Edmonton—St. Albert, AB
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand in my place and contribute to the debate on Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, also known as the ending the long-gun registry act.
Several members on this side of the House have opened their interventions by talking about their personal history with respect to firearms, and I think I ought to do the same.
I do not own any firearms. I can count on one hand the number of times I have used a firearm, and I can state for the record that I do not even really like firearms. For me, this is not an issue about firearms. This is an issue about liberty. It is about individual liberty and it is an issue concerning the role of the state and, I would suggest, the tendency over the last two or three decades of the state encroaching upon the rights of law-abiding citizens and the individual liberties of Canadians. That is the perspective and the lens on which I assess the merits and the values of the long gun registry that was set up in the mid-1990s by a previous government.
As a libertarian, I must concede that we compromise on our libertarian values every day of the week. For example, when I arrived here on Parliament Hill this morning in a motor vehicle, we need to respect certain rules of the road. We can only drive on the right-hand side. We must observe speed limits and traffic control devices, both for our own individual safety and, obviously, for the safety of other pedestrians and other operators of vehicles. I accept that.
For any law, regulation, registration or registry to be valid and legitimate, it must to pass three tests and those tests are the following: first, it must serve a valid purpose; second, it must be effective in achieving that purpose; and third, it must do so in a cost-effective manner. I would submit to members of the House that the long gun registry fails on at least two out of those three tests.
Is there a valid purpose? I suspect there actually is. The long gun registry was implemented in response to a very tragic event at École Polytechnique in Montreal. It was a tragic incident, one of the black marks in Canadian history, and there was considerable political pressure to do something to protect women and citizens generally against the violence of firearms.
I think the response of the government of the day was legitimate. I do not actually share the view of some of the members on this side of the House that the purpose of the bill was to criminalize hunters and farmers. I do not think that was the purpose. That is what happened, but I do not think that was the purpose. I will give the former government the benefit of the doubt that it actually was a legitimate purpose, although not well thought out.
The second test concerns whether the registry or the legislation was effective in achieving its purpose? I say, unequivocally, that it was not and it was not from the beginning because it was not thought out properly.
Members of the House, such as the member for Prince George—Peace River, who has been here since the infancy of the long gun registry, predicted back then and maintains to this day that we cannot effectively control violence with guns by targeting lawful, law-abiding gun owners.
That is consistent with any matter of policing. I live in the city of Edmonton where there has been over 40 murders this year and, incidentally, not one by a long gun. The weapon of choice most frequently used for murder in Edmonton is a knife, but that is a story for another day.
The police use their resources to police neighbourhoods and parts of Edmonton where they know crime occurs with greater prevalence and where criminals elements are known to exist. They do not routinely and frequently patrol the neighbourhoods where law-abiding citizens are known to exist.
When the authors of the registry decided that they would force legitimate gun owners, such as sportsmen, hunters and trappers, to register their weapons, they went after the wrong people. As was predicted and what should have been known and which was argued, if we check the Debates on Bill C-68, it was known then as it is now that criminals simply do not register their weapons. The program was ill-conceived, ill-thought out and, in fact, has not been effective in reducing crime.
I serve on the public safety committee. I served on the public safety committee in the last Parliament when the private member's bill sponsored by the member for Portage—Lisgar was before our committee. I had the opportunity of examining evidence, in some detail, from the then-president of the Canadian Police Association, Mr. Charles Momy. Mr. Momy came to the committee to tell us that abolishing the long gun registry would be a huge mistake, that it was a critical tool in the arsenal of the police toolkit. However, when pushed on that issue, he admitted to me that the police could not and do not rely on the long gun registry.
I will tell the House why he admitted that. When police respond to an incident, they do a long gun registry search. If the registry shows that there are no registered weapons at the residence, we asked Mr. Momy if the police could safely assume there are no weapons? His answer was, “Of course not”. They have to go in hoping for the best but being prepared for the worst. The police do not rely on it when it shows there are no weapons registered at that residence.
I asked him a second hypothetical question. What happens if the long gun registry search shows there are in fact two weapons at that residence and the police go in, find the two weapons and take them out of play, does that mean they now have a safe crime scene? Can the police assume there is not a third or fourth weapon? His answer was. “Of course not. You always have to assume that there are additional hazards, additional perils at that scene, notwithstanding that the registry said there were two weapons and two weapons were found”.
We have two examples, one where there was a negative result from a registry search and one where there was a positive result, and in neither circumstance did the police actually rely on the data.
We know that the police do not and cannot rely on the long gun registry. We know that it does nothing to deter crime under the very simple premise that criminals do not register their weapons.
The third part of my test regarding whether there is an appropriate legislative or registration response to a problem is the cost-effectiveness. Members will recall that the original estimate for Bill C-68, the long gun registry, was $2 million. Now, that does not sound like a large sum of money to promote a legitimate goal, as I identified, which was to reduce violence, to reduce violence against women and reduce gun violence generally.
As we know, $2 million was a gross underestimate of the actual cost. Was the estimate out by a margin of 10 or a margin of 100? No. It was out by a margin of 1,000. This long gun registry has cost taxpayers $2 billion. It has done nothing and can do nothing to deter crime or prevent guns from falling into the hands of criminals. Although chiefs of police like to say that they are in favour of the long gun registry, when pushed and asked if, in a world of finer resources, they would prefer more boots on the ground or a long gun registry, they always answer that they would prefer resources for something other than a long gun registry.
On that test, the long gun registry fails. It is not an effective response to a legitimate goal. It is not a cost-effective response to a legitimate goal.
I am proud to stand in this House and be part of a Conservative government that will actually put an end to what was a train wreck from the beginning. I think the liberty of law-abiding farmers, hunters, fishermen, trappers and others will be preserved. I encourage all members to vote in favour of Bill C-19.