Mr. Speaker, I want to continue from where I left off some time ago. The bill has been before the House for quite some time, so people may not remember those comments. I invite them to look them up in Hansard.
The changes that are proposed in Bill C-42 show just how serious we are about improving public safety and keeping the public safe from real threats rather than simply trying to take guns out of the hands of hunters and sports shooters. There are types of common sense measures that are important to bring forward. They keep the public safe without putting needless barriers on law-abiding Canadians. That is the main point I want to continue to make.
I would like to address one of the colossal problems that has been raised in the firearms community, and that has a direct impact on thousands of law-abiding gun owners.
In February of 2014, overnight and by the mere stroke of a bureaucrats pen, thousands of law-abiding gun owners became criminals. Without taking any action on their own at all, thousands of Canadians were unwittingly potentially the subject of criminal charges that came with a mandatory three year prison sentence. I am of course talking about the reclassification of the CZ858 and the Swiss Arms family of rifles.
Our government took swift and decisive action at that time to condemn this nonsensical decision and to put in place measures to allow people to use their property and to protect them from prosecution. However, at the end of the day, individuals who owned the impacted rifles were still in legal limbo. Their ability to use their property varies across the country. Their ability to sell their own property was halted. They could not even plan for the future use of their asset, given the amnesty had an expiration date.
This legislation would end arbitrary reclassifications once and for all. For the first time, the elected government would have oversight of classification decisions. On the advice of outside experts, elected officials would be able to overturn incorrect decisions. Additionally, once the bill receives royal assent, the impacted rifles will have their original classification status restored.
It is clear that these measures are safe and sensible, as everything else in the bill is. While the bill is by no means a panacea for all responsible gun owners, many think it is a good start, including me.
I know there are MPs in all political parties who support Canadian heritage activities that include hunting and sport shooting. It is my sincere hope that those members, regardless of their political affiliation, will support the legislation. It will save money and focus on fighting crime. If we listen to the experts who agree, the paperwork does not stop gun crime.
I would like to made a few additional comments.
Those who oppose this legislation are never able to explain how what they advocate will ever reduce crime. For example, there was a lot of talk about the gun registry when it was abolished that it would violate public safety, increase crime and all those kinds of things. Murders using long guns—that is rifles and shotguns—have steadily declined since the registry was abolished. If $2 billion had not been wasted but rather invested in measures that could improve public safety, we could have truly saved lives.
For example, if we had a stronger police presence in some areas of our cities, that would be effective. We need to promote healthy outdoor sports activities for the youth of Canada. That is healthy and good for them.
I would also like to point out that many people on the opposition side use the term “gun control” and they somehow equate it to public safety, but they never explained how it will improve public safety. The one thing they can never explain is how if one lays a piece of paper beside a firearm, it is somehow will control what criminals do with that firearm. It does not make sense. We are bringing in common sense firearm laws. That is what needs to be done.
If we look back in history, we can see that all the criticism the long gun registry received was valid. We changed that and crime did not increase. In fact, crime with firearms decreased.