Mr. Speaker, when I was in the midst of my address to the House before we broke for question period, I was discussing the costs of the ongoing operation of the gun registry and saying that after all the years I have spent on this file and all of the information we have received, I was quite prepared to rely on the credibility of the RCMP and the figure its officials gave us, which was $4 million for the ongoing cost of the operation of the long gun registry. The handgun registry, the prohibited weapons registry and the licensing are of course additional costs above and beyond that, but that was the figure the RCMP gave us, and I accepted that figure.
While I am talking about the RCMP, I want to raise another issue: the effectiveness of the long gun registry. Quite frankly, I was disturbed today when I was listening to members from the government side claiming that it was totally ineffective, in particular the member who said that he was a former RCMP officer and that he believed the same thing.
That brought back to my mind the use of the long gun registry in the Mayerthorpe incident, an incident that stands as a historical tragedy in this country. We had not lost four RCMP officers in one event at any time in our history. While conducting military operations in the 1800s, the RCMP lost more officers in one battle, but this was the first time in the history of the country in over 140 years that we had four RCMP officers murdered in one event.
The perpetrator of that crime killed himself in the same incident, but we knew that he could not have committed the crime without assistance from at least one other person and perhaps more. It took the better part of a year and a half before officers were able to identify those two other men who had assisted him. They broke that case. The investigation was finally successful because they were able to use the long gun registry and were able to identify the owners of one of the guns used in those murders.
There is no recognition on the part of the government and the Conservative members of that fact. That is one example of our police forces across the country using the long gun registry in an investigation to identify culprits, bring them to trial, and ultimately achieve convictions and sentences.
Conservatives refuse to acknowledge that, and that is a scandal if one believes, as I do, in the important role that the RCMP has played historically in our country and the crucial role that our police officers play in protecting us.
That is what this registry is about. It is about protecting our police officers. It is about protecting our society as a whole. Is it perfect? Believe me, I know the failures of the system, but it is a tool that can be used and is used repeatedly by our police officers.
Conservatives stand in the House on a regular basis and accuse members of the opposition of making up facts and creating an atmosphere that is totally away from reality, but the reality is that the vast majority of police officers in this country support the use of the gun registry once they are trained in using it.
In the last round, when we were fighting the private member's bill on the same topic, out of hundreds of police chiefs, only three could be identified by the Conservative Party and their cohorts as being opposed to the registry. All the other police chiefs in this country were in favour of keeping it, because they knew--not believed, but knew--that it protected their officers.
Is it perfect? No, it is not perfect. Would it prevent every single police officer from facing a gun attack? No, it would not; it would be absolutely naive to think so. However, that is the standard that the Conservatives have set: if it does not work every single time, then we should get rid of it.
If it saves 10% of the lives of police officers, it is worth keeping. If it saves one life, is it not worth keeping? Is $4 million a year not worth spending, if we save one police officer's life? It is my absolute belief that it saves a lot more lives than that.
When the Conservatives stand up in the House and when they go across the country to talk to people, they never talk about Mayerthorpe--never. They refuse to talk about police chiefs, other than every so often, as we saw with some of the proponents of the private members' bills, denigrating our police chiefs and accusing them of conflict of interest. Such accusations are imaginary at best and perhaps paranoid at worst. They are grossly unfair to the role our police chiefs play in protecting our society and protecting their own officers. Quite frankly, those accusations made against our police chiefs were shameful.
With regard to the cost of dismantling the registry, I want to repeat that the Conservatives do not have any idea of what it would cost to dismantle it.
When we look at the reality, we see that the Province of Quebec has now come forward to say very clearly that it will take it on. If the federal government will not take on the responsibility it has to protect members of society in Quebec, the Province of Quebec has said that it will do it. The Province of Ontario is giving serious consideration to doing the same thing. I believe that in B.C. our party, the NDP, is thinking the same thing. After the next election we hope the NDP will be in government and will take on the responsibility if the bill passes.
If that happens in all three cases in those three provinces, it would represent more than 75% of the population of this country. The governments representing them are saying they want to keep the registry. They know it works. They know it protects their citizens.
I want to touch on facts, not emotion. In the period of time the registry has been in place, these are facts: there was a 30% reduction in domestic violence involving long guns, roughly a 10% to 15% reduction in suicides by long guns, and a more than 10% reduction in the number of accidents from long guns, whose victims were mostly children under the age of 14.
That is why the medical associations have come out so strongly in favour of supporting the registry: it is because they saw that guns owned by people who should never have owned a gun were being taken out of circulation over the years. These people were not the regular hunters or farmers who use them responsibly, but people who did not handle them properly, did not store them properly or did not transport them properly. I suppose only the divine knows why they bought the guns in the first place. When we heard of the accident, the suicide or the violent crime, very many of those times it involved a gun that had not been properly stored or taken care of by someone who should never have owned a gun.
I have great sympathy for the argument the Conservatives make with regard to responsible actions by long gun owners. The vast majority of them are law-abiding citizens, as they say so often. When I talk to them, a majority say that they understand why the registry is here. They say it is because of those other people, the people who did not handle guns properly and put this country in a mess.
At the end of the day, if we are serious about performing our fundamental responsibility as members of Parliament to protect our citizens, this bill should be voted down.