Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be able to lead off the debate on Bill . I have been waiting 12 years for this day. That is when we started putting an end to the Liberals' infamous $2 billion boondoggle on the firearms program. This is the day we start to dismantle Bill C-68 and return our gun laws to the way they were in 1995.
There was no evidence that those gun control laws were effective, but at least they were only costing taxpayers $12.8 million a year, not $100 million. This is the day we start putting an end to the Liberal gun control laws that do not work, do not save lives, do not reduce violent crime, do not improve public safety and do not keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
Finally, this is the day we start putting in place weapons control laws that have been proven statistically to save lives, to reduce violent crime, to improve public safety and to help to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of criminals.
I want to warn Canadians of the blather they are going to hear from the other parties on this issue, likely today. Their gun control proposals sound too good to be true and they are. They may sound good, but they are not sound policies. Policies that are driven strictly by emotions may actually do more harm than good. They may divert resources away from more useful endeavours. Emotions may encourage us to act to solve a problem, but they can be harmful if they make us act irrationally. Because Bill C-68 was not based on factual evidence, it has done more harm than good.
I intend today to expose that flaw in our response to crime in Canada. Canadians need gun control policies that are effective as well as cost effective, but Liberals have not let logic, facts and truth get in the way of a good sound bite or a scary political advertisement at election time. The truth is they want votes more than they want effective gun laws and this is hurting our nation.
This is not a right versus left issue on the political spectrum. It is a right versus wrong issue to crime control.
Let us start with the colossal overspending by the Liberals on implementing the Firearms Act. On April 24, 1995 then justice minister Allan Rock appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and promised Parliament and the Canadian taxpayers that implementing the Firearms Act would cost $2.2 million over five years.
On May 17, 2006 the Auditor General of Canada reported that the Liberals had spent more than a billion tax dollars over 12 years to implement that program, and guess what? It is still not completely implemented.
In a letter to me dated June 15, 2006, the Auditor General confirmed that her audit of the firearms program costs did not include enforcement costs, compliance costs, economic costs, and unreported indirect costs to other departments. She also confirmed that the Liberal government's cost benefit analysis of the firearms program and the Liberals' 115 page economic impact study are still cabinet secrets as they have been since 2003 and 1999 respectively. So we still do not know the real costs.
In his 1993 report, the previous auditor general, Denis Desautels, criticized the government for moving forward with new gun control regulations without “important data, needed to assess the potential benefits and future effectiveness of the regulations”, and recommended, “it is essential that the Department of Justice evaluate the effectiveness of the program again”. But it never did.
Political posturing overrode common sense. Mr. Desautels' findings 12 years ago seem very similar to Auditor General Sheila Fraser's report in May 2006. Paragraph 4.36 of her report states:
|| In particular, the Centre has not set any performance targets and has provided few examples of its outcomes. Instead of reporting the key results achieved, the Centre describes its activities and services.
Paragraph 4.38 added:
|| The Centre does not show how these activities help minimize risks to public safety with evidence-based outcomes such as reduced deaths, injuries, and threats from firearms.
That quotation is the most important part of my speech because it exposes the tactics used by those that defend the gun registry. This appalling lack of evidence of effectiveness was also confirmed by the Liberal government's response to order paper question No. 19 on November 29, 2004. Statistics Canada's statement was in bold text and underlined that the specific impact of the firearms program or the firearms registry cannot be isolated from other factors.
In fact, their own statistical evidence proves that the Liberal gun control policies and programs have been a dismal failure. Last December the Library of Parliament obtained a special set of tables for me from Statistics Canada showing firearms related statistics for the total number of homicides committed in Canada between 1997 and 2005.
Consider these Statistics Canada findings: Of the 5,194 homicides committed between 1997 and 2005, only 118, or 2.27%, were committed with a registered gun. Of the 5,194 homicides committed between 1997 and 2005, only 63, or 1.21%, were committed with a firearm registered to the accused murderer. Of the 5,194 homicides committed between 1997 and 2005, only 111, or 2.14%, were committed by a person who held a valid firearms licence. Of the two million licensed gun owners in Canada, only 111, that is 0.00555%, used their firearm to murder somebody.
This analysis shows what almost everyone in Canada knows, with the exception of the opposition parties in this House, that criminals do not register their guns and cannot be bothered to qualify for a firearms licence. Sadly, these statistics prove the main point I have been making for the last 12 years, that laying a piece of paper beside a gun does not prevent it from being used to murder someone. These statistics represent a failure of gun registration and gun owner licensing as cost effective measures to save lives, improve public safety or keep firearms out of the hands of people who should not have them.
On November 8, 2006 Statistics Canada released its 2005 homicide report. Here are some of the highlights which show that criminals are the real problem, not the type of weapons they use against their victims. There are two things to keep in mind as I read the highlights from the StatsCan report. Number one, the RCMP have been registering handguns since 1934 and fully automatic firearms, sawed off rifles and shotguns have been banned for decades. Number two, in 1995 when the Liberals passed Bill C-68 they banned some 555,000 handguns and required the licensing of all gun owners and the registration of all rifles and shotguns.
Two billion dollars later, this is the result according to Statistics Canada in 2005: We have the highest homicide rate in nearly a decade. The firearm homicide rate is the same as it was 20 years ago. Sixty-six per cent of murders in 2005 were committed without a firearm; 58% of the firearms homicides were committed with handguns; 9% were committed with banned fully automatic firearms, sawed off rifles and shotguns; and only 30% of recovered firearms were registered.
Here are the more relevant homicide statistics that parliamentarians should be focused on: Sixty-four per cent of the accused murderers had a criminal record, 6% for homicide. I have to ask what were these people doing back on the street? Seventy-three per cent of the accused murderers had been drinking or on drugs. Thirteen per cent of the accused murderers were mentally ill; 45% of the murders occurred while the accused were committing another crime; and 22% of murder victims were involved in illegal activities.
Let us turn to an example of the opposition parties using false statistics in an attempt to keep our government from replacing useless gun control laws with truly effective ones. That is why we are here today.
In June 2006 the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security debated a Bloc motion calling for the retention of the long gun registry. A number of opposition MPs repeatedly quoted a statistic to justify their defence of the gun registry. The researchers in the Library of Parliament later proved there was no evidence to support their claims. They claimed “71% of the firearms assaults perpetrated against women involved long guns”. That is a false statistic. The Library of Parliament researcher could not find the source for that statistic but she did find two different sets of statistics to contradict it. The researcher reported:
|| With regard to your request concerning statistics presented during the 8th meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, specifically the statement that 71% of firearms assaults perpetrated against women involve long guns (rifle and shotgun), compared to 29% of the assaults perpetrated against men, I have not been able to find the source of these statistics.
I do not have time to read the whole Library of Parliament quotation, but it clearly notes that the number was not 71%. It was 17.1%. Those were misleading statistics by the opposition. While we deplore domestic violence regardless of the type of weapons used, there are far more effective measures the federal government could take up to help spouses living in violent households.
While doing research on domestic violence, we keep finding news stories about women's shelters not being able to accommodate abused women showing up at their doorsteps. The Library of Parliament sent me the most recent statistics Canada reports on shelters for abused women that showed the tragic truth ignored by the Liberals for years: “On the snapshot day, about one-fifth of all shelters referred about 221 women and 112 children elsewhere. Two-thirds of those referrals were made because shelters were full. Eight in ten abused women in shelters were there to escape a current or former spouse common law partner”.
While the Liberals were wasting over a billion tax dollars on the gun registry over the last 10 years, hundreds of women and children were being turned away from women's shelters every day. I do not need to remind the House of the massive cuts to social transfer payments to the provinces that were made by the previous Liberal government during the 1990s.
Another analysis of domestic violence just completed by the Library's parliamentary research branch showed spousal homicides committed each year have remained virtually unchanged over the last 10 years. The futility of it all is driven home by the fact that 70% of the women murdered by a family member over the last 10 years were murdered with something other than a firearm. These domestic violence reports expose 10 years of Liberal deception on the firearms file.
Women should be outraged that they were treated so shoddily when one of the solutions to combat family violence was obvious and blatantly ignored for so many years.
If we were telling people the truth, they would be telling us that helping abused women is more important than simply laying a piece of paper beside our guns, but then the opposition parties will claim that the police use the system thousands of times a day. Members have likely heard that claim.
Here is what the Auditor General, Sheila Fraser, said on May 31, 2006, when she appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security:
|| I believe that the indicator of the 5,000 hits a day is more of what we call an activity indicator than an indicator of effectiveness. So those law enforcement people who use the registry would have to give an assessment as to whether or not it was useful to them.
|| There could be 5,000 hits, and they could say, yes, it was very helpful and helped me in this way; or they could say, no, it wasn't helpful because the information wasn't correct. It takes an additional degree of interpretation or information to assess effectiveness.
Members will understand why I say we should have the Auditor General audit firearms law to see if it is cost effective. That is what we should be doing.
Here is what the RCMP commissioner said on June 7, 2006, when he appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security:
|| They're automatic CPIC checks that they automatically go over. I don't have the number of how many are direct checks.
Guess what? The Liberals have known this deceptive statistic for a very long time and yet chose not to be upfront and honest with Parliament or the Canadian people.
On December 3, 2004, the then registrar of firearms emailed the then director of public policy with the Canada Firearms Centre and said, “In sum, CFRO”, the gun registry, “is indeed automatically queried in many cases when police officers query CPIC”, meaning the police computer system.
This email from the firearms interest police coordinator to the registrar of firearms states:
|| Note that the CFRO auto query of addresses is based on any valid address query response returned through their Intergraph System query. This means that if a parking ticket had a valid address and was returned...the Intergraph System, it would generate a CFRO address query.
This quote is from a young RCMP officer in my riding who was told by his superiors to stop sending requests to the gun registry before attending domestic disputes because he was “putting his life in danger”. The reason, he was told, was that “the usual 'no guns' response to his query 'creates a false sense of security'”.
It may surprise many MPs on the other side that the majority of front line police officers do not support the gun registry nor do they use it. Why should they, when it is so full of errors?
In December 2005, I released Liberal government documents showing that the number of unverified firearms in the gun registry had increased from 5.1 million to 5.6 million over the last two and a half years, and there are only seven million firearms in the registry. The more millions wasted, the further they fell behind. So much for the Canadian Police Association's resolutions in 1999 and 2004 demanding that data entered in the gun registry be “verified as accurate”.
Other Canadian Police Association demands from 1999 that have not been met are as follows: that the Auditor General of Canada conduct a thorough review of the firearms registration system and release a public report on the findings to the people of Canada; that the CPA receive confirmation that the registration system has the capacity to meet the legislative timeframes established for firearms registration; that the CPA receive confirmation that the cost recovery plan for registration can be achieved; that meaningful consultations with the user group take place to ensure that the concerns of stakeholders are addressed in the review process; and that the CPA receive confirmation that the implementation and operation of the system is not taking officers off the street.
It is unfortunate that we are playing politics with public safety.
Now let us get to the meat of Bill , our government's first step toward implementing our party's firearms and property rights policies passed by our delegates in Montreal in March of 2005.
Our firearms policy states:
|| A Conservative government will repeal Canada's costly gun registry legislation and work with the provinces and territories on cost-effective gun control programs designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals while respecting the rights of law-abiding Canadians to own and use firearms responsibly. Measures will include: mandatory minimum sentences for the criminal use of firearms; strict monitoring of high-risk individuals; crackdown on the smuggling; safe storage provisions; firearms safety training; a certification screening system for all those wishing to acquire firearms legally; and putting more law enforcement officers on our streets.
I support Bill because it is the first step toward fixing all that is wrong with Canada's gun control laws. Getting this bill through second reading will get it into committee where the truth can finally be uncovered and we can start building evidence based and truly cost effective measures to control the criminal use of all weapons, not just guns.
Legislation is seldom perfect. Many people support the gun registry because they think it is gun control. I challenge everyone to look below the surface on this issue and not form an opinion based on a superficial impression that some may have created. The long gun registry does not enhance public safety and that is why it should be repealed.
I appreciate the opportunity—
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill .
The bill received first reading in the House of Commons on June 19, 2006. Its primary objective is to repeal the requirement to obtain and hold a registration certificate for a non-restricted firearm, commonly called long guns, what we would know as a shotgun or a rifle.
It is only now that we are finally debating the bill at second reading, a full year later. The government is clearly dragging its feet, aware that it does not have the support for the legislation in the House.
Under Bill , the registrar of firearms would no longer issue or keep records of registration certificates for non-restricted firearms. Provisions of the Firearms Act regarding these expiry and revocation of registration certificates are accordingly amended, as are provisions setting out the documentation that is involved when lending, importing or exporting non-restricted firearms.
Although registration certificates would no longer be involved when transferring, selling or giving away a firearm, a person transferring a non-restricted firearm to an individual would be required to seek an authorization from the chief firearms officer who will verify that the recipient is entitled to possess the firearm.
As a registration certificate would no longer be required to possess a non-restricted firearm, certain offences in the Firearms Act are amended or even repealed.
The Criminal Code is also amended so that the failure to hold a registration certificate for a non-restricted firearm does not give rise to any of the offences relating to the unauthorized possession of a firearm and does not allow police to seize a firearm. This is all part of the Conservatives' bill.
Although Bill would remove the need to hold a registration certificate for non-restricted firearms, it would not change the requirement for all individuals to hold a licence in order to possess a firearm and, therefore, to undergo a background check and pass any required safety course.
Additionally, Bill would allow for regulations to require firearm businesses to record transactions relating to non-restricted firearms.
Even before Bill was introduced, commentators expressed divergent views on the anticipated legislation. Many stated that abolition of the long gun registry would be contrary to the government's general anti-crime message and therefore opposed by the police, public health officials and groups against domestic violence.
Conversely, the firearms organizations welcomed the expected removal of criminal sanctions when normally law-abiding citizens inadvertently fail to possess required documentation for their firearms. We have two divides here.
During a news conference announcing Bill , the stated:
|| We have found out too painfully over the last number of years that the effort of trying to track down every single long gun in Canada has been ineffective, costly and wasteful and has not led to a reduction of crime with guns.
He goes on to say:
|| Duck hunters, farmers and law-abiding gun owners do not pose a threat to Canadians. Criminals do.
Commentators have pointed out that the gun registry did not prevent recent high profile shooting deaths, notably the four RCMP officers in Alberta in March 2005, a teenage girl in Toronto in December 2005, a police officer in Laval in December 2005 and two RCMP constables in Saskatchewan in July 2006.
At the same time, the proponents of gun control have referred to these tragedies, and they are tragedies, as a reason for strengthening, not weakening, the firearms registry.
Among others, the Coalition for Gun Control, the Attorney General for Ontario and Quebec's Minister of Public Safety are against any dismantling of the firearms registry. Police organizations, both the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Police Associations, are in favour of maintaining the firearms registry as police do query over 5,000 times a day.
I know the members opposite can quote individual policemen who have other opinions but the two organizations certainly are on side for keeping the registry complete.
With regard to the total cost of the gun registry, often cited, and I heard this many times, at $2 billion by the Conservative government members, we know that it has been placed at less than $1 billion over more than 10 years by the Auditor General's report.
Proponents of the firearms registry have blamed cost overruns on the opponents of the registry who have forced the government to deal with non-compliant gun owners, as well as to initiate or respond to expensive court challenges and proceedings. They also say that the computer glitches and administrative problems have now been resolved so that abolishing the registry would make no sense now.
There is no doubt that it was an expensive setup but changing it after the investment is made is not smart policy either.
It has further been argued that removing the requirement to register non-restricted firearms will save only $3 million a year and that $22.7 million in revenue a year will be lost by the government if it stops charging for the various fees involved or rebating them.
It has been argued also that because long guns are the ones most frequently found in homes, the long gun registry has successfully reduced domestic violence, suicides and accidents. According to a recent Swiss study, a decrease in gun injuries and gun deaths since 1995 shows that Canada may be saving up to $1.4 billion a year in violence related costs.
Gun laws are an important part of public safety in Canada. They are not the only solution but they are a part of the solution. In spite of the common use of the word “registry”, the 1995 legislation set up a comprehensive screening and licensing system for all gun owners, as well as the registration of firearms, which did include recording details of what guns individuals owned.
The bulk of the $1 billion over 10-plus years was spent on screening and licensing gun owners. Most of the annual costs of gun control in Canada and about $65 million at last count are spent on screening and licensing gun owners, as well as maintaining a system of continuous eligibility.
The RCMP recently stated that the dismantling of the registration of rifles and shotguns would, at most, save $3 million a year.
In May 2006, the Conservatives introduced an amnesty to effectively eliminate the need to renew firearm licences and to register rifles and shotguns. A rifle or a shotgun in the wrong hands is just as deadly as a handgun. The Ruger Mini-14 rifle used at the Polytechnique is still sold today as an unrestricted rifle, one that Stephen Harper has referred to in the past as a duck gun.
Mr. Speaker, I am not quite sure what you are talking about but I should not have used the name.
All gun owners need to be carefully screened on a regular basis and all guns need to be registered. Of course these measures do not eliminate the possibility of tragedies. No one is saying that.
However, we know with certainty that countries without strong gun laws are more likely and frequently to be the site of these terrible events. We can look to the south. Every year more than 10,000 Americans are murdered with guns, compared to 200 in Canada. The rate of murders without guns is comparable but the rate of murder with guns is dramatically higher in the U.S. Our gun laws are an important investment in public safety.
Many experts have maintained that rifles and shotguns in the wrong hands represent a threat to safety. They include many powerful semi-automatics like the guns used at the Polytechnique and the “elephant gun” used to kill Constable Gignac in Laval. They are also frequently among the caches recovered from gangs and organized crime by our police.
All firearms are potentially dangerous and all guns should be strictly controlled. All guns start as legal guns. Six separate public inquests have maintained the importance of renewable licences and the registration of all firearms. The Supreme Court also emphasized the importance of both. It said:
|| The registration provisions cannot be severed from the rest of the Act. The licensing provisions require everyone who possesses a gun to be licensed; the registration provisions require all guns to be registered. These portions of the Firearms Act are both tightly linked to Parliament’s goal of promoting safety by reducing the misuse of any and all firearms. Both portions are integral and necessary to the operation of the scheme.
That is the Supreme Court, reference regarding the Firearms Act in June 2000.
Experts have also maintained that the 1995 Firearms Act has aided police in taking preventative action and reducing firearm death and injury in Canada. Supporters of the gun registry include the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Professional Police Association, the Canadian Public Health Association, the Canadian Paediatric Society, more than 40 women's associations, the Centre for Suicide Prevention and the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians.
I will give some statistics, even though the other side on this debate does not believe them. On average, more than 5,000 queries are made daily. Since 1998, approximately 19,600 firearms licences have been refused or revoked since the Firearms Act came into force. More than 5,000 affidavits, which is an even higher number now, have been provided by the Canadian Firearms Registry to support the prosecution of firearms related crime and court proceedings across the country. There have been 333 fewer Canadians who die annually of gunshots than in 1995. Homicides with rifles and shotguns are down, suicides with firearms have decreased and domestic violence with firearms has plummeted.
All these trends suggest that stronger controls on rifles and shotguns have had an effect on improving public safety. Physicians, crisis workers and police have also provided anecdotal evidence of specific cases where the registry was useful in removing firearms from potentially deadly situations.
During the long Easter weekend of this year, an “Order Amending the Order Declaring an Amnesty Period” appeared in the Canada Gazette, Volume 141, No. 14, on April 7, 2007. This order extends the one year amnesty, which expired on May 17, 2007, for another year for individuals who have failed to renew their licences or register their rifles or shotguns.
Because the government bill to abolish the registry would likely be defeated, the Conservative government is deteriorating the effectiveness of the gun registry by stealth. Police associations and powerful anti-gun groups have lobbied to keep the registry and the Conservatives are abusing the democratic process to save face and appease core voters. They are doing it through the back door because the facts do not support their position. The facts show that the gun registry is actually working and that police officers find it to be a very useful tool.
Shortly after announcing the first amnesty in May 2006, the government tabled this legislation to eliminate the requirement to register rifles and shotguns. This does not suggest that the government is committed to building compliance with the law. Indeed, in the public pronouncement around its plan, both the and the repeatedly stated that the registration of firearms was costly, wasteful and ineffective. We heard that again today.
There is little doubt that the legislation was launched in an effort to implement campaign promises and I heard that from a lead speaker of the government who said, “The long gun registry is by far and away the biggest issue in many ridings in western Canada”. That is a quote from the former justice minister Vic Toews.
I will, Mr. Speaker, and thank you for that.
Motivation for the 2006 amnesty appears to have been to satisfy political aims and remove “the teeth out of the registry and free rifle and shotgun owners from complying with the rules over the next year”, rather than building compliance with the law as stated when the order was filed.
The objective of the 2007 amnesty order appears to be political rather than as stated, “to build compliance with the existing law”. But if the objective of the amnesty was to address the confusion of gun owners, why did the government not plan a significant media announcement and public education campaign to accompany it?
This is what a previous government did when we wanted to have people comply. Instead, the announcement was published without publicity and only inadvertently discovered by an enterprising journalist. There is no evidence that the previous amnesty improved compliance with the law. There has been no evaluation of the impact of the last amnesty.
The government did not fulfill its responsibilities to undertake a review with an eye to improving the integrity and security of the data. Police have made clear their opposition to a year long amnesty arguing that it undermines respect for the law and that the amnesty penalizes the law abiding gun owners who regardless of their personal views complied with the legislation in a timely fashion. It also encourages groups and individuals who publicly flout the law. It also undermines the integrity of the data in the firearm registration system, a problem that was highlighted in the 2006 Auditor General's report.
There is the issue of the importance of the integrity of data, particularly the address of firearm owners. In the recent killing of a Laval police officer, Daniel Tessier, during a home raid, the media reported that the owner of the legal handgun had not reported the change of address. The Auditor General noted the need to improve the integrity of the data and recommended in the 2006 audit in the chapter entitled “Data quality needs to be addressed”, under paragraph 4.64:
|| The Canada Firearms Centre should ensure that its new information system will be able to provide management with the performance information it needs to run the Canadian Firearms Registry.
This could prevent police from removing firearms and charging potentially dangerous people. Last year's amnesty has prevented the prosecution of people with illegal guns. As far as we know there has been no assessment of how often the 2006 amnesty has hampered police investigations and prosecutions though I am aware of an instance that it has.
The attorney general of Ontario, Michael Bryant, wrote a letter to Minister Day on April 20, 2007, stating that--
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, the .
The Ontario attorney general stated, “Ontario supports the need for the registration of all firearms, including long guns. There are close to two million long guns registered to licensed owners in Ontario. If the long gun registry is dismantled, as you propose with Bill C-21, these guns will become wholly untracked. We have already identified a number of legal implications surrounding untracked firearms that will certainly lessen our ability to carry out searches for firearms, and to ensure effective enforcement of “no firearms” conditions on bail, or on prohibition orders. In practical terms, this has significant implications for public safety”.
Dr. David McKeown, a medical officer of health in Ontario, has stated, “Gun violence is a serious public health issue and unrestricted rifles and shotguns are most often used in domestic violence, suicide and police killings. Six separate public inquests have maintained the importance of renewable licences and registration of all firearms. Extending the amnesty is not the answer. What is needed is to secure and maintain a strong commitment to the licence renewal process and registration”.
Shortly after becoming the , the minister changed the composition of the advisory committee on firearms. Now the members include people who are on record opposing the existing law, that is, the original 1995 law. They are now going forward and advocating an American-style arming for self-protection. Some have even worked closely with the American National Rifle Association and participated in its infomercials.
Since the firearms advisory committee was first formed by the Conservative justice minister Kim Campbell in 1990, the former Liberal government, as of 1993, made a concerted effort to include crime and injury prevention experts, along with gun enthusiasts, to ensure that there was a balance so we could come up with sound public policy.
For the government, the experts on gun laws are all gun enthusiasts. The committee's pro-gun tilt lends to the perception that the 's government is out of step with urban concerns on firearms violence. We hear this repeatedly, especially in Toronto and other places, and Montreal I should add.
While the committee includes some serving and former police officers, their views are at odds with the official positions of the major police organizations in the country. There is no one with expertise in suicide prevention or domestic violence even though these are significant consequences of firearm problems.
Peter Cuthbert of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said in an article published in Le Devoir last November that it was obvious that the Minister of Public Safety wanted a committee that did not support gun control.
The firearms advisory committee, appointed and operating in virtual secrecy, has a dozen members, including a man who argued that more guns in the hands of students would have helped in the recent Virginia Tech massacre in which 32 people were killed, and another shooting aficionado who described a weapon used in last September's Dawson College killings in Montreal as “fun”.
Dr. Mike Ackermann, a member of the committee, stated:
|| If even 1% of the students and staff at Virginia Tech had been allowed to exercise their right to self-defence, then this tragedy would have been stopped in its very beginning and dozens of lives would have been saved.
The 's office recruited the panel members but did not, as has been the practice in previous governments, issue any public announcement about the appointments. We only found out about it from a letter on the former speaker's website.
Recently, we have discovered that the cost of the gun registry has not decreased with the Conservative government taking power and despite less information being recorded with the two amnesties.
I know my time is up, but public safety is an investment. Last year we had a motion passed in committee saying that we need to keep this registry alive. We know that all types of gun deaths, homicides, suicides and accidents, have declined since the registry was brought into force. I think that we have to invest in this registry and continue, so that it will be one element of helping public safety in this country, but not the only element.
Mr. Speaker, the member may have been out before the third strike there, but then again I was paying attention to the speech so it is hard to tell.
The member cited a number of things namely, that police associations and so forth were on board with the registry. I would just like to begin by pointing out that a gentleman I respect a great deal, the commissioner of the OPP, has gone on record saying that forcing law-abiding Canadians to register their rifles does nothing to reduce gun crimes and the money would be better spent on front line police resources.
Loren Schinkel, president of the Winnipeg Police Association, said that the Winnipeg Police Association has never supported the long gun registry. It has made its position very clear. The Manitoba Police Association passed a motion calling on Ottawa to scrap the long gun registry. The Calgary Police Association and the Edmonton Police Association support calls for scrapping the registry. I could go on. I have a whole list here.
Let us take a look at what Canadians have had to say. The Globe and Mail on September 15, 2006 asked: Do you believe an effective gun registry program could have helped prevent the shooting at Montreal's Dawson College? The response: 77% said no.
I am sure the member has heard of the London Free Press. It asked: “In your opinion, would stronger gun control measures have prevented this week's shootings in Montreal?” The response: 85% said no.
CFRA in Ottawa did a poll. The three guns used by Kimveer Gill, the Montreal Dawson College shooter, were legally registered. They were in the Liberal gun registry. What does this tell us about the effectiveness of the $1.5 billion gun registry? The poll results indicated that 84.7% said the gun registry should be scrapped.
I cannot understand those members over there. They stand against what Canadians know. Canadians, including the commissioner of the OPP, Julian Fantino, have said that the gun registry does not work and that it will never work. It does not make any sense. There is no empirical data that demonstrates that the registry works.
Why did the member, as part of the former government, close nine RCMP detachments along the border so that her government could fund the long gun registry when what we really needed was law enforcement officials to make sure the guns did not get into the wrong hands?
Mr. Speaker, it is strange that we should find ourselves ending the session with an issue that we have talked about here so much for so long, an issue that is very emotional.
There is a definite intensity among those opposed to long gun registration. I am not exactly sure why that is, but I have certainly met my share of people who are fascinated with guns and who think that they are pretty great even though they are not.
Guns are good at just one thing: killing. People use them to kill animals, among other things. Police officers, people who transport large sums of money and people whose lives may be in danger because they protect very valuable goods carry handguns not only to protect themselves, but also to injure or kill others.
Because this is a very emotional subject, people tend to go to extremes. I would not want to fall into that trap. Personally, I think that gun control is the best way to prevent crime. It is also a way to prevent the most dangerous crimes—those that can result in death or serious injury. I think that we can start with a number of premises with which we all agree. Firearms are dangerous. Only responsible people should be allowed to have them. To the extent possible, nobody wants bad guys to have guns, and nobody wants it to be easy for criminals to get them, but we know that is impossible. There will probably always be some criminals who can find a way around the controls we put in place.
We must not become discouraged because it is impossible to implement controls to ensure that criminals cannot get guns. We can still achieve results. We cannot abolish guns entirely, but we can reduce their numbers. That is why it makes sense to look elsewhere in the world to see if other countries and other legislators have gone through what we are going through.
I think that the majority of civilized countries whose homicide rates are similar to ours also have comparable incarceration rates. But there is one—our neighbour—that has an extremely high incarceration rate. It is six times higher than ours and three, four, five or even ten times higher than the incarceration rates of some Scandinavian countries. Does its high incarceration rate get results when it comes to homicides? Not at all. On the contrary, it has the highest homicide rate in the world. So putting more people in prison and leaving more guns in circulation is not the best way to go. We also tend to register dangerous objects that were not created for killing, but that can be a danger. We register vehicles, large and small. We even register snowmobiles and scooters.
I wondered why we register automobiles. Some think that it is so the government can collect fees. If the government really wanted to make money off drivers, the easiest and cheapest solution would be to increase the tax on gas. It is true that the government may use this as a source of funding. In Quebec, when people register vehicles, the government collects an insurance premium that compensates motor vehicle accident victims. However, I think we started registering vehicles because they can hurt people.
People who had injured someone and who had probably been negligent tended to leave the scene if the car could not be traced. Thus, it became mandatory to display licences on automobiles.
At present, we have a somewhat ridiculous situation where duck hunters object to registering their guns that kill, but they get into a boat that has a registration number. When they hunt in the winter, they travel by registered snowmobile, but they absolutely do not want to register their rifles. What is more dangerous, a snowmobile or a rifle? Do they own the boat or the rifle?
In addition, I sometimes believe that the Conservatives are not as mean as they would have us believe. They recognize that these guns are not used solely for sport, as long guns are. However, handguns—guns that can be used with only one hand—should continue to be registered. And they have been since 1934, which allows us to compare our experience with that of our neighbours to the south.
Everyone knows that weapons circulate very freely in the U.S. Yet, those who commit crimes with weapons are for the most part punished very severely. What is the result? The homicide rate in the United States is three times higher than in Canada.
People will say that it is criminals who kill and so forth. At some point, I would like to have the definition of a criminal. The Conservatives talk about them as though they are people who have chosen to lead a criminal life. But they are not the only ones who kill.
People kill for all sorts of reasons. They kill out of passion, revenge or jealousy. Very often individuals who do not really have a criminal past are found guilty of murder. Some have a criminal past and others do not. Easy access to weapons, the availability of weapons, is an important factor in the increase in the homicide rate. The best evidence is that your chance of being a murder victim is three times higher in the United States. Unfortunately, women are five times more likely to be victims of murder in the United States, probably because of marital strife.
When we look at it, these numbers are rather substantial. Incarceration rates are six times higher in the United States and homicide rates are three times higher. Ask any educated, well-informed American who is not a member of the National Rifle Association why their homicide rate is so much higher than ours and they will tell you that it is due to the fact that firearms are so easy to acquire in that country.
I did not bring the statistics with me today, because I did not have a great deal of warning. However, I have been a part of this debate for quite some time and I often hear things that, in my opinion, prove the opposite of what they claim.
For instance, regarding the very high homicide rates in the United States, the Conservatives pointed out that, in nicer neighbourhoods, in comparable neighbourhoods, such as the Seattle suburbs and the Vancouver suburbs, the homicide rate is more or less the same. I agree and I am not surprised, because people who have similar levels of education are likely to have a similar sense of responsibility. But if we look at the United States as a whole, if comparable neighbourhoods with similar education levels have the same homicide rate, that means that in other areas of the United States, the homicide rate must be extremely high. Firearms are easily accessible in those places, too.
Based on the U.S. experience, everyone thinks there should be gun control. T what barrel length should be start controlling guns and at what length should we stop? People involved in crime want to use guns, but then some of the people who have a fascination with guns—something I have never really understood—are not criminals. Nonetheless, generally speaking, criminals have a fascination with guns for a criminal purpose. This includes all kinds of criminals, crooks for example. Criminals who have a fascination with guns want to perpetrate violence. The easier it is to get guns, the sooner they will start to use them. Those are the general conclusions we draw from the difference between us and the Americans.
I have always wondered why people would buy a rifle and saw off the barrel. The reason is simple: they want to hide it. It is easier to carry a rifle that is inconspicuous when one wants to rob a bank. That is why they saw off the barrel. By doing so, they are cutting off the difference in price between a handgun and a rifle.
Criminals were sawing off shotguns—so much so that a specific offence was created for this—because they were having a hard time getting revolvers. Revolvers and handguns were registered. Accordingly, the sale of these weapons was better controlled. It cost more to get them on the black market. And since hunting rifles were not controlled, a person could buy one, saw off the barrel and have a weapon that could be concealed until it was needed in a bank robbery. I fear we may end up back in that situation.
Then people bring up another statistic, which was actually used this afternoon to prove two opposing notions. Fewer than 2% of firearms related homicides in Canada are committed with registered firearms, which proves that the system does not work. That sounds strange to me, because I would tend to believe that it proves that the system does work. It proves that people who register their weapons are responsible. The primary purpose of the gun control program is to ensure that only responsible people have access to firearms and to encourage them to keep these items safely locked up, as they have been taught to do, and never to give in to the temptation to sell them to someone who does not have the right to buy them.
In the context of the gun control system, registration may not eliminate homicide altogether, but it is a vital tool to lower the homicide rate significantly.
There are cases where registration is essential to facilitating the application of the law, such as when a judge issues an order to surrender firearms. It is important for police officers to know which firearms to seize, which is easier when they are registered. The Montreal police brotherhood, which came to one of our press conferences, told us about a striking case. A woman was afraid of her husband, who had a lot of guns. She knew that he had guns, but she did not know how many. The marriage was going badly, and there was some danger of violence erupting, so they went to a judge. The judge issued an order to seize the firearms. As I recall, there were over 280 of them. The police did not leave until they had found all 280 registered weapons. As you can see, registration was vital in that case.
There are other cases where registration is useful.
These judges' orders are issued in cases where spousal abuse may be a concern and where someone has suicidal tendencies. The judge may issue an order. That is why all suicide prevention organizations are asking that the gun registry be maintained. If an order can be obtained, the authorities know what weapon to look for because the weapon is registered.
Of the 480 or so murders committed last year, two were committed with registered weapons by Kimveer Gill, in the Dawson College tragedy. Some claimed that the firearm registration system did not work because the weapon used was registered. The Dawson College tragedy could perhaps have been prevented. Just after this incident, another tragedy was averted and it received a great deal of publicity. It was obvious from his website that this individual should never have owned weapons. That was not known at first.
Some individuals found a site in Hudson and believing him to be dangerous, reported the author. The police looked into the matter and realized that the individual had registered firearms in his possession. The police went to court, obtained an order and retrieved the weapons. That is why I am proposing a reporting site.
In the case of Kimveer Gill, had this reporting site been operational and if, by chance, someone had seen Gill's site, the police could have determined if he had registered weapons. Thus the police could have retrieved the weapons and a tragedy would have been prevented. The registration of weapons can be useful.
This can produce results. It seems to me that the American experience, when compared to that of Canada and other countries, clearly shows that the fewer weapons are in circulation, the fewer homicides take place. The safest country in the world is Japan, where there is absolute gun control. Only police officers and registered hunters have the right to purchase firearms. The homicide rate is even lower than that of Canada.
This debate shows that there is some emotion attached to firearms, and that disturbs me. The rational attitude is obvious. People do not want the government to register things, but my goodness, so many things are registered. Cars, boats, bicycles, dogs and cats are all registered. What is so wrong about registering something that can kill?
Firearm registration is important because we do not want firearms to easily find their way into the hands of irresponsible people. Currently, when a person sells or gives a registered firearm to someone else, they must go to the registry office. We take care of our firearms and ensure that they are always under control.
I know that some people want to keep the provision that prohibits selling a firearm to someone without a permit. However, this is not verified. It can also happen through carelessness.
So this leaves the door open to organized crime. If a group member has a permit, he can purchase unregistered firearms and then supply his group. I will remind the House that there are no savings. What was expensive was the computer system.
We are keeping this computer system since the Conservatives want to keep it for handguns. A computer system that would register 30%, 40% or probably even 100% more transactions would be pretty much the same computer system. There are no savings, obviously. There was an amnesty, but no savings. This is why I think we should keep the gun registry.
Mr. Speaker, I must admit that I am getting some encouragement from the Conservative Party member to make a good speech, but I think the member's definition of a good speech on this topic would be substantially different from my definition of a good speech on this topic.
I want to begin by acknowledging the passion that this issue has raised in this country, including yourself, Mr. Speaker, on a number of occasions. To some significant degree, it is unfortunate that this issue is at times so clouded by passion rather than by reason and fact.
To a significant degree, members of the Liberal administration need to take a good deal of responsibility for this because, quite frankly, of their mismanagement of the long gun registry in particular, and the manner in which they dealt with the registration of firearms in this country.
It is important that we look at the history of the registration of guns. If we go back, even at the turn of the century there was some requirement if people were carrying a gun to register it. However, the real registration system began in 1934 for, using various terminology, but what we would now refer to as restricted weapons as opposed to prohibited, those weapons that one could legally own and did not need to register, which, from 1934 on, were generally handguns.
The real controversy arose, and I say that objectively in terms of the history of the registration of guns in this country, after the massacre at the École Polytechnique in Quebec when we moved to require the registration of long guns. That was when the real passion arose in the country. To a significant degree, that anger against the long gun registry was generated by, in some cases, gross mismanagement in the system and the cost that went along with that system.
It is quite clear that we need to look at the facts. I do not want to be overly critical of the people who are opposed to the long gun registry because there are some of those within my own caucus. I want to acknowledge, perhaps at this point, that if this bill ever gets to a vote, although I have some doubts about that with the current administration, our party has decided, because of some long-standing opposition from some of our members and their constituents, that in our party this will be a free vote, not a whipped vote.
Those of us who are opposed to this bill and in support of the long gun registry will stand in this House and vote against this bill and vote in favour of retaining the registry. Those within my caucus who are opposed to this registry and in favour of this legislation will stand and vote accordingly. That decision has already been made and taken some time ago.
I am happy to say that a substantial majority of my caucus is opposed to the bill and in favour of maintaining the long gun registry. I want to be very clear about that because of the history that we are prepared to take that position because we do believe the long gun registry does have some validity in reducing injury as a result of the use of long gun weapons in this country and in reducing certain types of crimes.
Having said that, we are very clear that this needs to be managed well, whether it is a Liberal administration or the current Conservative administration. There are some problems with the system and Ms. Fraser, our Auditor General, made that very clear in her report in 2006.
In spite of the fact that the government has moved to transfer the registry to the RCMP, I am very concerned that it has not looked at some of the significant improvements that the registry requires. I say that not just with regard to the long gun registry, but with regard to the handgun registry as well. Some significant improvements are required and are necessary and we are capable of doing them but we are not seeing that from the government. Its approach has been to simply dismantle the long gun registry.
I will be critical again, although I do not want to be overly passionate about this, but I am angry at the government for the position it has taken. This bill was tabled in this House exactly one year ago today, on June 19, 2006. Since that time, the government has had the opportunity to bring the bill forward for debate and for votes. I would estimate roughly 100 days and maybe more than that. It has not done so and I think that is to its discredit for not having moved on this earlier. The debate is going on in the country, the passion is still there and we need to deal with it.