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.