sport shooters and hunters, and I am proud to stand up for taxpayers today to speak against the long gun registry and in support of Bill C-19.
Throughout the debate on ending the long gun registry there have been so many myths that have been perpetuated. I am going to take a few moments to go through some of the key ones and try to bring some clarity on these issues.
First, there is the myth, and it has been talked about a bit today, that police officers use the registry and the numbers have gone from 8,000 times a day all the way to, I am hearing now, 16,000 times a day. The myth is that they are using it in their tactical decisions, when they go on calls, and to actually look at how to approach a home or a situation.
Sometimes the facts do not always tell the truth of a situation. The fact might be that the long gun registry in the Canadian firearms database is touched or is hit 8,000 to 10,000 or 11,000 times a day. However, the truth is officers are not purposefully going in and checking the information, as the hon. member, who is a former RCMP officer, already mentioned.
Even if a police officer pulls over a vehicle and punches in a vehicle licence plate, an automatic hit is generated on the firearms database, and many times it is generated and specific queries are looking at the name and the address of the person being searched. A specific serial number or certificate number is not being looked at, which is what is associated with the long gun registry.
To sum this up, police officers are not specifically going in. The reason they are telling us that they are not doing it on their own, and that it is only happening automatically, is they cannot count on the information contained in the databases. The long gun registry is inaccurate in that there are thousands of wrong addresses, thousands of wrong names associated with the wrong serial number of a firearm. The majority of the time, police officers find that whatever the registry says is not actually true if they go to confirm it.
These are well-trained professionals. They are not going in specifically to look at the registry. It is automatically making a hit on the registry and counting in this so-called 11,000 to 15,000 hits a day.
I want to quickly read a letter that was just passed to me. The Minister of State for Finance just received this email yesterday from a front line officer. His name is Gary. The riding is Macleod, so it is in Alberta. I will not give any further specific information.
I am a serving Policeman and have been for over 23 years. I am a front line cop whose career has been dedicated to hunting and capturing society's worst. For the past 12 years, I have worked exclusively on a big city (SWAT) Team and have arrested countless rapists, armed robbers, armed drug dealers, violent gang members, and murderers, including one who was on the FBI's 10 most wanted list.
I know very little about running a Police department, writing traffic tickets, lifting fingerprints, or investigating shop-lifters...I do know about hunting armed violent desperate men--and I do it very well.
The long gun registry does ZERO to help me do my job. 99% of frontline cops that I know feel the same way.
I have received hundreds of emails from front line police officers. I have not received one email from one police officer who said he or she wants us to keep the long gun registry. I would challenge any opposition member to show me an email from a front line officer who is on the streets arresting drug dealers, arresting violent criminals. The reason is that it does not help them. They do not use it.
Now, they have told us what they do want us to do to help them do their job. We are working very hard with our Tackling Violent Crimes Act that we passed, and other measures, and so, I do want to talk about that.
I also want to talk about another myth, and again it was discussed a bit today; that is, that the long gun registry protects women and specifically protects women against domestic violence.
I come from a family of six girls. I have daughters. I have nieces. I come from a family of a lot of very strong women, my mom being one of the strongest women that I know. I can tell members with all sincerity that if I ever thought that I was ending a process or ending a registry that would help women, I would not do this. There is no way that I could do this. There is no way I could go to sleep at night if I thought that I was taking away something that would actually protect women. That is because I have looked at the evidence as to what the registry does and what the registry does not do.
The long gun registry is not gun control. The long gun registry does nothing to stop people from getting guns who should not have guns; for example, men who are going to harm their spouse or harm their family. The registry does not stop them from getting a gun.
Let me explain what would stop them. The licensing process, of which we are strong believers. Gun owners are strong believers in the licensing process. That is where individuals will go through a background police check. They will have to take a safety course. Many times, their spouse is actually spoken to and asked, “How do you feel about your spouse getting a firearm? Are you concerned?”
I fully support that process. If we can flag it, and there are times we cannot, but if we can stop it, that is where we can stop individuals from getting guns who should not have guns. However, once they have a licence to own a firearm, actually counting their long guns, it might make those of us around here feel better. Maybe we think we are doing something but we are not doing anything by counting their guns.
There are we things we can do, like licensing. There is also a lot of things we can do regarding prevention, working with families that are going through crisis and ensuring there are women's shelters, which we have done so much work on, but counting long guns of licensed gun owners does not stop them from using them.
I would urge the opposition members, if they are not aware of all of the issues surrounding the registry, to become educated, because when they understand what the registry does and does not do, they will see that even if costs, whether it is $4 million or $100 million, it is a waste of money and a waste of resources that could be used elsewhere to help stop domestic violence and violence of all kinds.
I do want to mention very briefly that there are things that we are doing to fight violent crime in Canada. We have introduced a number of pieces of legislation. Any individual who commits a crime with a gun should receive a mandatory minimum sentence, which is exactly what we put in our tackling violent crimes legislation. Some would say that it should even be longer. Our legislation has mandatory minimum sentences of four years. If it is a gang-related gun activity, it will be five years.
I hear from some people who say that maybe we should have even longer sentences than that, but the bottom line is that, in Canada, if people commit a crime with a gun, they need to be in jail and there needs to be a minimum time that they are in jail. I am very proud that we have done that.
We have also introduced our safe streets and communities act, which is another good piece of legislation that would help us in tackling drug crime. The majority of the time, drugs, gangs and guns are completely inter-related and, sadly, when we are seeing crime in our city streets, so many times those three factors are part of it.
We have also brought in tougher bail provisions for those who use weapons in the commission of a crime. We have delivered mandatory minimum sentences for drive-by shootings and we are helping to stop crime before it happens. This includes investing in the youth gang prevention fund. Our government is very proud of that.
We have also delivered on our promise to provide more police officers across the country. Police officers come up in discussion so often and I am very happy that we have a very strong, open dialogue with the Canadian Association of Police. We talk to police chiefs across the country all the time. We meet with front-line officers who tell us that if we put someone in jail, we need to ensure they stay in jail. One of the most frustrating things for police officers is to arrest a drug dealer or arrest someone who has committed a crime with a gun and then they get out of jail before they do their time. I am very proud that we are doing that.
Ending the long gun registry is part of keeping the focus on making our streets safer, not on policies and laws that do not actually prevent crime. That is really the point we have been trying to make all of these years.
Another very interesting statistic on licensed gun owners in Canada, according to a Simon Fraser report by Professor Gary Mauser, is that if people have a licence to own a firearm in Canada, they are 50% less likely to ever commit a crime with a firearm.
It would be interesting to go around the chamber and each of us give thought to that. If there are licensed gun owners in the chamber today, they are 50% less likely to ever commit a crime with a firearm because they are law-abiding citizens. The reason the long gun registry has been so flawed is that it does so much to focus on them and to penalize them for being gun owners.
I now want to talk about the third myth that has been talked about a lot, even today it was talked about, and that is the ongoing cost to keep the long gun registry.
I think we all agree that it costs almost $2 billion to register just over seven million long guns. Right now, there are just over seven million long guns in the database, and that costs about $2 billion. We can all try to guess why. Only the Liberals would be able to tell us what was really going on during that time. We do not know. That was also during the time of some other scandals, and we are certainly concerned about where the $2 billion went.
There are at least 16 million long guns in Canada, which means that not even half of all the long guns are registered. Can members imagine the cost to register the other seven million to eight million long guns that are in the country, as well as trying to get this inaccurate information up to date? I cannot imagine, if we did not end the registry, the cost of trying to make it up to date, current and a database that could be counted on. I fear to think of what it might cost.
The Liberals said that it would cost $2 million and it cost $2 billion. Now they are throwing other figures around. We have heard $4 million. I really cannot count on any kind of Liberal or NDP figures.
As we look at the actual cost today, for example, if we look at the government estimates, it is costing about $22 million right now just for the federal government portion of the prohibited, restricted and non-prohibited, non-restricted firearms registry. That would be long guns, handguns and short guns. We know that the majority of those are the seven million long guns. We know that it is costing approximately $22 million right now.
When the Auditor General testified a few years ago, she talked a lot about hidden costs. Her estimation was probably around $70 million. From the work that we have done with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and in talking to other groups that are called upon to actually enforce the long gun registry, the municipal and provincial police who are not receiving any direct funding from any government but who must use their funding for their policing, the hidden costs that are being passed down to different agencies is huge. I would say that there is evidence that to maintain the long gun registry just as it is would probably be over $100 million a year. Then we would also have to talk about re-setting it up.
The bottom line is the cost. Some people say that it is $4 million and some say it is $100 million. I guess we could discuss it forever. We continue to stand with law-abiding citizens in saying that is money that could be spent elsewhere. I think all of us would have great examples of where it could be spent, on deterring crime, on prevention or on treatment. There are many great ways we could spend that money, other than on the long gun registry.
I am extremely pleased that the government bill includes the provision to destroy all of the records. That would have been the intent of the bill that I introduced but it was not laid out specifically. I am pleased that we were able to see it included in the bill that the government introduced.
The fact is that law-abiding gun owners should not have any of their information gathered and kept by any level of government once the long gun registry has ended. I am very pleased that we can look them in the eye and commit to them that their information will never be passed to any other level of government, any other party that would like to try to use it to create a registry, nor will not be passed to any polling group. That information will be destroyed and it will never return under our watch.
I am grateful for the men and women across this country who have stood with us, supported us, sent us emails of support and said that they will stand with us, as they have. Some of them helped us get more Conservatives elected to help get the majority in this House. I thank the men and women of Canada, hunters, farmers, sport shooters and their families who have stood with us. I am very proud that we are delivering on our commitment. We will end the long gun registry.
I call on all opposition members to look at the facts, do not look at this with emotion or political skew, and support this legislation to end the long gun registry.