Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased today to speak in favour of law-abiding gun owners.
I am also pleased to speak on behalf of the many Canadian taxpayers who are asking the government for nothing more than to spend tax dollars wisely. I am pleased to support the bill and I know voters back home are watching to ensure I do.
For many years now Canadians who use rifles and shotguns for legitimate reasons have protested against the long-gun registry and increasingly, over the last number of years, taxpayers have joined their protest.
Last May, our government again promised to get rid of the long gun registry once and for all. In the throne speech, we repeated this promise. Now, with this bill, I am proud to say that we are fulfilling that promise.
First, let us look at the bill in the context of our crime reduction strategy.
The proposed legislation would build on a series of initiatives to make our streets safer that have extended over the last five years. During this time, our government created mandatory minimum prison sentences for serious gun crimes. We have created a new broad-based offence to target drive-by and other intentional shootings. We have also given the provinces and territories more money to enforce the law.
The bill is part of our larger agenda to make our communities and neighbourhoods safer. It is also part of an agenda to spend tax dollars in a way that would respect the priorities of Canadians.
The legislation would end the discrimination against rural Canadians for their use of shotguns and rifles. In doing so, it would eliminate the element of the current gun control system that is both wasteful and ineffective. It would also close a sorry chapter in the decade-long abuse dished out to taxpayers.
Moreover, it would retain the best parts of existing legislation which would allow us to focus our attention against real threats to public safety.
I would like to present some evidence in support of these arguments. However, I would first like to quickly explain why the bill before us is so necessary and is long overdue.
There is no evidence that the long gun registry keeps front line police officers safer, nor is there evidence to highlight just how the registration has prevented crime or reduced crime in this country.
This is not about having a system that is better than nothing. The registry has been a failure. It has failed law-abiding Canadians, it has failed the public and, importantly, it has failed Canadian taxpayers.
Let me explain. The current law targets duck hunters and farmers by making criminals of law-abiding citizens. Moreover, there is no evidence that it has prevented a crime before the fact. Police chiefs who support the registry have in fact been asked about this, yet have been unable to come up with examples where the registry was used to foil a crime.
For all this, the price has been an astounding $2 billion. Yet, earlier today, the member for Winnipeg North disputed this figure, saying it was not grounded in reality. This is an outrageous statement.
Let us go over the history very quickly. When the registry was set up, initially, the then Liberal justice minister claimed it would cost Canadian taxpayers $2 million. Yet the price went up and up and eventually hit $2 billion. In fact, the Auditor General herself concluded the price at over $1 billion and then gave up the audit, simply because the paperwork was not there for her to complete it at the time. I do not think there is much of a dispute out there that the registry has cost $2 billion. For an hon. member to suggest otherwise is not being truthful with Canadian taxpayers.
Thus, in addition to being costly and ineffective, the long gun registry places an unfair burden on law-abiding citizens, people who use rifles and shotguns to protect livestock or provide food for their families, or who might use long guns for sports, such as wild game hunting and target shooting.
Ponds and woodlands in Canada's rural areas are often far from the scene of a crime. Forcing farmers and hunters to register their long guns has not protected Canadians living in urban areas. There is no evidence to support the long gun registry, but there is ample proof that the registry is ineffective.
Let me take a few moments to break some time-honoured myths.
First, most violent gun crime in Canada does not involve long guns. Between 1975 and 2006, for example, Statistics Canada showed the use of rifles or shotguns in homicides declined by a remarkable 86%. In 2006 alone, three times as many victims were killed with a handgun than with rifles or shotguns. These statistics are no aberration. In 2009, out of the 179 firearm homicides, almost 60% of the crimes were committed with handguns.
Furthermore, where long guns are actually used in violent crimes, the vast majority of the firearms are unregistered. Between 2005 and 2009, for example, police recovered 253 firearms that were used to commit a homicide. Of these, less than one-third, 31%, were actually listed with the Canadian firearms registry. Members opposite may say that one out of three is not bad, but again, let me highlight that these guns were only seized after the crimes were committed, not beforehand.
What all this means is that law-abiding citizens are spending time and money to comply with an ineffective law. At the same time, and this should come as no surprise to anyone in the House, criminals with guns simply ignore the registry. The result is an ineffective system that discriminates for no good reason, except perhaps prejudice against legitimate long gun owners, and it does nothing to stem the tide of illegal firearms crossing the border.
Again, what did the taxpaying public receive for all of this? An astounding bill for $2 billion. Imagine for a moment if that money had been spent instead on front-line policing, health care, the Canadian Forces, or even going after illegal guns. Members can pick whatever they like, but I cannot think of a program in the last 20 years that similarly failed to deliver on its promise.
With all this in mind, let me recap the provisions of the new bill and how it will address these issues. The most important component of Bill C-19, and the one that has been so long awaited, is the end of the registration for non-restricted firearms. At the same time, the bill will retain the gun licensing system. Licences will still be required to own any type of firearm. An applicant will still need to undergo a background check and pass a firearms safety course. In addition, owners of restricted and prohibited firearms will still need to register these weapons through the RCMP. As such, we would continue controlling the use of restricted and prohibited firearms, such as handguns, which are by far the firearms of choice in the commission of a homicide.
Finally, the bill would address a very important issue that flows from our promises. As members can imagine, the registry has demanded mountains of paperwork from law-abiding citizens. This has long been a source of concern. Canadians are concerned about what will happen to these records. Will they be taken over by another level of government, or by a federal agency?
Earlier I mentioned the voters in New Brunswick Southwest. During the campaign the Conservatives promised to end the long gun registry. When asked what would happen to the data, I replied it would be deleted. After all, the data is the registry. One cannot credibly claim to oppose the registry yet quietly turn around and keep the information. This would make our pledge meaningless. We will instead preserve the privacy of these Canadians and end this failed debacle once and for all. I am pleased to say that the bill requires the elimination of all records related to the registry of non-restricted firearms contained within the Canadian firearms registry.
The proposed legislation is long overdue. It promises to eliminate a wasteful, ineffective long gun registry that penalizes law-abiding citizens and it will do so without weakening gun control. Instead, we can spend the millions we save each year on crime prevention programs that will truly help make our communities safer.
In short, the bill would replace waste and ineffectiveness with efficiency and value for money. For all these reasons, I urge members of the House to join me and countless Canadian taxpayers in supporting this bill.