Mr. Speaker, like some of the members opposite, I fondly remember my best Christmas ever, and that was the Christmas I got a BB gun. I had the BB gun for some time before I moved on to harder weapons.
Some might describe a BB gun as a gateway gun, and I am quite serious about that. It is important, as the member on the other side said, because I learned the most basic lessons about the safe handling of firearms with a BB gun. I was taught how to do that.
It seems to me that ought to include things like safe storage and transport. The bill will actually interfere with that training and learning process. What we have here, in some ways with all due respect, is a solution in search of a problem.
Apparently there have been no charges laid under these sections, so I wonder what this is really about. As usual with private members' bills, I think this is about politics and appealing to the base of the Conservatives in a time heading up to an election. It is not about a real problem that we face every day which affects a lot of Canadians.
I have not seen the evidence that changing the rules around the classification of air guns is necessary. When I talked to the police, the local chief and police organizations, they all said the very same thing. If we allow other rules for transportation and storage of air guns, BB guns and pellet guns, it becomes very difficult for police officers to do their job in enforcement of existing gun regulations, especially with the new high velocity air guns. It is impossible to distinguish them from other weapons at a glance.
We face the fact that if the bill were passed, it might lead to people transporting these guns in their vehicles. This is not my example, but police agencies raised the fact that they would be faced with a very difficult decision of trying to decide in a moment's time they type of gun in a vehicle.
Instead, getting people to learn what the safe storage and transport looks like by applying those similar rules, which are not onerous rules, certainly by anybody's stretch of the imagination, will teach better gun behaviour in the long run.
I am no expert in firearms but having had a BB gun, having seen air guns and learning to shoot a shotgun, I know it is not easy to distinguish some of the new guns from other air guns. The new guns have very high velocity and can do real bodily harm and damage. Police officers are quite rightly expressing a concern about how they will do their job and keep the public safe.
Over the years, the Conservatives and the Liberals have done everything they can to polarize issues around firearms for political purposes. I am worried that what we have before us is a private member's bill that does the very same thing.
Every time we talk about anything to do with gun regulations, the other side stands. Therefore, I will do the “prevention is the best part of cure”, and say clearly that the NDP has absolutely no plan to bring back the failed Liberal firearms registry, full stop.
The fact that we will oppose the bill at second reading and we think that the bill is dangerous does not say anything that the Conservatives will try to make it say later on, such as we do not support hunting and fishing, or we do not support rural communities. There is simply no truth in any of that.
We are looking at a bill that seems to result from one court decision in one case, but it does not really have a large public impact. Therefore, why would we adopt a bill in the House of Commons that creates potential threats to public safety on the basis of one court case in Ontario?
As the member said, these guns are not deemed to be weapons in all cases, but, again, it seems quite reasonable that secure storage and transportation requirements should apply to these weapons as much as any others. I simply do not see the downside. It is a very interesting argument about learning gun safety. It is a very good way to teach people how to treat guns safety, those people who may eventually go on to larger or harder weapons.
We are talking about air guns with a maximum velocity of 152.4 metres per second or a maximum muzzle energy of 5.7 joules, which are already deemed not to be firearms, and so are exempt from penalties set out in the Criminal Code for possessing a firearm without a licence. They are considered firearms under the Criminal Code if they are used to commit a crime, and the other side has pointed that out.
We already have a mixed system here with these guns. The only things this bill is really attacking are storage and transportation, not possession or acquisition.
We on this side want to put public safety first. We want to take an approach that brings Canadians together. Instead of having this bill before us, I would rather have seen some consultation, and not just with those the member always cites when it comes this—the hunters and anglers of Ontario seem to make frequent appearances in the speeches—and not to make a regulation that, in either case, applies to just rural or just urban areas. We have to get something that works for all Canadians.
Instead of making what I think are potentially dangerous amendments to private members' bills, we should have the government consulting with all interested groups and coming up with a solution that puts public safety first.
I did ask the member whether this was really a government bill masquerading as a private member's bill. I will take his word that this is his initiative. However, it fits a pattern we have seen dozens and dozens of times in this House, where private members' bills are really stalking horses for the government. It gives the government plausible deniability if there is too much public outcry, and it can say that it was just a private member's bill and we will blame the private member. If not, the bill goes through the House and the government takes credit for it. This is another bill that seems to fit that very same strategy.
Another related piece of this is that we just had estimates that have been tabled. What we are looking at is a government that, since 2012, has been cutting the budgets of the RCMP and making fewer resources available to law enforcement. Again, even though it is a minor bill, I cannot see why we would create something that would add an enforcement burden to the RCMP at a time when the government is cutting its budget.
In 2014, there was a cut of $32.5 million for police services. Now, from the estimates, we see that the RCMP is going to be asked to cut back 500 members. This is at a time when we just had the Commissioner of the RCMP before the public safety committee, just last Friday, talking about the fact that he had to transfer 600 personnel from other duties within the RCMP over to national security because he lacked adequate resources.
He talked about the fact that, while he is doing an adequate job now, it is not sustainable to keep those resources transferred over. Again, I would be very concerned about anything we are doing that adds a burden to an already stretched RCMP in terms of enforcement.
Every time we come to issues around guns, it is somehow made to be a very divisive issue. Once the registry was gone, as a member who represents a riding that is both urban and rural, I had the hope that we might be able to come together and find ways to keep guns out of the hands of people who do not need them, while finding ways to reduce the burden on legitimate gun owners. I do not happen to think this is one of those measures.
Reasonable people from various parts of the country could easily work together and come up with solutions. However, we know the government prefers to play wedge politics with the issue of guns. Rather than sitting down with urban communities and talking about the problems of guns on their streets, and rather than sitting down with people and talking about the problems of the flow of illegal guns into the country from the United States, we have a bill before us that is really quite small instead of tackling those larger questions.
Again we come back to the CBSA, which is responsible for trying to control gun smuggling into the country. We have found the same thing since 2012, that the government has cut the budget of the CBSA. It has cut it so far that it had to lay off 100 intelligence officers, the very people who work on issues like preventing gun smuggling.
In conclusion, the bill is a problem in search of a solution. We have not had a big set of charges or problems for those who have BB guns and airguns, but by introducing the bill we would create a new problem for the police in terms of enforcement of gun safety in our communities. For that reason, I am opposing the bill.