Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to speak to this bill and actually close debate before we vote on the report stage motions.
Seventeen years ago, when the Liberal Party first brought in Bill C-68, they promised that the gun registry would cost Canadians $2 million. Here we are 17 years later and the cost is estimated to be around $2 billion. That is a horrendous difference in cost.
Bill C-19, on which we will be voting very soon, is a piece of legislation that is as hot in my riding and as aggressively debated against in this country as any piece of legislation that we have before this House, and this is after 17 years. I would suggest it is aggressively argued against because of the wrong direction in which the original bill, Bill C-68, was going and it has not changed course.
I am from a rural area. I understand full well the importance of farmers looking after their livestock and being able to use a rifle to protect their property from predatory animals. A gun is a very important tool on a farm.
However, the registry has targeted law-abiding citizens. If they are not prepared to register a gun, they become criminals in this country. It is long overdue for change. We will have an opportunity in a few minutes to actually make the changes that are needed, to redirect a wrong-headed idea on where this country should be going with regard to keeping our streets safe.
We have listened to the opponents on the other side, the NDP in particular, for the best part of those 17 years. The members were on the side of getting rid of the long gun registry until it came to a vote. Then they said they were just kidding. They went even one step further and disciplined a couple of members in their party who had decided to follow the will of their constituents. That is inappropriate when it comes to a piece of legislation like this because of the impact it has on law-abiding citizens in rural Canada.
I can understand someone living in downtown Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, or any of the large centres in this country, looking at this piece of legislation and asking why anyone should have a handgun or rifle because they have no need for them and some of the violent crimes happening on the streets in our cities would lead one to the idea that these guns should not be there.
A long gun registry does not have anything to do with handguns. Handguns and restricted weapons have been included in a registry since the 1930s. Nothing will change there. In fact, going one step further, we believe that the individuals should be licensed and not the guns.
The country will remember an incident which happened in my riding which lends itself to this argument. It has to do with the “fallen four”. A man by the name of James Roszko, when he was 12 years old, was into drugs and was up on drug charges. When he was 17 years old, he was stealing ammunition and firearms from Canadian Tire stores. By the time he was 44, he was killing RCMP officers. The gun he used in that terrible incident was registered. The long gun registry does not save anyone's life. It does not protect any RCMP officers. It does not keep our streets one bit safer. The proof is in that it is the individual who has to be targeted.
I mention this incident because that individual was before a judge 44 times and was convicted 12 times in a catch and release system that has permeated the criminal justice system and put people on the streets who should not be there and who cause harm to law-abiding citizens of this country.
The argument from many of my colleagues in the House is that the long gun registry keeps our streets safer and that the chiefs of police say that we should keep it. I have asked the constables in my riding who supposedly work with the long gun registry all the time if they are for or against the gun registry, if it helps them keep the streets safe, and if it is something they use on a continual basis, as has been alleged by the opposition. They said there is nothing that makes their job more difficult, more compromised than the long gun registry because of how clumsy it is and the paperwork that is involved. They spend more time in the office doing paperwork than out on the streets keeping people safe.
Those are not my words; those are the words of constables with whom I have spoken directly, who deal with keeping our streets safe on a day-to-day basis.
When I look at the long gun registry, I ask if it has helped at all. I would say it has hindered a lot of things. I would say it is targeting the wrong people. It is not because we do not want to keep our streets safe, because we do, but we do not want to use this vehicle to do it. We have to target the crime and deal with the problem that is at hand to ensure that Canadians are safe. That is the obligation of a federal government. We are compelled to do that.
How do we do that? We put more law enforcement officers on the streets. We make certain that we change the laws to stop this catch and release system that seems to have permeated our criminal justice system over the last number of years.
We bring in legislation and what do opposition members do? They criticize it and vote against it, similar to what they did with the long gun registry. Even though they said they were against it for 15 years or more, when it came to a vote, they bailed and decided that they were just kidding and just playing games with their constituents.
We are not playing games with our constituents tonight. I would encourage everyone in the House to consider soberly who they represent when they sit in their seats in the House of Commons. The seats should have the names of whom we represent, because it is their seats we are actually sitting in. They are saying loud and clear to me that this long gun registry is attacking them and it has to go.
We know there are criminal elements out there. The crime and violence committed by gang members in an urban setting will not be mitigated by the long gun registry. Handguns, illegal guns are the weapons being used to commit crimes and compromise the safety of our streets in urban settings. I say to anyone who thinks the long gun registry will save them and make their streets safer in an urban setting, that would not be the case. We do not have to convince people in a rural setting, because they know exactly what is involved with the long gun registry and how it absolutely does not make their lives safer. In fact, it targets them as criminals.
As we have this debate on the long gun registry, it is very important that we think soberly about the people we represent in this country. For 17 years they have been victimized by the long gun registry. It is time we got rid of the long gun registry. It is time to treat our rural people with the respect they deserve. We must do the right thing, which is to vote against the long gun registry so it will no longer be there. This legislation will correct once and for all an injustice that was done to the rural people of this country.