Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in this House and add my voice to the debate on Bill C-19, the ending the long registry act.
This is not the first time that I have spoken on the topic of the gun registry. Over the last 11 years, this has been one of those issues that I have been able to lend my voice to perhaps as much as or more than many other issues. The reason I say that is, that in the 11 years that I have served as member of Parliament for Crowfoot, I do not know if I have heard from my constituents on any other issue more than I have heard from my constituents on the issue of the long gun registry.
Every once in a while we have the opportunity to stand on long-stated policy within our party, which is the case here. Other times, we can stand and debate based upon our own opinions and our own sense of right and wrong. Again, in this case, I am proud to say that I really believe the government is doing the right thing here.
However, what makes this case so special is that, although there is a handful of people from my riding who have contacted me basically issuing NDP form letters, the majority of people in my riding believe that the long gun registry has to be put to an end.
I am pleased to announce to them that it would appear we are on the home stretch of ridding Canada of this long-standing thorn in the sides of most people in the country. It is a thorn for a number of reasons. First is the high cost of developing and maintaining the registry but also the sense of property rights and the sense of being very invasive in that way.
I thank my colleague who sits in front of me, the member for Yorkton—Melville, for taking this issue and dealing with it for a long time, as well as former members of Parliament. I am thinking of individuals like Myron Thompson, Jack Ramsay and others who made this into a very strong cause because they knew what their constituents believed.
Since the long registry was put in place in 1995 by the previous Liberal regime, and continues today, we have witnessed exhaustive debates in this House and across the country on the issue. We have been able to host these types of discussions at town hall meetings in our constituencies and have debated it many times here in the House. We have heard about it from the media and from Canadians right across the country. People on both sides of the debate have been given ample time to discuss and contribute their opinions.
Furthermore, this is not the first time that our government has introduced similar legislation to eliminate the long gun registry. Since coming to power in 2006, our Conservative government has introduced three bills to repeal the long gun registry: in June 2006, in November 2007 and in April 2009. We also have seen two private members' bills introduced in this House that called for the same action. As has already been mentioned, the parliamentary secretary to the minister and member of Parliament Portage—Lisgar brought forward a very strong private member's bill, Bill C-391.
Suffice it to say that the historical record will show that there has been plenty of time for debate on this registry. Our policy is clear. As mentioned by the previous speaker, for the past six elections Canadians have known our stand on this issue.
It is unfair to suggest that our government is cutting off debate on this topic. It is clear that the issue of effective gun control is an important one and that is why we have seen such fiery and passionate debates on the long gun registry. Our government is firmly committed to effective gun control. However, what we are not committed to is a wasteful and ineffective long gun registry that pretends to be gun control.
I am confident that all members will agree that keeping our citizens safe is the paramount consideration of any government. I would suggest to the opposition that it would be very disingenuous to say that the government on this side does not believe in keeping our streets and our citizens safe in our communities and across this country.
I am also hopeful that all members are committed to the principles of balance and common sense. Ending the long gun registry is what this is all about. It is about ensuring we continue to preserve and enhance those measures that do work to reduce crime and protect Canadians. However, it is also about ensuring we do not unnecessarily penalize millions of honest, law-abiding citizens with rules that have little effect on crime prevention or on reducing gun crime but give some a feel safe attitude that is not warranted.
We need to look at what Bill C-19 would do. The legislation before us today would end the need for Canadians to register their non-restricted firearms, such as rifles and shotguns. We know for a fact that rifles and shotguns are commonly used by farmers, hunters and residents in rural Canada. They use these non-restricted firearms to protect their livestock, to hunt wild game or, in some cases, even among our first nations, earn a living.
We have been very clear in saying that Bill C-19 would not do away with the need for these individuals to obtain a proper licence for their long guns. They will still need a proper licence.
We have also been very clear in saying that Bill C-19 would not do away with the requirements for the owners of prohibited or restricted firearms, such as handguns, to obtain a registration certification, as well as a licence. That registry continues. The handgun will still be registered and it will still need a licence. Nothing will change in this respect. They will still be in charge of handling the registration of restricted and prohibited firearms, including all handguns and automatic firearms.
Under Bill C-19, all law-abiding Canadians would still need to go through a licensing procedure. Under Bill C-19, all law-abiding Canadians would still need to pass the required Canadian firearms safety exam in order to obtain a licence.
The leader of the Green Party was wondering if the safety courses would continue. Yes, that will still be necessary. Gun owners will still need to show that they are in compliance with proper firearms storage and transportation requirements. They will still need to pass a background check performed by the Chief Firearms Officer or their representatives who employ law enforcement systems and resources to ensure that people have never committed a serious criminal offence. If they have, they will not get the licence to own any type of firearm. They would also ensure that the individual in question does not have a history of mental illness associated with violence. If they did they could not have a firearm. They would also ensure people are not under a court sanctioned prohibition order for firearms and do not pose a threat to public safety.
While Bill C-19 would do away with the need for honest and law-abiding citizens to undergo the burden of registering their non-restricted rifles or shotguns, it would ensure that we keep the current licensing requirements for all gun owners.
The legislation would make another important change. It would allow for the destruction of all records related to the registration of non-restricted firearms. Some have claimed that destroying the long gun registration data is unnecessary, that it will eliminate all the data the long gun registry has. Others have suggested that we should simply divide up the data by the territory and ship it off to those jurisdictions so they can create their own long gun registry.
Both of those suggestions are non-starters. We are opposed to the long gun registry. We are not simply saying that we are opposed to our federal government administering it. We believe that it is invasive and that it is a waste of money. We believe that it is a non-effective way of fighting crime. For that reason, I stand in this place proud to speak in favour of Bill C-19, which would get rid of the long gun registry.