Mr. Speaker, I guess it is a good sign that we have an audience on this Friday afternoon. It is not all bad. Members are across the way too, so that is good.
The comparison I am using is with a vehicle owner. Let us say someone's driver's licence expires. They may own a vehicle, but they certainly would not be allowed to operate it, and that vehicle is sitting in the driveway. Then, just because the person's licence has expired, the police do not come and take them away and treat them like criminals because they did not renew their licence.
We think the same latitude should be given to firearms owners here in Canada. They are the most law-abiding group that I have seen in Canada. They are very thorough in the way they store their firearms and they are very diligent about how they do things. Again, we do not want to see Grandpa Joe penalized for a small mistake that could be quickly rectified.
I would like to quote some people in the firearms industry. There are massive numbers of members in associations, and they support this bill.
Tony Bernardo, from the Canadian Shooting Sports Association, said that my bill reflects the reality that every firearms licence in Canada is reviewed every day by the police. The RCMP's continuous eligibility process should equate to continuous entitlement to possess firearms.
He went on to say that no law-abiding firearms owner should be criminalized for an expired firearms licence.
That is really the crux of this whole thing. It is just a little fixing of an administrative issue. Turning that administrative issue into something that is criminal is not what was intended by the law. There are other ways to get it done without turning Grandpa Joe into an outlaw.
One of the questions I have heard is whether my bill will make obtaining firearms easier.
It seems that whenever we want a positive piece of firearms legislation, it is always taken to a further degree and perceived as now enabling people to buy firearms at every corner store. That is not the case. It would not not make it any easier at all. To legally purchase a firearm or ammunition in Canada, as most firearms owners know, people need to have a firearms licence. That would not change with my bill.
To obtain the firearms licence, people need to go through a process of training, learning about firearms and how to safely store them and so on. My son just took his course. He is 19. He did his RPAL about a month ago. He is getting his the right way and is just waiting for it to come in.
There is also a process of background checks that regularly update the status of an individual. If there is ever an issue with a person, if there are family issues or mental issues, that is collected, and that person would not be able to purchase or possess a firearm. That is a good feature of our firearms licensing program in Canada. It is among the most stringent in the world.
Another question is about what “suspend” means in the bill.
“Suspend” refers to the status of a licence when the information has not been updated within the allotted 10-year period. Using the example of Grandpa Joe, if my bill passes—and I sure hope it does—and Grandpa Joe's licence expires, it goes into suspended mode. That does not mean he becomes a criminal just by possessing that particular firearm in his home; what it means is that he would be suspended from purchasing firearms or ammunition. He could not buy new firearms or ammunition. That is what it suspends.
The suspension is temporary. When Grandpa Joe goes back in and says that he needs to update his address or whatever, the suspension would then be cancelled when the information is provided. A key point for all the firearms owners out there—and this a big issue with my bill, because I know there is a cautionary thought around the word “suspend” and what that means—is that a suspended licence could not be revoked simply because it was suspended. That is a key point. Once someone has gone through the licensing process and done the work and done the training, they certainly do not forget all they have learned just because the licence has expired. They still know how to safely use and store that firearm. A suspended licence could not be revoked simply because it was suspended.
For too long, firearms owners have been treated as shady outlaws over an administrative issue, as I said in my video, and there is a good graphic of the outlaw in the cowboy hat. I want to make sure that no law-abiding firearms owner can be criminalized just for having an expired firearms licence. It goes back to needing to have a good conversation about firearms.
What many people do not know about firearms owners in Canada is that there is a huge demographic that is growing of people who want to own, possess, and use firearms at a range or to go hunting. It is the under 30 demographic. Some of that generation have seen firearms for different uses. They maybe have seen their fathers, grandfathers, mothers, and grandmothers go hunting and they want to experience that themselves.
We are seeing growth in urban areas too. We are seeing dramatic growth in legitimate firearms use in Canada. In Canada we need to rest assured that these people are law-abiding owners. They are licensed and trained, and we should not be worried about that growth. It is a legitimate group that obeys the law and does it the right way. Bill C-346 honours that and makes our firearms laws in Canada that much stronger.
I would like to recognize a few individuals in our party across the country, members of caucus who have seconded my bill from Ontario, all the way across to Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, who support this kind of legislation. It is positive for our firearms owners and it really supports them well.
I would challenge the Liberals and the NDP to consider this demographic seriously. There are Liberals who own firearms. I am co-chair of the parliamentary outdoor caucus. We represent all parties in our group and we want to make sure that there are good laws that recognize our outdoor heritage in Canada. That is sports shooting, hunting, fishing, guiding, and outfitting. It is a group that we all represent, and I would hope and trust that the government across the way would support solid legislation like this to ensure that firearms owners are not going to be needlessly criminalized because of some administrative issue.
I am a firearms owner. I do not hunt as much as I would like to. I fish, but my children have all operated firearms safely. We have an event next week where members of Parliament from all parties get to experience what a firearm feels like and safely operate that firearm. One of my staff had never fired a firearm before, and she was concerned when we first went to the range, but by the end of the day there was a big smile on her face. She understood that this could be done safely. It is a lot of fun, and we have a great regime in Canada that sees that our firearms owners operate them safely and effectively.
Our party does not want to see the laws become regressive. We have seen some moves lately with UN markings and stuff. I am glad to see the minister from Saskatchewan pull back on some of what has been talked about in terms of UN markings and understanding this issue. This was due to the firearms groups in Canada that let us know that the laws need to be hospitable to firearms owners in Canada, not needlessly restrictive. We have a good regime already. We do not need to make it more restrictive. It is already very safe.
My desire in putting forward Bill C-346, which would remove firearms licences from expiring and also has a provision to relinquish one's licence, is meant to do just that and to make our firearms laws in Canada stronger and not regressive.
I want to say a special thanks to all firearms groups across Canada. We support them and support their good work in training. There are a lot of organizations that, while we are having fun on a weekend and mowing the lawn, they are out there training people how to safely operate firearms. They do this every weekend, 52 weeks a year, to make sure that firearms can be safely operated in this country. I thank those groups and say keep up the good work to all who are doing good work for the firearms community in Canada.
I look forward to hearing members' comments.