Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak again to Bill C-19, the ending the long gun registry act.
In my last speech on this bill, I talked about what role long guns play in Canadians' lives in both rural and urban settings, for women and for men. They are tools for hunting, tools for trapping, tools for farming, and tools for athletics. I talked about how they constitute a symbol of our past and indeed remain a necessary tool in present day life for so many Canadians. First nation, aboriginal and all law-abiding gun owners have been stigmatized and subjected to this onerous and misguided legislation for far too long.
Since the second reading of Bill C-19, the opposition has not lacked in emotion but has consistently fallen short on the facts. Here are the facts. The long gun registry does nothing to make Canadians safer. We were told the long gun registry would cost about $2 million, and the cost has ballooned to exceed $2 billion. The long gun registry targets law-abiding citizens because criminals are not registering guns, nor are they using these sorts of guns to commit crimes.
I would like to introduce members to what I call the seven myths of the opposition. If any of my hon. colleagues would like to count along with me, they would be more than welcome to do so.
Myth number one is that the long gun registry will help keep suicide rates down.
During committee, of which I was a member, we heard clear evidence from peer-reviewed studies which concluded that the discontinuation of the registration of non-restricted firearms is not likely to result in an increase in the aggregate suicide rate.
Myth number two is that the long gun registry will keep women safer.
During committee we heard peer-reviewed research which demonstrated that the discontinuation of the registration of non-restricted firearms will not result in an increase in homicide or spousal homicide rates through the utilization of long guns.
This only makes sense because the people registering long guns are not committing these crimes. These are men and women who are impeded by the red tape and the stigma of being long gun owners. They do their civic duty, despite the unnecessary and wasteful burden imposed, and register their firearms because their government tells them it is the law. Meanwhile, criminals do not do any of this and enjoy the freedom to operate outside of the law with all the rights and protections of the law. This does not make sense to people in my riding, and it does not make sense to me.
The opposition attempts to position the debate on long guns as men against women, and offender and victim. At committee we heard directly from women, women who hunt, women who trap, women who have represented our great nation in international shooting competitions. The opposition would like Canadians to believe it is only men who own guns, and this is simply not the case.
Myth number three is that guns will now be as easy to get as checking out a book at a library.
The opposition is ignoring the facts and misleading people who do not own long guns and who are not familiar with the process. I can tell Canadians, as can any long gun owner, that the requirements for licensing are not changing and include a Canadian firearms safety course, and for some, additional hunter safety and ethics development courses, and of course pre-screening security background checks.
Myth number four is that police support the registry and the elimination of the registry will put police in danger.
Here is what we heard from law enforcement officers:
I can tell you that the registration of long guns did not make my job as a conservation officer safer.
That was said by Donald Weltz at committee.
We also heard in committee that a survey conducted in April 2011 of 2,631 Edmonton city police concluded that 81% supported scrapping the long gun registry. We heard that the Auditor General found that the RCMP could not rely on the registry on account of the large number of errors and omissions. We heard numerous times that the police state they do not trust the information contained in the registry and they would not rely on that information to ensure their safety.
Myth number five is that the data should be saved and turned over to the provinces that wish to create their own registry.
The registry is the data. Our commitment to the Canadian people was clear that anything less would be disingenuous. The data was collected under federal law for a federal purpose and it will not be turned over to another jurisdiction.
The committee heard evidence that the RCMP had reported error rates between 43% and 90% in firearms applications and registry information. We also heard that a manual search conducted discovered that 4,438 stolen firearms had been successfully re-registered. With these errors, it would be irresponsible to the extreme to allow this unreliable, ineffective and grossly expensive system to be handed over to anyone.
Myth No. 6: Registering a long gun is no different from registering a car. What did we hear in committee on this assumption? Solomon Friedman accurately stated that unlike registering our car, failure to comply or errors in the application have criminal implications. People do not go to jail or receive a criminal record if they do not register their car.
Myth No. 7: Registering a firearm is simple, so what is the harm? Again, the harm is that any mistake has criminal implications, and the mistakes in the registry are staggering.
Furthermore, consider more testimony from Mr. Friedman:
I have two law degrees. I clerked at the Supreme Court of Canada, and I practise criminal law for a living. Even I at times find the provisions of the Firearms Act and the gun control portions of the Criminal Code convoluted, complex, and confusing.
If that is the case, how can we expect average Canadians to navigate this quagmire without error and how can we have criminal consequences as a result? How can we expect our law enforcement officers to interpret and apply complex and convoluted legislation with discretion and consistency if a criminal lawyer well-versed and studied on the subject matter finds it difficult at times?
I will highlight the conclusions of Gary Mauser, PhD, Professor Emeritus at the Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies, Simon Fraser University, when he accurately pointed out that “responsible gun owners are less likely to” commit murder “than other Canadians”. He went on to say that the long gun had not demonstrated its value to the police and that “the data in the long-gun registry are of such poor quality that they should be destroyed”.
That is exactly what would happen.
Our government has made a clear commitment. Promise made, promise kept. We know we are on the right track. How do we know this? Two years ago, my hon. colleague, the member for Portage—Lisgar, introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-391. If that bill had passed, it would have ended the long gun registry but it was defeated in this House by a mere two votes. However, those were not free votes. Members turned their backs on their constituents for fear of reprisal from their party. Some stated publicly that they were in favour of scrapping the registry but were not willing to leave their party over it or be removed from it. The only reason the long gun registry has survived this long is that members picked their parties over their constituents. Canadians remembered that last May.
How else do we know we are on the course? Evidence in the committee, as I have already mentioned, was overwhelmingly in favour of getting rid of the long gun registry, and that was empirical evidence, not opinion evidence. Members from the opposition, the members for Thunder Bay—Rainy River and Thunder Bay—Superior North, voted in favour of Bill C-19 but were punished for it. They were punished for doing what their constituents wanted. I congratulate them for that decision. The member for Western Arctic abstained from the second reading vote. One can only hope that the member will remember his commitments to the great people of the Northwest Territories and that he chooses them and choose facts over the hysteria and hyperbole running rampant through the opposition benches.
Regardless, I can tell the citizens of Yukon, NWT and Nunavut that this member and the hon. member for Nunavut will be standing up for their rights and their use of long guns as daily tools to practise traditional, cultural and present day necessities of life by standing up and voting to end the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry once and for all.