Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on Bill C-19, which seeks to abolish the firearms registry.
We have heard a host of good reasons as to why the firearms registry should be kept, such as its usefulness to the police forces and the prevention of violent acts. As a hunter, however, it is important that I speak about one particular argument that has not been the subject of much discussion since the start of this debate. I hope that my colleagues from the Conservative Party will listen closely to what I have to say, because I believe that I know what I am talking about, since I am a hunter myself.
I started hunting at three years of age. I did not hunt with a real weapon. My father built me a small wooden shotgun and took me hunting with him. I would sit on the three-wheeler and hunt partridges with him. I have not stopped hunting since. I have five weapons of my own at home: three 22-calibre shotguns, a 303 rifle and a 270 rifle. I hunt moose, bears, partridges and other small animals. So I think I know what I am talking about and that is why I want to discuss the issue.
When hunters ask me why I am in favour of the firearms registry, I talk to them about firearm theft. I explain it in simple terms. Before the firearms registry existed, wrongdoers, who perhaps needed the money, would enter houses and steal firearms. These were regular people, just like all the Canadians we represent. They would place a short advertisement in the newspaper in order to sell the firearm. When there was a potential buyer, the thief would explain that his grandfather had given him the weapon and that he was selling it because he did not really go hunting. He would say that he no longer had the papers because it was a long time ago and he did not know where they were anymore. That would always be a bit of an annoyance, but the seller would seem to be acting in good faith and knew what he was talking about. The buyer would tell himself that this was normal and would go ahead and buy the firearm. Consequently, when a firearm was stolen, there was no way of locating it.
Since the registry was created, when people put an advertisement in the newspaper, for example, to try to sell weapons they have stolen from other people’s homes, it is no longer possible. This is because when a potential buyer goes to see the weapon and expresses an interest in buying it, since it is a good model at a reasonable price, the buyer suggests calling to make the transfer. The person at the other end of the phone line tells him that the weapon was reported stolen, according to the information in the registry. That person then strongly advises the would-be buyer against buying the weapon. Of course, the police are notified and may take action to get the firearm back. If a person has stolen a firearm to use it for hunting, he runs the risk of being in the woods and having a law enforcement officer ask for the registration papers. If the person does not have the papers, the officer will check and see that the weapon was stolen. In either case, there is a chance of locating the weapon, which was not previously the case.
We have to understand that many firearms are part of family tradition. Many people have firearms that belonged to their grandfather and their great-grandfather and have been passed down from generation to generation. If they are stolen from us, even if someone could offer us a similar firearm, it would not be exactly the same. It would not be the one our grandfather went hunting with. There is great family attachment to these firearms.
Some firearms are now practically impossible to recover. Without the firearms registry, if they are stolen, there is virtually no way to recover them. The police have no way of recovering these firearms, unless they have some uniquely special feature. But when we talk about firearms from the 1960s, for example, one 22-calibre weapon with a wooden stock looks just like another 22-calibre weapon with a wooden stock. It is therefore extremely difficult, unless it is marked, to know whether that firearm is in fact the one that was stolen. It is practically impossible. Since we have had the firearms registry, thefts of firearms have declined significantly.
We paid for these data, as did hunters. That is why we want to preserve them. That is why, in Quebec, we think this is logical. The registry provides a degree of security because the police use it, but it also protects us as hunters because it reduces theft. If a theft occurs, and that cannot always be prevented, we have a chance of recovering the stolen firearms.
Another thing I must stress is the value of the firearms. Some of these firearms are worth a lot of money. Because they are used for hunting, a lot of money is invested to make sure they are functional. If the firearms registry is abolished and people start stealing firearms again, the owners might lose the money they have invested in this sport, which is an economic activity in Canada.
I have a firearm, a Ruger SR 10/22. I paid $600 for the firearm alone and nearly $300 for the sight. So I would be extremely unhappy if it were stolen, and even more so if there were no database that would allow it to be recovered. At least, with the firearms registry, a police officer can type in the serial number and the name of the firearm and see the ones that have been stolen. I would have a chance of recovering my firearm, but without the firearms registry, I would have no chance of that. It would be extremely complicated. The person who had stolen it would simply have to say, if asked, that they had lost the registration, that it is in their truck, that they do not know where it is. I think it is important to talk about this aspect because not much has been said about it.
Since I have enough time left, I would like to address another point. As some members know, I am a nurse by training. I have worked in hospitals and I come from a rural area where there are a lot of farmers. We know that farmers have suffered a great deal as a result of climate change, economic crises and the mad cow crisis. All those factors have had a considerable impact on farming. Some of our farms became unstable, economically, and were in distress. The stress level rose significantly among farmers. Most farmers have a firearm at home and use it for activities on the farm. For example, if a cow was attacked by wolves, the farmer could shoot it rather than leave it to suffer. It is reasonable for farmers to all have firearms. That is legitimate when you have a farm, I think.
I believe that the firearms registry can be used to protect people from themselves. When doctors and nurses see that a person is depressed and not doing well, they are able to determine whether the person has firearms at home and, consequently, whether they are a suicide risk. Firearms are not forgiving; it is not possible to save these people’s lives. When they are taken to emergency, it is often too late. Doctors and nurses can use this tool to determine whether a person is in possession of firearms. If the person does have firearms, they can be asked whether they would be prepared to take them to the police station until they feel better and get help getting back on track. Conversely, if the database is not accessible, this kind of prevention—helping someone and preventing something irreparable from happening—is not possible. That is another important point that I wanted to stress.
I want to ask the public to support us when it comes to the registry. I am a hunter and I really believe that the firearms registry can help to prevent the theft of firearms and stop people from burglarizing houses and stealing weapons. Without the registry, this is impossible.
I paid for these data and I would like them to be kept. At the very least, if the federal government does not want to keep them, it should transfer the data to Quebec so that people like me, who paid for the data, are protected. If this kind of thing occurs, there needs to be a chance of finding the weapons. That is what I want to emphasize.
I would ask everyone who does not consider my idea crazy and who thinks that I am perhaps right to write immediately and send a clear message to every Conservative member who is against this idea.