The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak against and show my strong support for maintaining the long gun registry. I recognize there is division among Canadians, and in my riding, on this point, but what evidence tells me in the end is that this registry saves lives.
Members opposite like to say that we have already debated the bill in full. There are a few things wrong with that argument.
First, nearly a third of the members in the House are new members and so we would like to have our say. We would like to be able to represent our constituents, those who sent us here to bring their opinions to the House.
The second thing that is wrong with the argument is that this is a different bill than was originally presented in the private member's bill introduced in May 2009 by the member for . That bill simply removed the requirement to register long guns. This bill goes far further than that, in a sense that it is proposing to have a bonfire of the data and to destroy the very important data that has already been collected under the gun registry, data which plays a very important role in keeping both our police officers and the public safe.
Both police organizations and the provinces want us to maintain that data and use it to enhance public safety. The money has already been spent gathering the data and it should not be destroyed. It should be shared with the provinces who wish to continue a registry on their own, should this legislation pass.
There is an additional complication here because prior to this registry, businesses were required to keep records of the sale of non-restricted firearms. This bill does not make any provisions for reverting to this process and, as we heard earlier today in question period, this means that weapons that were earlier used in incidents, like the Montreal massacre, weapons that were used in the terrible incident in Norway, will no longer be subject to registration at sale or any registration at all in the country.
While New Democrats acknowledge that first nations and rural Canadians have some problems with this registry, we have tried to address those points that would make the registry less burdensome to them. We believe we can find a way to address the problems with the registry, while at the same time strengthening gun control.
What are our proposals? We have agreed that we ought to decriminalize the first time non-registration of long guns, making a one-time offence a non-criminal ticket. This would go a long way toward the objections that Conservatives like to raise that law-abiding Canadians are being hit by the gun registry. They would be given a chance to register their weapons without acquiring a criminal record.
We would also agree to enshrine in legislation that there would never be a fee charged for registration under the long gun registry. This would reduce the objection that there is a high cost to many in rural areas who have low incomes and who need firearms for hunting or other farm related usages.
We have also agreed that we could prevent the release of identifying information about gun owners, except for incidents which would protect public safety, or under court order, or by force of law.
We have also suggested that guarantees could be put together to ensure that aboriginal treaty rights would be protected. I have talked with first nations in my riding and this is a concern of theirs. It is not that they object in principle to the gun registry, it is not that they do not have concerns about public safety, but they do, as they always should, object when their aboriginal treaty rights are ignored and things proceed without any consultation or talks with them. We would like to work with rural and aboriginal Canadians. At the same time, we would like to continue to give the police the tools they need to keep our streets safe.
From my point of view, firearm registration is already a one-time only procedure. It would never expire unless the weapons were transferred to a new owner. Under those conditions, to me, it seems much like the conditions by which we require people to get both a driver's licence and to register their cars; in this case, a firearms acquisition certificate and registration of the actual firearms.
While we would work to make it as non-burdensome as possible, to make it as easy as possible to register those, I still believe in the registration of long guns as an important part of public safety.
What has convinced me? What persuades me that we need to keep the registry? I want to talk first of all about police. I am a former police board member in my own community. At the time the registry was introduced, it was seen as a very important tool by the police that I worked with every day.
The registry gives real time access to information. It is regularly updated when the public safety threats are identified and used when police respond to calls and referenced during important investigations. The police officers in my riding have told me again and again that it does provide them with the information they need to solve crimes involving firearms.
As of September 11, 2011, the Canadian Firearms Registry has been accessed 17,402 times per day. Again, there is no alternative being presented by the government that would allow the police to have similar information that would prevent crimes before they are actually committed with firearms.
In one survey which was conducted, 92% of general duty police officers said they use the Canadian firearms information system and 74% of those front line general duty police officers said the results have provided and proven beneficial during major police operations, that they have helped keep police officers safe and that they have improved public safety.
When we look at the unfortunate deaths of police officers in this country over the past 10 years, it is important to remember that long guns killed 10 out of 13 police officers who died in service of the public. This registry has been supported by police officers across the country.
Chief William Blair of Toronto said, “The registry gives officers information that keeps them safe. If the registry is taken from us, police officers may guess, but they cannot know. It could get them killed”.
That is the first reason that persuades me that we need to keep this registry. The second is the evidence on the public record about public safety.
Since the introduction of stricter gun laws in 1991, there has been a 65% reduction in homicides by long guns. This is data from Statistics Canada. These are facts; these are not opinions. The reduction in homicides involving any type of firearm, in other words, other types of firearms, was only 37%, so there has definitely been an impact that would cause the reduction in long gun homicides to go down again by 65%, almost double the rate of reduction in other firearms.
From 1995, when the firearms registry became law, to 2010 there was a 41% reduction in homicides by long guns. Rifles and shotguns are the guns most often used in unfortunate suicides, particularly those involving youth. While these have decreased by 64% in nine years, from 329 in 1995 to 121 in 2005, there has been no evidence that other methods have been substituted. So again, an important role in reducing the number of suicides among youth.
The third reason is my contact with women's groups in my riding and across the country. They have paid particular attention to family violence and the role of long guns in family violence in this country. When we look at the case of spousal homicides involving firearms from 1980 to 2009, there is a decrease in those figures, but on average one of three women killed by their husbands were shot and 88% of them were shot with long guns legally owned.
Since the introduction of the gun registry, gun-related spousal homicides are down by 50%. So still a significant problem, but a problem which has been greatly reduced.
Members on the other side are fond of saying “when police officers go to domestic violence, they cannot trust the gun registry 100%”. Well they can have fair warning if there are large numbers of weapons in that household. But that is not actually the issue.
The issue is, can guns be removed from households before there is an incident where someone is shot because police are aware, the weapons are registered, and lower levels of violence have indicated this may become a more serious problem in the future. That is where, in my mind, the real value of the registry is when we talk about family violence, the ability to identify weapons and remove them from the home before they are used for a terrible purpose like spousal murder.
The Conservatives like to argue that homicide rates have simply been on the decline and that our facts around public safety for women simply reflect that decline. But I have already said in my speech, we can show that there have been differential effects and greater decreases in the use of long guns in family violence, suicide and other public safety incidents.
When I stand today in opposition to this bill, I stand with police officers, women's groups, victims groups and the majority of Canadians.
Chief Daniel Parkinson of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police said, “Scrapping the federal Firearms Registry will put our officers at risk and undermine our ability to prevent and solve crimes”. Battered Women's Support Services in B.C. supports the registry and has gone so far as to ask the Liberal premier to set up a provincial registry if this legislation passes. The Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime says the majority of victims groups in this country support the registry.
I stand with the majority of British Columbias, 61% in the most recent public opinion survey, in support of the gun registry, and ask the government to abandon this reckless law.