Mr. Speaker, first I would like to note that I will be splitting my time with the member for Sault Ste. Marie.
It is certainly an honour for me to stand to address Bill C-42, the common sense firearms licensing act. This is a matter that is very important to a large group of people in the riding of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.
Before I speak to this bill and some of the specifics, I want to say that as members of Parliament we represent Canadians and our constituency, but we are also here to make decisions for all Canadians. One of the things about making decisions for Canadians is to recognize that there are many differences. Whether it is in regard to the lobster fishery in Prince Edward Island, the transit needs in some of our urban settings, or the common sense that some of our rural communities want, it is incumbent on us to try to understand the desires of the constituents, to respect and reflect that in terms of our culture and heritage, and to have a very common sense and practical approach to the things we put in place.
In this case, the only party that our law-abiding firearms owners can count on to ensure their rights are protected and respected is our Conservative government. We have seen a succession of Liberal governments design policies that treat firearms owners as criminals. This bill represents a balanced approach that would see to it that lawbreakers are punished but that law-abiding firearms owners are rewarded, by cutting the red tape.
I want to reflect a bit on the differences among the parties. Certainly the New Democrats have a paradoxical approach to this in terms of the civilian ownership of firearms. We have many members of the NDP who represent rural areas, from Timmins—James Bay, Thunder Bay—Rainy River, Churchill, Sudbury to many others. In their hearts, they clearly knew what their constituents wanted, but they were unwilling to represent their views, especially when it came to the long gun registry. That is an important example.
The member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River told the local radio station that he was ready to break party ranks again if it came to it, that he was ready to draw the line in the sand. However, he did not. It is important to know that the NDP leader was unequivocal, that if he were to form government, he would bring in something that would allow police to track every gun in Canada. He would bring back the long gun registry.
Although the member for Timmins—James Bay tried to reassure his constituents by stating “We're not talking about going back to get every single gauge shotgun up in the attic put into some kind of registry”, it is clear that this is not the case. It is clear that is what the intention is, and that is what the New Democrats' votes reflected when it came to getting rid of the long gun registry.
Of course, the leader is not the only one who is focused on this crusade. The member for Newton—North Delta, for instance, claimed it is bizarre that in the common sense firearms licensing act there would be a six-month grace period when someone's licence expires. This means that the member is perfectly comfortable with turning forgetful Canadians into full-blown criminals. They could face years in prison, even though they are law-abiding citizens who have done due diligence and followed the rules up to the point that they missed the deadline for renewing their licences.
I do not know that there is anyone in this House who has not had car insurance or house insurance, or a gun licence, expire. Does that make them criminals because they miss a deadline? According to the member for Newton—North Delta, it absolutely does. It has to be clear that this grace period would be for protecting law-abiding Canadian citizens.
These people have nothing to do with the gang members in the member's riding. They are people like us who might not have renewed their car insurance. Under the proposed legislation, individuals would not be allowed to purchase new firearms or ammunition, or even use their firearms during that time, but they would not become an overnight criminal as a result of a simple honest mistake.
That truly is common sense, in the same sense that people who forget to renew their car insurance are hopefully not driving their cars because it could be an issue. It is the same with this, but the person is not a criminal.
The legislation treats actual lawbreakers accordingly. It would make firearms prohibition mandatory for serious crimes of domestic violence. We believe that the best indicator of future criminal behaviour is past criminal behaviour. In fact, nearly two-thirds of all those convicted of spousal homicide have a previous history of domestic violence. Hence, it only makes sense to add these prohibitions. It is a very common sense approach.
This legislation would also require that first-time gun owners receive basic firearms safety training. That is absolutely sensible. I do not know that anyone in the opposition should disagree with that. However, opposition members cannot seem to agree among themselves that the long gun registry was ineffective and wasteful, so it is not surprising that even firearms safety training for first-time gun owners would be hard to agree on.
The legislation would also create powers for an elected government to overturn bad classification decisions by the Canadian firearms program. Mistakes have been made, and there needs to be a way to correct them in a way that is respectful of firearms owners. Clearly, the first of such measures would be to return the Swiss Arms family of rifles and the CZ 858 to the classifications they had prior to February 25, 2014.
People have spent their hard-earned money to buy either Swiss Arms rifle or others, and it makes no sense to turn them into criminals overnight. Again, opposition members seemed to think that was okay to do. It was crushing to people who had done the right thing, the legal thing, under a government bureaucratic decision. I do not see how anyone can believe that this reclassification, which changes and devalues people's firearms, is okay.
What would this do? It would end the arbitrary authority given to chief firearms officers. The previous rules have resulted in a nonsensical patchwork across the country. Does it make any sense that it was different between Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario? We need some harmonized standards.
There are eight elements to this bill. We call it the common sense firearms licensing act because there are issues around protection and common sense. This is important to the constituents in my riding.
I had an opportunity to speak to the bill at second reading, and in that speech I relayed that had I only ever lived in an urban setting, I would not have understood the importance of this. I talked about a couple of personal examples in my life, where the farmers who live near me had some life-saving interventions in terms of a cougar and another incident. I would ask people who live in urban areas to try to understand what it means to people in rural areas.
I will be presenting a petition later today, which to me makes some sense. It is not part of this legislation, but it talks about people who spend a lot of time in the woods. We hear about cougar and bear attacks. There is very restricted ability under the Firearms Act in terms of what licensed handgun owners can do. That is perhaps something that we can look at in the future.
I could go on, but the fact is that this legislation would cut red tape for law-abiding firearms owners and punish those who break the law. That is what Canadians expect. Our government has and will continue to stand up for the rights of law-abiding firearms owners while enhancing public safety.