Mr. Speaker, I am pleased and honoured to have the opportunity to begin the third reading debate on Bill C-19, the ending the long-gun registry act. I thank the public safety minister and the parliamentary secretary for allowing me the honour to lead off on this debate.
The legislation before us today fulfills a long-standing commitment of our government to stand up for law-abiding Canadians while ensuring effective measures to crack down on crime and make our streets and communities safer for all Canadians. The bill before us today is quite simple. It would put an end to the need for law-abiding hunters, farmers and sports shooters to register their non-restricted hunting rifles and shotguns. It is nothing more and nothing less.
For those who are not familiar with this issue, there were two requirements to gun ownership in Canada. One was registration and the other was licensing. I am sure by now that my hon. colleagues on both sides of the House are very familiar with my position on Bill C-19. I feel that laying a piece of paper beside a firearm, which is called registration, does nothing to improve public safety.
Instead of explaining my position over again, I have decided to simply highlight testimony from several expert witnesses who appeared before the public safety committee as it studied Bill C-19 last November. There is a recurring theme in all of their remarks and the four elements of that theme are: First, the long gun registry has been a colossal waste of money; second, it has targeted law-abiding gun owners, not the criminal use of firearms; third, it has done nothing to enhance public safety; and fourth, the data is so horribly flawed that it must be destroyed.
For the rest of my remarks, I will read into the record witnesses' testimony. The first person I will quote is Mr. Greg Farrant of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters who had this to say about Bill C-19:
A paper trail of trained, legal, licensed firearm owners does not address the real problem. Even a well-run registry, which this is not, will not prevent random violent crime. Believing in that ignores the glaring reality that the vast majority of criminals don't register firearms; and in the rare case when they do, a piece of paper and the creation of a system where possibly 50% of the firearms in Canada are not included does nothing to anticipate the actions of an individual, nor do anything to prevent such actions in the first place.
In the case of the long-gun registry, there's a glaring absence of fact-based evidence to support its existence. Suggestions that gun crime in Canada has declined since the introduction of the long-gun registry under Bill C-68 ignores the fact that gun crime, particularly gun crime using long guns, has been on the decline in this country since the 1970s, two decades before this registry ever came into being. Crimes committed with long guns have fallen steadily since 1981. Bill C-68 was not introduced until 1985 and wasn't mandatory until 2005.
The present system focuses all of its efforts on law-abiding firearms owners and includes no provisions for tracking prohibited offenders, who are most likely to commit gun crimes.
This should be about who should not have guns rather than about who does.
Another prominent argument we've already heard here today is how many times per day the system is used by police. ... We've recently heard 14,000 and 17,000. ... The vast majority of so-called hits on the registry have little or nothing to do with gun crime. The majority of these are cases of an officer maybe stopping a vehicle for a plate identification or an address identification, which automatically touches all databases, including the long-gun registry, despite the fact that the check has nothing to do with firearms in the first place.
The next quote I will read is from Solomon Friedman, who is a criminal defence lawyer. He stated:
You will no doubt hear in the coming days and weeks from various interest groups about how the long-gun registry is a minor inconvenience, merely a matter of paperwork. We register our dogs, our cats, and our cars, they say. Why not register our shotguns and rifles, as well? As you know, the registration scheme for non-restricted long guns, and for prohibited and restricted firearms as well, is enacted as federal legislation under the Criminal Code and under the Firearms Act.
With the criminal law power comes criminal law procedure and, most importantly, for the nearly two million law-abiding licensed gun owners in Canada, criminal law penalties. Unlike a failure to register a pet or a motor vehicle, any violation of the firearms registration scheme, even the mislaying of paperwork, carries with it the most severe consequences: a criminal charge, a potential criminal record, detention, and sometimes incarceration. This is hardly comparable to the ticket under the Provincial Offences Act or the Highway Traffic Act....
In addition, registry violations are often grounds for colourable attempts on the part of police, the crown, and the chief firearms officer to confiscate firearms and revoke lawfully obtained gun licences. ...long-gun registry violations used as a pretext to detain individuals, search their belongings and their homes, and secure evidence to lay additional charges.
Parliament ought not to be in the business of transforming licensed, law-abiding, responsible citizens into criminals, especially not for paper crimes.
There are millions of Canadian gun owners who will be glad to know that in the halls of Parliament Hill, hysteria and hyperbole no longer trump reason, facts, and empirical evidence.
...the registration of firearms, aside from having no discernible impact on crime or public safety, has merely alienated law-abiding firearms owners and driven a deep wedge between gun owners and law enforcement.
The next quotation is from Sergeant Murray Grismer of the Saskatoon police service. He said:
...the registry for non-restricted rifles and shotguns...should be abolished. Thousands of police officers across Canada, who are in my opinion the silent or silenced majority, also share this position.
...the Canadian Police Association...adopted their position without ever formally having polled their membership.
The Saskatchewan federation is the only provincial police association that polled its entire membership on the issue of the registration of firearms. When polled, the Saskatoon Police Association was 99.46% against the registry, while our compatriots in many of the other Saskatchewan police forces were 100% in opposition to the registry.
...the registry can do nothing to prevent criminals from obtaining or using firearms. École Polytechnique, Mayerthorpe, Spiritwood and Dawson College are synonymous with tragic events involving firearms. However, the firearms registry for long guns would not, could not, and did not stop these tragic events. The retention of the firearms registry or records will do nothing to prevent any further such occurrences. ...even Canada's strict licensing regime and firearms registry cannot prevent random acts of violence.
For the officers using the registry, trusting in the inaccurate, unverified information contained therein, tragedy looms at the next door. ... Knowing what I do about the registry, I cannot use any of the information contained in it to square with a search warrant. To do so would be a criminal act.
Projections from within the Canadian Firearms Centre privately state that it will take 70 years of attrition to eliminate all of the errors in the registry and to have all of the firearms currently in Canada registered. This level of inaccuracy is unacceptable for any industry, let alone law enforcement.
Constable Randy Kuntz of Edmonton stated that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said that police officers support the registry but that he was one who did not. He went on to state:
I conducted a self-funded survey of 2,631 heroes of law enforcement across this country. They were all identified by their police-issued e-mail. They were all serving police officers. Of the 2,631 who responded to me between March 2009 and June 2010, 2,410 were in favour of scrapping the long-gun registry. In April 2011, the Edmonton Police Association surveyed its members: 81% voted to scrap the long-gun registry.
I'm also a victim. In my personal life, I have 15 friends, teammates, classmates, and co-workers who have committed suicide with a firearm. I also have three friends who were murdered with a firearm.
I am still sitting here in front of this committee telling you that I do not support a firearms registry. I tell you that it does not save lives.
Ontario police officer Constable John Gador had this to say:
The Firearms Act and its long-gun registry were marketed to law enforcement as a tool to target the criminal misuse of firearms, but only six of its 125 pages deal with increased penalties for criminals. The other 119 pages are aimed squarely at law-abiding Canadians who own or seek to own firearms....front-line officers...want funding to go toward things that have been proven to assist in the detection and apprehension of real criminals. They don't want money wasted on dreamy, ivory tower ideas like the long-gun registry, which are costly, ineffective, and drive a corrosive wedge between them and the public they are sworn to protect.
I have another quotation from police officer Sergeant Duane Rutledge of the New Glasgow Police Service in Nova Scotia. He said:
My experience is that these people take their weapons and share them with their friends and family. They have other people who will hold the weapons for them. That's part of the issue with the whole registry. An individual registers the guns, but there's no way to track where that person keeps his weapons....As a front-line police officer, I believe there are more hidden guns today...This, therefore, makes it more dangerous for me now, because I'm guessing every time I go to a house if I rely on the registry to give me the facts. I don't believe it can do that, simply because there are so many people who haven't registered guns.
I would like to continue with another quotation from Sergeant Rutledge. He said:
I'll go back to the female police officer who was shot in Quebec. She had full belief that the person was prohibited from having firearms and she let her guard down. Complacency is what gets police officers killed. I'd rather have no hope than false hope.
That one point alone is key to this debate. Could it have cost a life?
I would like to now quote from Linda Thom, the Canadian Olympic gold medal winning shooter, who said:
—I’m accorded fewer legal rights than a criminal. Measures enacted by Bill C-68 allow police to enter my home at any time without a search warrant because I own registered firearms, yet the same police must have a search warrant to enter the home of a criminal. I’m not arguing that criminals should not have this right—they should. I’m arguing that this right should be restored to me and all Canadian firearms owners.
Ms. Hélène Larente, volunteer coordinator of a Quebec women's hunting program, had this to say:
As a hunter, I don't think it is fair that we are being treated like criminals...the registry does not protect women any more than it does society as a whole. The fact that a firearm is registered does not mean that it will not be used, either against women or anyone else....I am in charge of an orientation program. Women who participate in that orientation learn how to handle guns and realize that the gun itself is not dangerous.
I asked Ms. Larente if the long gun registry had a negative effect on people getting into the hunting and shooting sports in Quebec. Her answer was:
That certainly has a negative effect...If we are stopped, we are seen as criminals because our gun is registered....We risk committing an offence if we forget our registration.
My next quotation comes from Ms. Diana Cabrera of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association. She had this to say:
—I'm an international competitor shooter. Although I'm Canadian, I currently compete for the Uruguay national team...The challenge of obtaining the public safety goals of the firearms...are major concerns...the fear of confiscation, the perceived social stigma of firearm ownership and demonization, and the many costs and burdensome processes involved....There is no question that the long-gun registry has deterred individuals from entering their shooting sports....The main issue for competitive participants is the fear of imminent criminality. They may easily find themselves afoul of uniformed law enforcement or CBSA officers, even if all the paperwork is in order. Any paperwork error may lead to temporary detention, missed flights, missed shooting matches, and confiscation of property....Law enforcement and media coverage of firearm issues have made this situation even worse. Firearm owners are subject to spectacular press coverage in which reporters tirelessly describe small and very ordinary collections of firearms as an 'arsenal'....Will I be targeted at a traffic checkpoint if a CPIC verification says I possess firearms?
Tony Bernardo, executive director of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association, talked about the number of firearms owners of guns in Canada. He said:
Based upon the Canada Firearms Centre's polling figures, in 1998 there were 3.3 million firearms owners in Canada. On January 1, 2001, 40% of Canadian gun owners--over 1 million people--became instant criminals.
Fewer than half the guns in Canada are actually in the registry....Getting the ones that are out there to actually come into the system would be like pulling teeth....To get those people to come forward now, you would have to go right back to the very basics of the act and change the very premise of the act; the first sentence says that it's a criminal offence to possess a firearm without a licence.
Professor Gary Mauser of Simon Fraser University introduced some interesting research findings. He said:
First, responsible gun owners are less likely to be accused of homicide than other Canadians. Second, the police have not been able to demonstrate the value of the long-gun registry. Third, the long-gun registry has not been effective in reducing homicide. Fourth, the data in the long-gun registry are of such poor quality that they should be destroyed.
Maybe I will have more time to deal with some of his statistics later.
From Greg Illerbrun:
I am a former RCMP officer as well as a past provincial president of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation...the thousands of people I represent support the permanent elimination of the registry.
This...targets law-abiding citizens, but does little to stop the criminal use of firearms. That approach is fundamentally wrong.... Registries do not work to stop crime....Government inspectors--not police services--can enter your home without a warrant based on the suspicion that there is a firearm, ammunition, or documentation of a firearm....the Firearms Act removes your right to remain silent. Inspectors can demand that you tell them where your firearms are...and if you do not assist them you can be charged and put in jail....We're all criminals, because the mere possession of a firearm makes you a criminal....Criminals enjoy more rights than firearm owners....We support gun control; we just support gun control that is effective and focuses on the real problem, not the legal and law-abiding owner.
There are so many quotations that I would still like to read. Maybe I will do some of them in questions and comments.
Dr. Caillin Langmann, an emergency medicine resident in Hamilton noted:
I treat suicide and violence on a daily basis....the money that has been spent on the long-gun registry is unfortunately wasted; however, we can prevent further waste by taking the money we currently spend on the long-gun registry and spending it on...women's shelters; police training in spousal abuse; and psychiatric care, which is sorely lacking in this country. We are not winning the battle against suicide.
I would like to quote from Mr. Donald Weltz. He is a retired Ontario conservation officer with 32 years of service. He said:
—the registering of long guns does nothing to increase the safety of the public. The fact that a long gun has been registered does not prohibit that firearm from being used by an individual with criminal intent. It is not the long gun that commits the criminal act, but the individual in control of that long gun...I have heard people ask why individuals would be upset with registering their long guns. We have to register our vehicles, they say, so what's the difference?...I would ask this question: has the fact of registering our vehicles he number of impaired drivers? In an impaired driving situation, is the vehicle the problem or is it the driver who decided to drive while their ability was impaired with alcohol?...even though I probably had the ability to check that registry ahead of time...I chose not to, and I did so specifically so that my mind would not have some kind of little innuendo hiding there that would lead me to take my guard down for a split second....If you have the perception that there is nothing there that really can hurt you, you have a tendency to not be as careful as you should be.
I have more comments but I will have to finish them later.