Mr. Speaker, I cannot say that I am happy to be rising today to discuss this piece of legislation, but I am happy to be rising as a law-abiding firearms owner to defend my fellow law-abiding firearms owners.
How did we get here? I will put things in context so the people who might be watching at home know whom they are listening to. I am a member of Parliament for an urban-rural split riding in central Alberta. Half of my constituents live in Red Deer, the third-largest city in Alberta, and the other half live on a first nation reserve, or in a rural setting in Red Deer County, Lacombe County or Ponoka County, or in a small town, city or village therein.
I would consider the people I represent to be honest, hard-working, law-abiding folks who want their tax dollars spent wisely and want the freedom to pursue whatever they want to pursue in life. Many of them pursue various things that involve firearms, including hunting, farming on farms like the one I grew up on, where firearms are just a tool and an everyday part of life, or sport shooting. This is very popular in my constituency. There are numerous stores and vendors in central Alberta that supply firearms, ammunition and parts because of the demand that is there.
I can tell members that we do not have the problems that my colleague who just spoke talked about in her large urban centre, because we respect the law. We put policies in place at the provincial level, and when we are the governing party, we put laws in place that actually crack down on criminals. That is where the actual issue lies.
I can assure Canadians who might be watching at home that the firearms I own are doing nothing right now. They do not do anything until someone picks them up. The issue at hand is violent crime and who has access to firearms. There are numerous provisions in this bill, Bill C-21, that do not address, penalize or in any way affect the outcome of dealing with the wrong people getting a hold of firearms.
How did we get here? Over the course of the preceding decades, Canada was a country that was a rugged place to settle, and it is still a rugged place for some who live in rural areas or adjacent to wild areas or who are farming, involved in forestry, or doing something as seemingly innocuous as keeping beehives. Anybody watching at home who grew up with cartoon books would know that Winnie-the-Pooh was addicted to honey. This is not by chance. Bears often frequent these places, and good, honest people have bought firearms to protect themselves, many of whom were caught up in the order in council that came out a number of years ago.
It all started in the 1930s. If we go back that far, every single firearm and handgun in this country has been put in a registry, but that does not stop criminals from obtaining guns illegally. The government of the day, whenever it is Liberal or Liberal-leaning, seems to want to blame the law-abiding citizen, so, for decades, we have had a firearms registry and the government knows where all the lawfully owned handguns in this country are. Changes were brought in back when Jean Chrétien was the prime minister, including a long-gun registry, which was wasteful and ineffective. The government of the day said it would cost only $2 million, but it was actually closer to $2 billion. Of course, it did not do anything to address violent crime.
We have seen the current government, in its first mandate, put in place Bill C-75, which basically codified in law bail provisions that would let people out in the shortest amount of time with the smallest number of restrictions, and now we see what has happened with that.
What did Bill C-21 originally do? When the members of this House were invited to speak to the bill, it was simply the codification in law of an order in council to ban the transfer of handguns. Then, sneakily, the government decided to table-drop, back in November, a huge stack of amendments that had absolutely nothing to do with handguns. They were all about long guns, and of course the government bit off far more than it could chew.
The government managed to alienate almost all of its voting base when it comes to indigenous Canadians, who were offended by the fact that the firearms used by indigenous people were largely going to be caught up in amendment G-46, taking away their ability to use that firearm.
There was also an evergreen clause in G-4, and I am sorry to report that there is a new evergreen clause put in place that does virtually the same thing, with a minor exception, which I will explain in a few minutes, when I get back to what the problem actually is with the government's notions going forward on its new evergreen clause.
We all remember what happened. It was pretty obvious, because we heard the recordings from the Mass Casualty Commission. The government actually interfered. It took this mass casualty event in Nova Scotia and interfered in the investigation by demanding that the officers who were investigating at the time turn over information to advance a political agenda of the government of the day.
We know it is not about evidence. It is not evidence-based policy-making; it is policy-based evidence-making and evidence-finding, even if it interferes with a police investigation. That is why there is very little trust by law-abiding firearms owners in the intentions of the Liberal government, which is supported by the NDP, and what it is doing.
What is the problem? The problem is violent crime. In the last eight years, violent crime has risen because of the provisions that have been passed by the government when it had a majority and with the support of other left-leaning parties in this place. They passed numerous pieces of legislation, such as Bill C-75 and Bill C-5, that have basically eliminated any consequences whatsoever for people who commit crimes, so much so that violent crime in the last eight years is up 32% over what it was when the Prime Minister and his government inherited the government offices of this place.
More astonishing is this number: 94% increase in gang-related homicides. One would think that an almost doubling of the number of homicides by gang members would trigger a response from the government to crack down on organized crime, but it actually has done the opposite. The passages and clauses in the Criminal Code that would deal with people who are repeat violent offenders have largely been removed, as well as any semblance of a minimum sentence. I am not even talking about mandatory minimum sentences put in place by Stephen Harper when he was prime minister, and by the way crime went down over those 10 years, but I am getting to the point of the fact that numerous basic minimum sentences were removed.
These were put in place by people like Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Jean Chrétien. Of the 12 firearms-related clauses in that piece of legislation, 11 were actually put in place by previous Liberal governments, and the current version of the Liberal government has removed even the most basic minimum sentences for violent crime, including smuggling, firing a gun irresponsibly or even holding a gun to somebody's head for the purpose of extortion. It has removed any mandatory jail time whatsoever for those.
That is the tone and the signal Liberals have sent to the country. Why would criminals not want to increase their activity? There are no consequences, and this is the problem.
I will give an example of the illogic of what the government is doing right now. According to the RCMP's website, there are approximately 430 gangs in Canada with 7,000 members in those gangs. If we look at the average number of homicides committed by people associated with gangs over the last five or six years, it is about 50% of murders. Fifty per cent of murders are committed by gang members, or about 125 a year. There are 2.2 million licensed gun owners in this country. If we look over that same time period, we will see that they are charged for homicide about 12 times a year.
That is 12 out of 2.2 million people versus 125 out of 7,000 people. Who does the government go after? It goes after the 2.2 million. It does not make any sense whatsoever. If we do the math, a gang member is 3,300 times more likely to commit murder with a firearm than a law-abiding firearm owner is, yet the government focuses only on the law-abiding firearm owner.
Gary Mauser, professor emeritus, did an analysis for Statistics Canada that shows that Canadians who are not licensed firearms owners are still three times more likely to commit a homicide than a vetted, licensed gun owner is. For the people who are watching at home, the safest people in Canada for them to be with are legally vetted, law-abiding firearm owners who, at any time, could have their firearms taken away with any complaint lodged against them. That means that every firearm owner meticulously follows the laws of storage, the laws of transportation and the laws of safe discharge. As a matter of fact, we jokingly quip sometimes that gun control meetings are about making sure one's muzzle is always pointed downrange. That is what gun control is to a law-abiding gun owner. We follow all the rules because we do not want to risk losing our privileges, because the fact is that every firearm in Canada is illegal unless it is in the possession of somebody with a licence who is authorized to have that firearm.
We have to go through a renewal process every five years, during which our entire history, including our mental health history, our medical history and anything that might have happened before the courts is reviewed in detail. We wait months to get our licence renewed. Sometimes it is not renewed on time. This puts us in a situation, as law-abiding firearm owners, where we are now in possession of our firearms, which were legal one day, but of which, because of the incompetence of the government to process an application on time, we are now technically, according to the law, illegally in possession. We actually had a clause, when Stephen Harper was the prime minister, where people had a six-month grace period. I am very frustrated by the removal of that grace period, and I will get to that in a minute.
In committee, Dr. Caillin Langmann from McMaster University basically laid it out for everybody to see. His brief states:
The foregoing research papers are peer reviewed and conclude that Canadian legislation to regulate and control firearm possession and acquisition does not have a corresponding effect on homicide and suicide rates.
It also states:
I was asked to produce a review paper for the Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2021. This paper entitled, “Suicide, firearms, and legislation: A review of the Canadian evidence” reviewed 13 studies regarding suicide and legislative efforts and found an associated reduction in suicide by firearm in men aged 45 and older but demonstrated an equivalent increase in suicide by other methods such as hanging. Factors such as unemployment, low income, and indigenous populations were associated with suicide rates....
My conclusions are based on sound statistical analysis and information specifically related to Canada. I am not aware of any other Canadian research which uses reliable statistical models to dispute or disagree with my conclusions.
The brief also states:
Bans of military-appearing firearms, semiautomatic rifles and handguns, short barrel handguns and Saturday night specials in the 1990s has resulted in no associated reduction in homicide rates.
To summarize the results, no statistically significant beneficial associations were found between firearms legislation and homicide by firearm, as well as spousal homicide by firearms, and the criminal charge of “Discharge of a Firearm with Intent”....
Other studies have demonstrated agreement with my studies that laws targeting restricted firearms such as handguns and certain semi-automatic and full automatic firearms in Canada also had no associated effect with homicide rates. Canadian studies by Leenaars and Lester 2001, Mauser and Holmes 1992, and McPhedran and Mauser 2013, are all in general agreement with my study.
The issue is violent crime. It is about controlling violent criminals, controlling those people. One can control inanimate objects all one wants, but it will not change anything. Therefore, the “who” is not the problem. It is not hunters. Over eight million people in this country hunt and fish, contributing $19 billion annually to the GDP, and the order in council has already banned rifles used for hunting, some that even conservation officers use. I was a conservation officer. I was a national park warden and I was issued firearms for my duties. I was a park ranger in charge of a park in the province of Alberta and I was issued firearms for those duties as well. Every person I dealt with as a conservation officer was at least a camper who had an axe, a fisherman who had a knife or a hunter who had either a rifle or a bow and arrow. I had no trouble with those good people, no trouble whatsoever.
We are going to ban the very guns that conservation officers use, but they do not have those firearms. The Yukon government actually had to go around the order in council to buy firearms for its conservation officers, because those are the best firearms available to protect its officers from bears, mountain lions and all of the other issues that conservation officers face, because that is where the real issue lies.
It is very clear to me as a hunter, that, with the changes the Liberals have made, they are weasel words, especially the evergreen clause that deals with magazines. I laid it out very clearly at committee that anybody who wants to interpret it that way can say that, as long as a firearm can take a magazine that holds more than five rounds, it shall be banned. After this becomes law, we would end up in a situation in which, with guns that are functionally identical, one from 10 years ago and a new firearm, one would be prohibited and the other would still be legal. This is because of the clear lack of knowledge and understanding, when it comes to firearms, of people who do not own guns, making laws that simply do not work. We are going to have that scenario again.
However, if people think their gun is safe because they have an older gun that is not included in the new evergreen clause, they should think again, because the firearms committee that would be struck would still have the same authority to do a firearms reference table analysis and ban whatever guns it does not like.
I have news for everybody in this room. If we look at all of the hunting regulations in all of the provinces and territories in this country, a hunting rifle is a rifle that is in the hands of a hunter, used for the purposes of the hunt. It does not matter what it looks like; it just matters what the calibre of the bullet is, so the animal can be safely dispatched.
I could go on for literally a couple more hours and talk about the end of cowboy mounted shooting, cowboy action shooting, IPSC, all of these sports for all of these good people. They are mostly Filipinos there, by the way, when I go to an IPSC event. They are people who have moved here from a country that never allowed them to own firearms, but they have come here and taken up this sport and activity. They are frustrated because, when we take away the ability to transfer these handguns between law-abiding citizens, it will be the end of thousands of people's enjoyment of the sports that involve handguns. I look forward to answering some hopefully logical questions from around the room.
Before I conclude, I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “Bill C-21, An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms), be not now read a third time, but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security for the purpose of reconsidering clauses 0.1, 1.1 and 17, with a view to ensure that the government cannot take away hunting rifles from law-abiding farmers, hunters and Indigenous peoples.”