Mr. Speaker, I want to note that I will be sharing my time this evening or as the debate goes to the next stage.
As a member of the Conservative government, I am very proud to rise and speak today in favour of Bill C-42, the common sense firearms licensing act. As I go through my speech, I think people are going to recognize why it is called that, because the name very appropriately reflects all the very important measures within the bill.
It should be no surprise to anyone that our government has chosen to champion this bill. We have always been the only Canadian party to believe in a common sense approach to public safety. Criminals, not law-abiding persons, should face repercussions in the justice system. The bill would make several much-needed amendments to do just that.
The bill has eight components that take a safe and sensible approach to firearms heritage in Canada. It contains elements to target violent criminal behaviour. By cutting red tape, the bill would also reduce the burden on law-abiding Canadians who wish to enjoy full use of their property.
I would like to take this opportunity to outline some of the measures that I think are particularly beneficial to all Canadians in addition to some that will benefit law-abiding hunters, farmers, and sport shooters specifically.
I grew up in an urban setting, and had I never moved to a rural community, I perhaps would not have understood the bill as much as I do, having had the enormous privilege and opportunity to live in a rural area for many years.
Hunting was not part of my life growing up, nor was sport shooting. When we moved to a rural community, one of the things that happened very early on was that I hit a deer with my car in the middle of a very isolated area. The deer was severely injured and was on the side of the road. A person who came by not too long afterward managed to put the deer out of its misery with his rifle.
A few years later, my children were born in a rural community. We lived on some acreage. A cougar had been stalking our children, and our next-door neighbour shot the cougar. Thankfully none of our children was impacted.
As a result, I learned to appreciate that hunters and farmers used firearms as a tool, but it was really, as we so often say, law-abiding hunters and farmers who were getting buried in red tape.
I appreciate how some folks from urban areas might not understand the bill, but we should all agree with the principles of reducing red tape and with some of the protection measures that are going to go into place.
Let us look at the facts. Enjoying a hobby such as sport shooting or utilizing firearms as a part of one's livelihood does not make a criminal, nor does it in any logical way predict the likelihood of committing a crime. I think I gave two very important examples.
That is why the bill would create a six-month grace period for licence renewal at the end of the five-year licence period. People would not be able to use their firearms or purchase ammunition with an expired licence, but they would not be treated like criminals because they made an honest mistake. Who among us has not missed a renewal of car insurance or some other type of important insurance? A little grace period is very appropriate, as any reasonable, sensible person should agree.
Possession-only licences would be eliminated. They would be converted to possession-and-acquisition licences, giving the right to purchase firearms to all who hold a valid POL. When I learned about the system that we had in place, I was quite flabbergasted in terms of the POL, the PAL, and the firearms registry. It really seemed like a system that was buried in red tape, so we are not talking about reducing safety; we are talking about reducing a system that is buried in red tape. That means 600,000 Canadians who have owned and used firearms safely, many for more than 20 years, will now be trusted to purchase new firearms if they wish, as they have safely used firearms for years. Again, I think any reasonable person would agree.
This bill proposes that first-time firearms owners must attend firearms training prior to being issued a licence. That is safe and sensible. The bill proposes to create firearms prohibition orders against those who commit domestic violence, thus punishing those who commit criminal actions as opposed to those who stay within the law.
I find it very difficult to understand why people across the floor could possibly oppose this bill, though I must say again that I am not really all that surprised, because I saw what happened with the long gun registry. Some NDP members represent rural communities. I know that they voted against the wishes of their constituents when they voted to keep the long gun registry, and if they vote against this bill, they will be voting against the wishes of the majority of their constituents again. Those constituents should be very concerned, because they are not being represented by their NDP members, the people they sent here to represent them.
Today if a law-abiding gun owner wants to get a restricted firearm repaired for a day at the range next week, they cannot, and I will say why. It is because they would have to submit a piece of paperwork to the Ontario CFO's office to get a letter authorizing them to transport it to that location, even if they have a piece of signed paperwork saying they can take it to their local range. That is simply nonsense.
If someone has a licence and wants to take guns to a licensed armourer, is it really a risk to public safety if the firearms are transported in a locked case, with a trigger lock on the firearms and with the firearms out of arm's reach, as required by law? If it really is a risk to public safety, then why, after waiting several weeks or more for a piece of paperwork from the CFO, is it now somehow made safe? If the CFO thought someone was unsafe, he should never have approved the licence in the first place. The entire process is nonsense. The government's bill would address this aspect as well.
As firearms owners, people are already subject to continuous eligibility screening. This means their licences are checked against the police information system to see if they have committed a crime. This bill proposes to end needless paperwork around authorization to transport restricted firearms by making them a condition of a restricted licence for routine and lawful activities. CFOs who approve licences for firearms owners would now also be approving the legal use of those firearms at the same time.
This bill would end the arbitrary discretion of the chief firearms officers. Without a legitimate public safety need, they would no longer be able to create regulations that deliberately infringe on the enjoyment of property.
This bill would make two extremely important changes that would benefit many Canadians. One is that the bill proposes to end the loophole that stops information sharing between law enforcement agencies when they are investigating the importation of illegal handguns. The other change proposed in this bill is to put the final say on the classification of a firearm in the hands of the elected government after it receives professional advice on the characteristics of the firearm.
These last two changes would end bureaucratic nonsense. I keep using that word because we can see how bogged down the process is in red tape. Yes, we need to worry about safety, and yes, we need to worry about proper training, but no, we do not need one piece of paperwork after another.
I believe that protecting Canada's heritage is at the core of the bill. Hunters, farmers, and sports shooters are at the very core of Canadian heritage and deserve representation against false perceptions that are being propagated in the House. We have heard many of them already. People are not criminals in this country just because they own firearms, nor should they be made criminals through fearmongering.
On this side of the House, we will always stand up for safe and sensible firearms policy. If we look at the eight points that I brought up, we see that they would reduce red tape and increase safety measures. They are sensible and appropriate, and I suggest that all members on both sides of the House should seriously consider supporting this bill.
They are really reducing red tape and increasing safety measures. They are sensible and appropriate, and I suggest that all members on both sides of the House seriously consider supporting the bill.