Madam Speaker, I am very proud to stand today to speak in favour of Bill C-19, the ending the long-gun registry act.
On May 2, Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to end this wasteful and ineffective long gun registry once and for all. That is exactly what we will do.
For the past seven years I have heard concerns from my constituents about the effectiveness of this registry and the fact that it targets law-abiding citizens and not criminals. My constituents want effective solutions that keep their streets and communities safe. That is why our government has taken concrete steps to improve our justice system. We have put forward tough new sentences to keep dangerous criminals where they belong: behind bars. We have also made major investments in crime prevention.
This is how we keep Canadians safe: tough sentences and smart crime prevention funding. It is not by promoting a measure that is essentially a glorified list of non-criminals that has cost billions of dollars and focuses on people who are already, by nature, law-abiding citizens. Targeting people like hunters, farmers and sport shooters is not going to stop crime, and in fact it has not.
I would like to focus my remarks today on the dictatorial legislation that is the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry.
As I have already stated, the registry is a collection of data regarding law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters that is held by the Government of Canada. These data had been collected with a gun to our heads, so to speak, and under the threat of extreme punishment, including serious jail time. In our view and my view, this is simply wrong.
I am one of those individuals who reluctantly registered my long guns under this threat. I waited until the very last minute in 2003 to register my rifles and shotguns. I was the mayor of my municipality at the time, a role that I took just as seriously as my role as a member of Parliament. I feared that should some overzealous conservation officer or policeman charge me for owning an unregistered gun that had been legal for all my life, it would give me a criminal record that would disqualify me from holding public office, including as a member of Parliament.
Registering my long rifles, many of which are family keepsakes, was one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make. I was made to feel like a common criminal if I did not comply, and it still sticks in my craw.
The previous Liberal government foisted this measure on law-abiding Canadians under the guise of preventing tragedies perpetrated by individuals who use firearms for criminal purposes. However, there is absolutely no evidence that the long gun registry has prevented a single crime or saved a single life.
I have heard the arguments from the opposition members, whose misguided view is that since Canadians must register cars, boats, ice shacks and so forth, then something as potentially dangerous as a shotgun or a rifle must also be registered. The key discrepancy shows, at best, a fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between administrative and criminal law or, at worst, a deliberate effort to muddy an important issue of fundamental liberty.
Guns do not kill people. Bad people with guns kill people.
If someone does not register their car, they will face a small fine, determined by the province in which they reside; if someone does not register their shotgun, they face the prospect of a criminal record or serious jail time or both. As Conservatives and as individuals who care about the protection of fundamental freedoms, we must stand up to say it is wrong to put people in jail for what amounts to paperwork errors.
My family, by nature, consists of law-abiding members of our community. My father, who is now 79, still hunts with me, my four brothers and many of his grandsons, including two of my sons. In fact, we will all be doing some deer hunting next week, which is an annual fall tradition. It is not just about the hunt or the kill; it is a family thing that has been going on for years in our family, and it will continue.
My dad also reluctantly registered his rifles and shotguns. He was issued a possession-only licence, or a POL, and was able to purchase ammunition for five years until his POL expired. Now, under the long gun registry, he is made to sneak around like a criminal and ask me or someone else with a valid POL or PAL to buy ammunition for his rifles, some of which he has owned since he was a teenager. This is just simply not right.
Bill C-19 is just a starting point. Bill C-19 does what we said we would do, eliminate the long gun registry.
As I said earlier, a person will still require a licence to own or purchase guns and ammunition. Further legislation will be required to make further improvements to this farce that the Liberals created. In my opinion, we need to merge the PAL and POL, so that there is one licence, and extend its duration from five years to ten. Also, anyone like my father, and thousands more across this country who, like him, have had a valid PAL or POL or a legal hunting licence in the past should be grandfathered into the system so that they do not have to prove again what they proved years ago, which is that they can safely operate a firearm.
Another change that I will push for is the creation of a prohibitive offenders registry. This registry would target people who have committed and are convicted of a firearms crime, the very people who give law-abiding gun owners a bad name. As I stated earlier, the gun registry is simply not an effective way to reduce crime.
As the hon. Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism so succinctly stated, “We measure results, not intent”. The results simply are that there is no correlation between crimes committed with long guns and the implementation of a measure that needlessly targets law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters.
I would also like to discuss a portion of the bill that has received significant attention from both the media and the opposition, and that is the destruction of the records contained in the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry.
The fact of the matter is that on May 2, and for the last five years, we have told Canadians we would get rid of the long gun registry once and for all if given the opportunity, and Canadians can take that promise to the bank. Let us examine what that means.
The registry is composed of a few components. It is compelled by the force of criminal law to collect the personal information and data of law-abiding gun owners. We will end that. It is also the retention of records of law-abiding gun owners. Obviously, when we said we would scrap the long gun registry, destroying those records was implicit. I might add that it should also include the records of individuals who buy ammunition. I license my truck, but when I buy brake pads or tires for my truck, I do not need to show my driver's licence. Neither should someone have to show a gun licence to buy ammunition. I will work hard to change that.
The registry is the records and the records are the registry. I realize the NDP and the Liberals would have us hang on to those records so that they could more easily recreate a backdoor registry should they ever have the chance to do so. Our government will not allow for that.
As the Minister of Public Safety said, claiming you want to scrap the registry but keep the records is like a farmer saying he will sell you his farm as long as he can keep the land. That is the way some of the opposition members think on this.
Frankly, it comes down to a single imperative. We made a commitment to Canadians that we will no longer target law-abiding hunters, farmers, and sport shooters through the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry, and this is exactly what we will do. We believe, as I stated earlier, that Canadians should be able to trust their politicians. When they promise to do something or vote for something, there should be no question and no second thought.
On that note, I would like to remind the members from Skeena—Bulkley Valley and the Western Arctic, who have recently decided to turn their backs on the wishes of their constituents and turn their backs on the commitments that they made on May 2, that they are breaking their election promise to their constituents. The memories of voters are long, especially on this important issue. Several of my new colleagues on this side of the House know this very well. The members from Yukon, Nipissing—Timiskaming, Sault Ste. Marie, and Ajax—Pickering are here in large part because their predecessors forgot that they are supposed to represent their constituents to the government, not the other way around.
I hope that members opposite will listen to the views of Canadians and vote to end the nearly 17-year-old legacy of waste that is the long gun registry. In closing, as deer hunters in my riding, including myself, head to the bush next week, they can take solace that the government is finally getting rid of this hated, useless long gun registry.