Mr. Speaker, I will follow-up on my hon. colleague's point. It behooves us that we would take tools away from police officers rather than give them more to fight crime and keep Canadians safe.
If the government is so adamant about the ineffectiveness of the gun registry, why has it been hiding a report that shows the public safety value of the long gun registry for two years in a row? It is not enough that the Conservatives are going to destroy a tool that police use thousands of times a day and all the data along with it, but they have also been holding back crucial information from the committee that has been examining the bill.
A lot of talk was had both in committee and in the House suggesting that law enforcement was not consulting the registry, but rather consulting CPIC, which has registry information on it. That is where the spin was given.
The RCMP report dated November 2011, which was signed by previous RCMP Commissioner William Elliott, was not released until last month. It was not made available to the committee examining the bill and the House did not ask for it. However, it was made available to the Minister of Public Safety.
The report outlines just how often police officers refer to the registry for inquiries. This raises at least two issues. First, does the report show how useful the instrument is for police forces across the country? Second, why is the government not disclosing important information, a part of a larger pattern?
It would seem that the Conservatives do not want people to know the facts because they do not want the facts to get in the way of the baseless arguments they keep making time and time again. This is yet another example of the government choosing ideology over fact.
Destroying the existing information in the registry will not bring back the money spent to set it up. Why is the government going to have a billion dollar bonfire with the data Canadian taxpayers have already paid for, especially when provinces and police forces are telling us that it does have public safety value?
Let us consider some facts. Approximately 1.9 million Canadians are licensed firearm owners. The number of registered non-restricted firearms in Canada as of September 2011 was 7,137,386. As of September 2011, the Canadian firearms registry was accessed an average of 17,402 times per day. That does not sound ineffective or wasteful to me.
In one survey, 92% of general duty police officers said they used the Canadian firearms information system and 74% said that query results had proven beneficial during major operations. We know that 15 officers serving on the government benches make up part of that 8% minority of general duty officers who disagree and the 26% who do not think it is very useful.
A study conducted by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec estimates that 2,100 lives have been saved since that legislation came into force. One-third of women killed by their spouses are killed by a firearm. Nearly nine out of 10 of these women, or 88%, were killed by a long gun, or a legal, registered hunting rifle. Since the registry was created, firearms-related domestic homicides have decreased by 50%. Make no mistake about this: it works.
Furthermore, rifles and shotguns are the guns most often used in suicides, particularly those involving youth. These types of suicides had decreased 64% in the last nine years, from over 300 in 1995 to 121 in 2005, suicides that were prevented as we were not able to find any evidence of substitution with other methods. Experts in the field of suicide will certainly back up that often when people's first attempts are thwarted they do not look for an alternative.
Lastly, long guns were used in the killing of 10 of the 13 police officers killed in the last 10 years.
Rather than getting tough on crime, the Conservatives are taking away precautions that have proven to keep our communities safe. If the Conservatives want to state that the registry is a waste of money and exaggerate the costs, they should at least get their facts straight. We recognize that while there were significant cost overruns in the initial phase of the registry setup, as highlighted by the Auditor General's 2006 report that revealed that the costs of the Canadian firearms program hit $946 million by 2005, by 2010 the cost of the registry had stabilized to about $4 million of the total $76.5 million annually spent on the Canadian firearms program.
Let us also not forget that registration is a one time only procedure. It is free and never expires unless registrants transfer their firearms to new owners. Registrations or transfers are done over the phone or online in a matter of minutes. In fact, 97% of firearms transfers are completed within 30 days. If only Service Canada could say the same about processing claims for EI.
In a quote from the 2010 RCMP evaluation of the Canadian firearms program, it states:
Canadians are receiving value for their tax dollars from the CFP. Overall...[it] is cost-effective in reducing firearms-related crime and promoting public safety through universal licensing of firearms owners and registration of firearms in Canada.
As my colleague for St. John's East pointed out a few days ago, there is no such thing as specifically a long gun registry. We have a registry of guns, which consists of various types of guns and rifles. There are prohibited weapons, restricted weapons and then all other types. Swept up in the all other types are the guns that the Conservatives have been referring to for years. They talk about the long gun registry as if it were a separate registry that makes law-abiding hunters and farmers feel like criminals.
I can honestly say that in my family there has been a great deal of debate over the years about the registry. My family likes to camp and we own a property together. Many of my family members are hunters and anglers. We have had a great many difficult discussions about the registry and disagreements, frankly, between my point of view and often many of theirs. However, not once has any of them thought that they were being treated like a criminal because they had to register their firearms.
Rather than working on fixing the problems and the anomalies that occurred as a result of the failed implementation by the Liberal Party, the Conservatives want to scrap a program that has been a crucial policing tool for provinces and communities.
The Conservatives like to go on ad nauseam that the registry does nothing to catch criminals, prevent gun violence or keep our communities safe. On the contrary, implementing Bill C-19 would risk public safety by treating all non-registered, non-restricted and non-prohibited weapons the same. We are talking about semi-automatic rifles, assault rifles, sniper rifles, guns that are very dangerous and can threaten our public safety. Gun shops, sporting goods stores, Canadian Tires and so on were required to keep a record of to whom they sold rifles, shotguns and even ammunition. That provision lapsed when the gun registry was brought in because it was deemed unnecessary since all guns had to then be registered. By removing the requirement for all non-restricted or non-prohibited guns to be registered, there will be no record. The government has not reinstituted the requirement for gun shops, sporting goods stores and the like to keep records of their sales.
I will close by blowing some holes in the argument that the registry cannot help catch criminals. Last week in the House the member for Yukon said that the committee heard evidence that the RCMP had heard that a manual search conducted discovered that 4,438 stolen firearms were successfully re-registered. Talk about being asleep at the switch. That is practically aiding and abetting criminals and legitimizing their activities.
What I would like to know is how many of those re-registered stolen firearms were found, confiscated, how many criminal investigations this triggered, how many convictions ensued and how many of these weapons ended up back in the hands of their law-abiding owners? More important, why did the government only find out during committee hearings on the bill and not before that?
That is why I say the Conservatives are asleep at the switch. They have such an ideological hatred of this law that they cannot see the good that could come of it.