Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise to speak to the private member's bill. The Parliamentary secretary for the government has already indicated that Liberals do not support the private member's bill as it is written; and it is important to provide a bit of background.
I have had the good fortune of being around for a number of years, and at different times in my career, the issue of rifles and guns has risen quite significantly. I can recall in the early 1990s, for example, the whole issue of the gun registry came up. I was first elected back in 1988 and it was almost two years afterward that the massacre occurred in Montreal, when 14 young women were killed at École polytechnique. Even today, the local high school in my riding, Sisler High, commemorates, remembers, and reflects on what took place in Montreal back in 1989.
The reason I raise it is that, for me, my political career began on the issue of rifles and guns and wanting to make sure there is sound, good government policy, whether at the provincial or national level. I have had a significant interest in it from the onset of my political career, and I am very much aware of the politics of it. Many people, for example, would be quite surprised to know that Kim Campbell was the first advocate for the gun registry and it was a Conservative senator who actually pushed it forward; and a lot has happened since then.
I appreciate the member's comments about law-abiding gun owners. That is something we need to reinforce. Law-abiding gun owners deserve the respect given to all citizens. Rifles and guns play a very important role in today's society. When we talk about regulations and elements of public safety, it is not to demean law-abiding gun owners in any fashion whatsoever.
In fact, if we were to speak to many of the individuals who have been cited, we would find that some of the strongest advocates for public safety and good, healthy, strong regulations, and so forth, come from responsible, law-abiding gun owners. It is a common interest that I believe that a vast majority of Canadians have and would advocate for.
In the last federal election, the Liberal Party made a number of commitments. The member from the New Democratic caucus made reference to them. I want to highlight that in the 2015 Liberal party platform, we clearly stated that as a government we would take action to get handguns and assault rifles off our streets. This commitment was reiterated during the throne speech. Bill C-230 would run contrary to that promise, by classifying some assault rifles as non-restricted weapons, making them easier to import and acquire.
There is no doubt that there is a great sense of public awareness on this public policy issue. The member, in his attempt to provide more definition, might have actually made things more complicated. At the end of the day, even some individuals who advocate for the legislation might be surprised at how providing this definition of a variant would ultimately change the classifications of some rifles and guns in a way that even the member himself might not have initially intended. What the current law states with regard to the variant, I believe, should be left as is.
The member made reference to Bill C-19. I will refrain from commenting on Bill C-19. I gave many speeches inside the House in regard to Bill C-19. He also made reference to Bill C-42. That was a piece of legislation for which there was great concern from all regions, on issues of transportation and classification. There was a great deal of concern in terms of why the government, at the time, felt that it was in a better position to make determinations as opposed to those experts who are making decisions not based on politics. I am referring to the RCMP.
I know there was a great deal of concern raised with the Swiss Arms issue and how that firearm was reclassified. That ultimately led to, I believe, at least in part, why Bill C-42 was brought forward. I do not believe that the government, back then, made progressive steps forward in attempting to address that issue.
I do not think the Conservatives realized the valuable contributions that our experts and, in particular, our RCMP experts have to play in this whole area. Every day, they have to deal with issues related to guns and rifles. Over the years, they have compiled a great deal of expertise. As legislators, we would do well to listen to what the experts actually have to say on the legislation.
My colleague pointed out a number of important facts that are worth repeating. He stated that the Government of Canada believes in a balanced approach, and that we have effective gun legislation that prioritizes public safety, while ensuring that law-abiding firearms owners do not face unfair treatment under the law.
While the bill's intent is in fact to bring more precision to the Criminal Code, it is the unintended consequences that would criminalize many law-abiding gun owners, while at the same time making it easier to import or own certain assault rifles.
This is what I meant when I said that I believe not even the sponsor of this particular bill has realized the consequences of the bill, if in fact it were to pass as it is. I would also point out that if the bill were to pass, it would lead to massive and indiscriminate reclassification of literally tens of thousands of firearms among the non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited classifications system, something I suspect we should all be concerned about.
It is also important that we recognize that reclassifying many hunting rifles and shotguns from non-restricted to restricted would result in thousands of law-abiding gun owners needing to apply to the RCMP for a restricted licence and be approved, or dispose of the firearm itself, or be in violation of the Criminal Code. It does not really leave very much in terms of options.
Before I run out of time, I just want to emphasize that the parliamentary secretary and the government believe that public safety is priority one. We recognize those individuals who are law-abiding gun owners. There is an overwhelming consensus that public safety is number one and that we do in fact respect those law-abiding gun owners.