Mr. Speaker, it is my please to rise to speak to Bill C-19, getting rid of the wasteful and useless long gun registry. I am proud to split my time with the member for Portage—Lisgar, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety. I thank her the yeoman's effort she has put in toward getting rid of the long gun registry. In the last Parliament, her private member's bill to end the long gun registry nearly passed, but lost by two votes. In my time in Parliament since 2004, that was the closest, until today, that we ever came to getting rid of the long gun registry.
I have to thank the Minister of Public Safety for bringing forward this bill and for listening to firearms' owners right across the country and to ranchers, farmers, hunters and sports people who enjoy the outdoors and target shooting. He listened and was able to put that all together in a comprehensive bill that would ensure we would get rid of the registry and the data and, more important, it would take away the incredible onus on responsible Canadians having to register their long guns.
We cannot talk on this bill without thanking the MP for Yorkton—Melville who has been fighting this since 1995 in the House of Commons. He has been an incredible spokesperson on behalf of wildlife organizations and firearms owners across the country, always getting the details, the data and the real statistics on how useless the long gun registry has been and how it has made law-abiding citizens into criminals.
I have listened to the debate. My friend from Winnipeg North stood and made a number of accusations. I want to address some of those in my speech today.
I have been fighting Bill C-68 since 1995. When I was with the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association, I presented to the Senate committee on Bill C-68 when it was travelling across Manitoba. I told the majority Liberal senators at that time that this was going to be a discriminatory bill against rural Canadians. Individuals involved in the agriculture industry use firearms, long guns in particular, as a tool in controlling predators, or varmints that they did not want around the yard, like rabid skunks and raccoons, and for putting animals down humanely if they are ill or injured. For the times that we do our own butchering on the farm, we need to have those long guns. Many of us in the agriculture industry are also outdoors people. We love hunting and fishing and when we go out hunting, we need to have our firearms.
Because of the way Bill C-68 was brought in, it automatically labelled people who owned firearms and did not register them as a criminals. The member for Winnipeg North said that nobody was ever arrested based upon the fact that they never registered their firearms. However, we know the bill was specific. If they did not register, they were criminals. Luckily, the western provinces instructed their police forces, mainly the RCMP at that time, not to enforce the firearms registry for those who did not register their long guns. For the most part, that was upheld.
I know of two cases in Alberta alone where firearms owners were arrested and their guns confiscated because they failed to re-register their firearms. Also a friend of mine, Bruce Montague, who was in Kenora, is a gunsmith, a gun collector and goes out to gun shows. He was arrested after a gun show in northwestern Ontario and went to jail. He kept fighting it because he knew it was wrong that he should be treated as a criminal for legally owning firearms even though he never registered them. I agree with him. They were there as part of his collection and his craft. They were never meant for criminal use. Yet he was treated as a criminal, fined under the legislation and put in jail. That is just wrong in too many ways.
We hear all these exclamations that because of the gun registry, we have seen a reduction in gun-related crimes. We know for a fact that gun-related crimes, gun-related accidents and suicides that happen with firearms and long guns in particular, have been on the decline since the 1970s.
We know for a fact that the massive reduction in accidental shootings dates from the previous Conservative government, when Kim Campbell, the Minister of Justice, brought in the first bill to introduce the firearms acquisition certificates and required safe storage and handling and that firearms owners take firearms safety courses. These shootings could have been by kids playing with guns that had not been locked up or stored properly, or as a result of people not having been properly trained and shootings happening accidentally on hunting excursions. Since then there has been a real difference in the number of accidents, the number of suicides and the number of crimes committed with long guns. That is because firearms owners have been getting the proper training. They have been storing and locking up and handling their handguns properly. That is an educational measure that has nothing to do with the long gun registry itself.
We will be continuing with the licensing requirement for gun owners. That has not changed in the last 20 to 25 years. That will stay in place. To be a licensed firearms owner, a person must have taken a firearm safety course. I took my hunting safety course back in 1977 when I was 13 or 14 years old. It was because of that training that I properly handle my firearms and properly store them under lock and key.
I never registered any of my firearms. I refused to do so as my act of civil disobedience. Thanks to the Province of Manitoba, I was never treated as a criminal per se, but as I have explained times in and outside this House, I have refused to register my long guns.
Let us really be clear about the statistics. There have been a lot of numbers thrown around. In 2003 in Vancouver, one of the hotbeds of gun crime, over 97% of the firearms collected on the streets that entire year were not registered. Criminals do not register their firearms. We have stated that over and over again. We know that criminals use handguns. Handguns, under the current legislation, will still be registered and have been since 1925. That will not change.
Targeting law-abiding citizens like long gun owners is a waste of tax dollars, a waste of police time, and a waste of public service time administering a registry that does nothing to prevent any gun crimes.
Since the 1970s, the number of murders committed with guns, that is, the murder rate by long guns or any firearm for that matter, has been 1.9 murders per year per 100,000 people. If we compare that with the population of registered firearms owners, that number goes down to 0.38 murders per 100,000 people.
The most law-abiding people in this country are licensed firearms owners, so why are we making them look like criminals? Professor Gary Mauser looked at all murders since 1997. Less than 2% of them were committed by firearms owners, and out of those licensed firearms owners, only 1.2% of the murders were done with registered firearms. It comes down to the fact that it is not guns that kill people, but people who kill people, and we have to target them.
Just to summarize, the NDP and the Liberals have stated over and over again that they want the gun registry. If they ever have a chance to come back into power, they will bring back the gun registry.
I criticize the member for Western Arctic and the member for Churchill, who campaigned saying, “Vote for me. I will vote to get rid of the long gun registry”. Yet they reversed themselves at second reading and voted, along with their colleagues, to kill our bill to end the long gun registry once and for all.
I thank the members for Thunder Bay—Superior North and Thunder Bay—Rainy River for standing up against their party leadership and voting for their constituents, helping to ensure that we get rid of this long gun registry once and for all. They have been sanctioned and silenced, and their constituents do not have a voice in this House of Commons because of that NDP leadership. However, they deserve to be given all the accolades in the world for allowing the grassroots to speak to them and for carrying their voice back here into the House of Commons.