Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for Sarnia—Lambton.
The member for Lakeland, who serves as the shadow minister of public safety, has done an incredible job in exposing many of the fallacies and misconceptions in how the Liberal government deals with firearms. After doing so in this House, she received a shockingly bad and partisan response from the Minister of Public Safety. That says it all about how Liberals are handling this important issue.
Simply put, the Liberal government proposes to take firearms from co-operative, law-abiding citizens while doing nothing to stop the flow of illegal guns to dangerous criminals and gangs, which is where the crisis is coming from in the first place. Of course, violent crime with illegal firearms is happening in Canada and has especially been a growing concern for certain cities.
There is a lot more to say about the alarming rise of rural crime as well, which has to do with a completely different set of circumstances for citizens and law enforcement, but today I will focus on a basic principle the Liberal government is totally missing.
Instead of targeting law-abiding Canadians and firearm retailers, the government should be investing in police anti-gang and gun units, and in the CBSA, to provide law enforcement with all the resources it needs to stop illegal smuggling operations and get dangerous criminals and gangs off our streets. This is a common sense approach that would proactively save lives and prevent crime.
In his speech, the member for Kingston and the Islands indicated that rather than deal with high rates of crime, we should just ban guns instead and all crime would magically stop. This is the dangerous mentality the government has when dealing with crime. Rather than deal with the actual problem, it chooses to make a splashy announcement that sounds like it is doing something, but in reality, it continually harasses law-abiding gun owners, who are the most highly vetted citizens in Canada.
This is exactly the problem with what the Liberals have presented in Bill C-21. They are not directing the necessary effort to where expert advice and data indicate it should be going. If we are not keeping illegal guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals, then nothing will change.
If there is any real hope of better protecting the public from these threats, we must focus on stronger enforcement and on deterrence of criminal activity, gangs and illegal gun trafficking. That is what it will take for any new firearms policy to be effective. This is what the experts and professionals are telling us. It is what police departments across Canada are saying when discussing this legislation. I will quote a few prominent members of those respective forces.
Toronto Police Association president, Mike McCormack, said, “There's no way in my world or any world I know that this would have an impact on somebody who's going to go out and buy an illegal gun and use it to kill another person or shoot another person.”
Retired Toronto staff inspector Mike Earl noted, “A handgun ban is ridiculous and doesn’t address the actual problem of criminals shooting up the city. If those people aren't obeying the laws that are already in place, why would they obey a ban?”
Winnipeg police inspector Max Waddell said that, while a ban on all guns might seem like a common sense approach, banning guns wouldn't necessarily stop gun violence. He explains:
I’ll draw a parallel. Illicit drugs are also banned. Yet we see dramatic increases and challenges around methamphetamine...because it’s that supply and demand force that causes individuals to obtain these firearms whether it’s to protect their drug trade, prevent harm, to use it for extortion. Whatever the criminal element is needing these guns for.
There are many more quotes from professionals, people the government clearly failed to consult while drafting this legislation, or else it would have reconsidered a full-scale ban on handguns. If we think about it for a moment, it is a bizarre move for how it wants to set up such a ban and really shows the major flaw with its entire program.
The government would be creating conditions on federal firearms licences to restrict handgun storage of transport within municipalities that have passed such bylaws. These bylaws would effectively be conditions on licences, which means it would only target lawful Canadians who already have the paperwork and are complying with the rules. This provision would only add more red tape and regulations for law-abiding Canadians, and these would be subject to change from community to community depending on whether a particular municipality has passed a bylaw. This is nothing but redundancy and ineffectiveness, and there are mayors who have already spoken out against this bizarre legislation.
Don Iveson, the mayor of Edmonton said, “it’s not the direction we would go in...to pursue a city-specific ban when the issue of the flow of these weapons and their ties to, particularly, drugs and organized crime is much more than a municipality-by-municipality issue”.
He makes a good point. I am all for the division of powers and decentralized government, but when it comes to tackling gun crime and illegal guns, there needs to be a consistent and national approach.
The mayor of Halifax, Mike Savage, points out what we think would be obvious, but clearly it is not. He questioned whether a handgun ban would successfully counter gun violence in a city because, as he says, “A lot of them are not registered weapons”. These are the same handguns used by criminals. Further to his point, these are firearms and they are not obtained legally.
We need to focus on a cost-effective gun control program that is designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, while at the same time respecting the rights of law-abiding Canadians to own and use firearms responsibly. The reality is that at least 80% of guns used in Canadian gun crimes are illegally smuggled in from the United States, meaning that municipal regulations on law-abiding firearms owners will not change much.
Why is the government not focusing on the main supply for gun crime in this country? If it would have consulted those who are dealing with gun crime on the front lines, this bill would be significantly different. Some of the measures that we all support in this House are going to be mandatory minimum sentences for the criminal use of firearms, although the government is moving to remove some of those.
We already have strict processes for people who go in to buy firearms. I referenced earlier in my speech that they are among the most highly vetted citizens in Canada because of the process it takes to acquire the certification to be able to acquire and possess a firearm. One of the most important elements this bill fails to address is putting more law enforcement officers on our streets to deal with the illegal guns and the gangs that plague our cities.
A strange part of the legislation has caught many of my constituents off guard with the prohibition of the importation, exportation and sale of all non-regulated air guns that look like modern firearms. In case members in other parties, especially the governing Liberal Party, were not aware, airsoft guns are not real firearms. We do not have to be afraid of them. They are intentionally designed for games or simply for practice in a controlled environment.
Under Bill C-21, virtually all airsoft guns in Canada will be banned based on their muzzle velocity, as well as their similar look to real firearms. Basically, the government want to ban a hobby enjoyed by thousands of Canadians, including many of their own constituents. In all seriousness, this is more than the Liberals being killjoys. This will affect the real jobs and livelihoods of our fellow Canadians.
According to Airsoft in Canada, the Canadian airsoft market is worth $100 million, and more than 260 Canadian businesses are linked to the paintball or airsoft community. Distributors and retailers are left unsure as to what to do with both their current stock and their stock on order because all of it would be rendered worthless immediately if the government goes through with its ridiculous ban.
There is also a lack of clarity on how this would be enforced. Will they be confiscated, or is the government planning a costly buyback plan for these airsoft guns as well? With this example, it cannot get any clearer that Bill C-21 is not serious about tackling gun crime at all. Sadly, this is the superficial response they are offering to Canadians. They are full of distractions and empty rhetoric.
Canadian lives are at stake here. The government had an opportunity to actually listen to the experts, who have all come to agree that any legislation tackling gun crime must be directed at criminals and gangs, but they have chosen to ignore data-driven policies so they can try to score cheap political points. This is something my Conservative colleagues and I cannot play along with. We will continue to demand real action on gun crime so all Canadians can live in peace and security. This can and should be done while fully respecting the rights and freedoms under the law.
There is one other point I want to address. I addressed this when I spoke to the budget earlier this week. One of the biggest discrepancies we face here in Canada continues to be the difference between urban and rural Canadians. This gun ban particularly hits at the lives of rural Canadians because a lot of the firearms that were banned by the order in council are tools that are used by ranchers and farmers. They are actually necessary for their day-to-day operations in that they help to deal with pests. They help them to protect their herds and their livestock.
There is actually a real need for some of the firearms that were banned by the order in council. To arbitrarily use the bore diameter and the muzzle velocity chosen by the government really does not make any sense because it directly impacts the people who are using them for common sense purposes and reasons.