Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today with respect to Bill C-19, the ending the long-gun registry act. It is no secret that our government places a high priority on cracking down on crime and making our streets safer.
Since day one, we have been very clear that we have worked hard to ensure victims are respected, offenders are punished and law enforcement officials have the tools they need to do their jobs. It is also no secret that when we say we will do something, we follow through on it.
Over the last six years, our government has passed several pieces of legislation to tackle violent crime. We passed mandatory prison sentences for gun crimes, as well as reverse bail provisions for serious offences, a lot of changes that the Canadian public has felt were long overdue. Our government has also passed legislation that, among other things, created a new broad-based offence to target drive-by and other intentional shootings that involve the reckless disregard for the life or safety of others.
Those convicted of such acts are now subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison with a maximum period of imprisonment of 14 years. If these acts are committed by or for a criminal organization, or with a restricted or prohibited firearm, such as a handgun or an automatic weapon, the minimum sentence is increased to five years.
However, our work does not end there. We have told Canadians that we would waste no time introducing legislation to repeal the long gun registry and this is exactly what we have done. With Bill C-19, we are making good on another commitment to Canadians.
I will start by noting that the issue of effective firearm control is an important one, one that has been debated in this country for years. All of us see the fallout from gun related crimes in Canada. The media headlines remind us almost daily of the tragic consequences of violent gun crime. Sadly, in some places people do not feel safe in their neighbourhoods or, worse, in their own homes. In this light, it is imperative that we have effective ways of dealing with crime.
As I said at the outset, our government has been committed to making our streets and communities safer for all Canadians for the past six years. We followed up that commitment with concrete and tangible initiatives to get tough with offenders and to help prevent crime before it happens. This is why I hope that hon. members will consider this legislation with an open mind and with a view of moving forward on this long overdue change to our law books.
We all want to ensure that guns do not fall into the hands of offenders or are used to commit grievous crimes. I believe that we are all committed to the principles of balance and common sense. That is really what the bill before us today is all about.
It is about ensuring that we continue to preserve and enhance those measures that do work to reduce crime and protect Canadians. However, it is also about ensuring that we do not unnecessarily penalize millions of honest and law-abiding citizens with rules that absolutely have no effect on crime prevention or on reducing gun related crime.
Our government has said many times that the long gun registry unfairly treats owners of rifles and shotguns like criminals, like so many of the residents in my riding of Huron—Bruce. We stand behind these law-abiding Canadians and we are telling them that we will no longer make them feel like criminals.
We have also said many times that the long gun registry is wasteful and ineffective. First, it is definitely a waste of taxpayer dollars, and we have known this right since day one. The CBC estimates that the long gun registry has cost in excess of $2 billion. That is money that could be better used to support crime prevention, like we so often hear, and give police more tools to do their jobs.
Second, it is ineffective because there is no evidence that the long gun registry has ever stopped a single crime or saved a single life. In fact, in committee hearings, some of the policing community have said themselves that they find the registry inaccurate and ineffective. That is why we are moving ahead the legislation before us.
What does that do to Bill C-19? First and foremost, the legislation before us today removes the need to register non-restricted firearms, such as rifles and shotguns, tools that people use on any farm from coast to coast. These are not generally the guns used to commit homicides.
That said, Bill C-19 would not do away with the need to properly license all firearms owners. All businesses and individuals will still need to possess a valid firearms licence in order to legally purchase a firearm. To obtain a licence, they must be able to pass the required Canadian firearms safety course and to comply with firearms safe storage and transportation requirements. They will also need to pass a background check performed by the chief firearms officers or their representatives who employ law enforcement systems and resources to review individuals' criminal records. Any history of treatment for mental illness associated with violence or history of a violent behaviour against another person will be taken into consideration.
Bill C-19 would retain licensing requirements for all gun owners while doing away with the need for honest, law-abiding citizens to register their non-restricted rifles or shotguns, a requirement that is unfair and ineffective.
What else would this legislation do? Bill C-19 includes a provision for the complete destruction of all records related to the registration of non-restricted firearms that is currently contained within the Canadian firearms registry. This would ensure that the private information of millions of Canadians who have registered their non-restricted firearms in good faith is not distributed to other entities. They did not sign up for that.
These law-abiding long gun owners provided their personal information in good faith to our government for one reason, and one reason alone: to be added to the national long gun registry; nothing more, nothing less. We cannot simply provide this information to other organizations or governments without the express consent of each one of these citizens. Therefore, we must and we will ensure that records are destroyed.
We have heard loud and clear from Canadians who own non-restricted rifles and long guns that they want the long gun registry eliminated. I can say that virtually every weekend I have been home since I was elected, and even before then, this is what I have heard from the constituents of Huron—Bruce. They want to ensure that their private information is not distributed to other entities.
What is proposed under Bill C-19 is, therefore, not a fundamental overhaul or a scrapping of the entire licensing and registration system. Rather, what is proposed are changes that would do away with the need to register legally acquired and used rifles and shotguns that are largely owned by Canadians living in rural or remote areas. This would ensure that scarce government resources can be directed toward initiatives that make our streets safer.
As the Prime Minister has noted, we want to ensure that what we do is actually effective. Certainly, in today's economic climate, every dollar must be accounted for. This includes putting more police on our streets, fighting organized crime at its source and combating gun smuggling. The government has already done a lot in this regard. Our goal is to do a lot more by directing our efforts to where they can be most effective in the fight against crime and gun crime in particular.
Our government is determined to maintain an effective firearms control system while, at the same time, combating the criminal use of firearms and getting tough on crime. This again is really what the bill before us today is all about. It is about ensuring that we invest in initiatives that work and that we continue to protect the safety and security of Canadians without unnecessarily punishing people because of where they live or how they make a living.
Now is the time to support the legislation before us today and stop penalizing honest, law-abiding citizens, just like the honest, law-abiding citizens of Huron—Bruce.