Mr. Speaker, as one of the few members of the House who was actually here on that fateful day way back in the mid-1990s when the then justice minister, Allan Rock, introduced this gun registry, I can tell members that while it has been a long and frustrating journey over the years, I am pleased to see that this wasteful and ineffective gun registry is finally going to be put to rest. It is only fitting that something as costly and ineffective as the long gun registry act will rightly end up in the archives somewhere, hopefully never to be opened again.
I remember the debate back in this House in 1995 when the then justice minister, Allan Rock, brought in that bill. The Liberals, over and over again, tried to defend their action with arguments that were so incredible and hypothetical that there was not an ounce of credibility, at the end of the day, to any of their arguments about how the firearm registry would immediately start saving lives in our country.
The fact is that after all this time there is not one single shred of credible evidence clearly showing that the gun registry saved a life in this country. That was the big argument the Liberals made when they brought the bill in. They did not have any data or any information: it was all hypothetical, rhetorical and without credibility.
The fact is that we were right back then. I was a member of the Reform Party. We fought the bill long and hard, day after day, until the Liberals finally brought in closure. Gee, did they do that? They brought in closure on the bill, it went to vote and, since they had a majority, it went through.
However, as it turns out these many years later, we were right. Our arguments have all been borne out over the years. We were the ones who were credible in what we said, and it has been borne out that the Liberals simply were not.
Here we are, 16 or 17 years later, after probably spending somewhere around $3 billion in total on the gun registry, and it has yet to be demonstrated with any credibility whatsoever that the registry saved a life in this country.
What we can demonstrate is that the gun registry act has unfairly and unjustly targeted law-abiding Canadians who hunt and shoot and use guns for other sports-related activities. They are the ones who have paid the price, not the criminals who are out there with illegal handguns and illegal long arms, committing crimes, shooting people and each other. They have not paid a price because they have never had to register their guns, nor would they ever intend to.
It has been the law-abiding hunters and farmers who have been paying the onerous price of having to adhere to this ineffective and expensive long gun registry, and the taxpayers have been paying the bill for it.
Therefore, I am delighted to rise today to contribute to report stage debate on Bill C-19, the ending the long-gun registry act. I love the sound of that title. Our government's longstanding commitment to law-abiding citizens is one step closer to fruition today, making this a great day for Conservatives and, indeed, a great day for Canadians.
The reasoning behind the bill is very simple. The Conservative government does not support a piece of legislation that treats law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters like criminals. We could never support that. No politician in their right thinking could support a bill like that, yet we have had to live with it for 16 to 17 years.
This policy is as wasteful and ineffective as one can imagine. We have called it the long gun registry. It has cost Canadian taxpayers a ton of money, billions of dollars over the years, and has been shown to be completely ineffective. It has not fulfilled the promises the Liberals made in trying to defend the gun registry bill when they introduced it.
The money could have better served Canadian citizens funding other initiatives and other programs, including more law enforcement personnel, new crime prevention techniques, rehabilitative treatment in prisons, or victim support systems. From these things we could have seen some constructive results and seen that the money had not simply disappeared into some black hole called the gun registry. These types of programs are just the tip of the iceberg in protecting our communities.
In light of the significant monetary investment made in the gun registry, it would be reasonable to expect high returns in the form of crime prevention from it, but this has not been the case. As I stated before, there has not been a single statement, argument, fact or piece of data presented over the course of this entire debate that has conclusively proven that the long gun registry has stopped a single crime or saved a single life in this country since the day it hit the floor of this House. There is not one argument that has come from the other side that could show that. There is lots of rhetoric, lots of maybes, lots of possibilities, but not one single factual argument or statement.
This is because the guns used in crimes are primarily ones that have come into Canada illegally for an express criminal purpose. These types of guns are never registered, to the surprise of some of my colleagues over there. Criminals do not register their firearms; they do not register their hand guns.
This results in the registry being nothing more than a list of guns owned and legally used by Canadian citizens. We will not find a single gun in there that has been registered by a criminal or someone who brought the gun into Canada illegally for the purpose of committing a crime.
The fact of the matter is that the long gun registry does absolutely nothing to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. It never has and never will. People who smuggle illegal firearms into this country do not care about the long gun registry. Criminals in this country, the people who buy these illegal guns, do not care about the long gun registry. People who commit crimes with these firearms, these handguns, do not care about the long gun registry. That is the fact. We are able to present that fact, and it is credible when stated. The opposition has never been able to disprove it with facts, only with rhetoric and hypotheses.
It is outrageous that hardworking Canadians have had to fund, with their taxes, such a useless expenditure that has done nothing to make them and their families safer. They have had to fund this over the last 16 to 17 years.
Last May Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to keep our streets and communities safe, and we heard that. We told them that we would do it. They said “Yes, we believe you”. They elected a strong Conservative majority government, and we are fulfilling that promise to Canadians.
We have been focusing on these issues. We created the safe streets and communities act as a start to fulfilling our promise to Canadians. Unfortunately, the opposition parties have consistently chosen to ignore the facts and argue against the reforms and initiatives the government has worked for to keep our streets and communities safe. They would like to see the government continue to pour money down the drain of the long gun registry, instead of using it where it is needed most, for the protection of our families.
Our government has strongly and consistently opposed the previous Liberal government's $2 billion gun registry because it is wasteful and ineffective. Furthermore, we are committed to keeping our promise to Canadians and removing all traces of the long gun registry. If provincial governments choose to pursue their own registry, they are free to do so but we are not going to help them. We will in no way assist with setting up other registries, because they are a clear waste of public money and time and an obvious attack on law-abiding citizens.