Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, we were joking a little as I finished that I was just getting wound up, and I was getting wound up around being critical of the government.
I want to go back to how I started my comments this afternoon, which was about trying to reduce the passion around this issue. Although I am being critical of the government because I think it has gone down the wrong road on this, I want it to be seen as constructive criticism rather than a diatribe against it.
However, I am concerned and I actually was angry at the government because of the process it embarked upon with regard to Bill C-21.
We know that the Conservatives sought legal opinions shortly after they were elected. They were told by legal counsel at that time that they had to bring in a bill. They looked at various ways, through regulation or other methodologies, that would have avoided a vote in this House. Ultimately, they determined that they did not have a choice, that the democratic process had put the long gun registry in place and only the democratic process in the form of a bill and a vote in this House could do away with it.
As I had said earlier, the Conservatives introduced the bill into the House exactly a year ago today and have not done anything since then to bring it forward, which is anti-democratic. I am bothered that they took that approach. However, they compounded their inaction with regard to Bill C-21, in the sense of bringing it forward, having a debate and having a vote twice, by publishing and putting into place amnesties for individuals who had long guns who would no longer be required to register them. If they came up for re-registration, they would not need to do that.
There are a couple of things with that. The amnesty provisions within the Criminal Code, in my opinion, were never designed for that purpose and it is really abusive to use them in that way. Amnesty is to be used in very limited ways, mostly for individual crimes rather than in these circumstances where a whole group of people were exempted from the application of this legislation as it existed and as it continues to exist today.
They granted that amnesty and at the same time made the decision not to collect fees. That has cost the Canadian taxpayers now over $20 million per year. We are into the second year and we are approaching the $40 million mark that it has cost the Canadian taxpayers.
The obvious question is why the government would have taken this approach, given the Conservative Party's long antipathy toward the long gun registry. Why would it sit on this? The very simple answer is that it knows it does not have the votes in this House to support this piece of legislation, even at second reading and to send it to committee.
Instead of that, it has engaged in a campaign to avoid its democratic responsibility to bring this matter to this House in a timely fashion and to let this House decide, to let the elected officials in this country decide whether in fact we were going to have a long gun registry. It has avoided doing that and I am highly critical of it for doing that.
Even though we are having this debate tonight until 10 p.m., I do not see it going any further than that. We will not have a vote on it this week and the House is scheduled to end on the 22nd, this Friday. The House will return in the fall and I have no sense that this bill will be brought back in the fall. To some significant degree, the government is avoiding the issue.
The essential point I want to make is that we need to lower the passion around this issue in this country and this does not do it. In fact, it is just the opposite. It feeds it, both for those of us who are opposed to the gun registry and those of us who support it.
In the remaining time I would like to briefly address the bill. The bill is pretty straightforward. Although it is some 10 or 12 pages long, it is very basic. It would amend the Firearms Act. It is legislation that refers to long guns and in effect it would systematically dismantle the long gun registry in this country if this bill were to go ahead and become law at some point in the future.That is all it would do. I suppose I should not say that because it would do a bit more, but that is essentially what the bill would do, which why those of us who feel the long gun registry performs a function are opposed to it.
In that regard, there is no question that the debate around whether this has reduced violent crime in this country is a debate. There is not sufficient evidence on either side to absolutely control that question. There are strong arguments that I voice on a regular basis that have convinced me that the long gun registry has had a substantial impact in reducing violence in this country.
The evidence, I believe, is incontrovertible that the suicide rate has been reduced substantially since 1996 when the long gun registry began to have an impact. Certainly in the period of time from 2001 to 2003 when it really began to have an impact, the suicide rate went down.
The accidental death rate dropped dramatically, in the 20 percentile range, as a result of the controls that the long gun registry imposes upon the storage, transportation, et cetera, of long guns.
It is interesting as well to look at what happened. It was one of those unintended consequences. I certainly did not hear anyone during those debates on the long gun registry legislation speak to this. One of the unintended consequences of the legislation, because it costs money to register, or at least it did before the Conservative government got hold of it, was that it dissuaded people from keeping their long guns when they had to register them. It also had the effect of dissuading people from buying long guns knowing that they would have the ongoing cost of registration.
In that regard, there was a pretty extensive survey done at one point that showed that in the previous year of the survey being conducted slightly more than half of the people who owned long guns in this country did not use them. We have this image portrayed of us making it difficult for hunters to use their long guns for hunting and other recreational purposes, including target practice. The reality is, from what we have been able to ascertain, that continues to be the case. A large number of long guns, slightly more than 50%, in any given year, are not used at all by the owners of those guns,.
To go back to the point of that unintended consequence, when the legislation came into play, people who had to begin to pay fees gave up their long guns rather than pay the fees because they were not using them and had no use for them.
One of the fears, of course, if the long gun registry is done away with and the requirements for storage and the sequence that we follow in terms of enforcing and patrolling that legislation, is that we will see an increase in mishaps, at least in accidental deaths. Suicide is another issue but the fear is that accidental deaths will go up because casual owners, not the hunter who is devoted to a recreational pastime, but the casual owners, who on a whim in many cases buy long guns, will not be careful in how they store the guns and, in effect, protect their families, friends and the environment from the accidental use of the guns. We will see an increase in accidental deaths and for that reason alone it is well worthwhile to keep the registration in place.
One of the other statistics that is very clear, which my colleague from the Bloc mentioned in his address, is that the number of violent crimes within domestic settings between partners, almost all of it males serviced on females, has dropped dramatically as we got rid of that many guns. We got them out of the households where they should not have been. We restricted the use by other people who should not have been owning them.
Some of that will continue. I do not want to mislead the public in that regard. This legislation would continue to require people who own guns to be registered and screened.
What should we be doing to improve the registry of both handguns and long guns? I believe the government has gone wrong by spending so much energy, including the amnesty and including forgiving the fees. Rather than doing that, if it had been spending time and effort and doing analyses of what we should be doing, we probably would have had some significant impact.
I want to talk about the Dawson situation. The long gun that was used, which looked like an assault rifle, at one point could have been banned as an assault rifle because there are provisions within the legislation now that say this type of a gun, if it looks this way, which is the kind of wording and essence of the legislation and the regulations, is banned. That was during the Liberal government administration. There were a number of opportunities but because of the opposition that was coming from those people who opposed the long guns, the Liberals were not prepared to take those administrative decisions to get guns like that out of the hands of people who, as my colleague from the Bloc said, have this fascination with guns.
I do not want to taint all owners of guns that way but it was one of the places where we could have done better as a government. We did not do that because of the opposition to the long gun registry. We should be doing that. There are other assault rifles appearing in this country that should be on our prohibited list and no one should be allowed to own them, rifles similar to the one used in the Dawson killings.
We should be tightening up quite dramatically the screening of everyone, whether they own a handgun or a long gun. There are simply too many other possibilities. I want to point to one of the suggestions that has been made, which has come out of the province of Quebec, around screening people by getting the gun clubs more on side, requiring them to provide information and, in particular, concerns, if they have them, over individuals who have gone through the training process that they needed to go through in order to get themselves and their weapons registered in this country, requiring them to do more in that regard.
The financial reason that they should be required to do that is because they benefit from the use of guns in this country at the clubs they run, whether they are private or non-profit. They have an additional responsibility and I believe it is one that we should be imposing upon them and should be enforced. That would have some significant difference. Again, in the Dawson situation we should have done additional screening with regard to military records. It is quite clear in that case that it would have brought forward to the registrar that this individual had a problem and that may very well have prevented that.
We can go down the list. There are a number of other areas where we could be doing much better. The concentration that we have done on simply getting rid of the long gun registry is a major error. We should be doing much more work in these other areas of screening and getting other guns out of circulation that really have no purpose in a society such as Canada.
I urge all members of this House in the debate that will be taking place through the rest of this evening to try to limit the passion, look at the facts and to argue from whichever side, because there are facts on both sides of this, but to reduce the passion and hopefully that will spill out into the rest of the country.
Hon. Stockwell Day (Minister of Public Safety, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for that demonstration of collegiality from the members.
My friend who just completed speaking had talked about a lowering of the emotions and I think that is important. I think the debate tonight has been civil although people feel strongly about it. Previously there have been unfortunate references, which I have not heard tonight, to almost a questioning of whether one really loves one's loved ones if one is supporting getting rid of the long gun registry.
I am glad that has not entered into the debate. Most of us here have children. Some have grandchildren. We all have loved ones. We all want to see crime with firearms reduced. We all believe there is a way to do that. It is not a question of how much we love our loved ones. I am glad that has not entered into the debate.
As a matter of fact, in two cases I have talked to parents, each of whom lost a son who was tragically slain by a firearm. In each case, those parents said to me, “Don't fix the problem by trying to keep the long gun registry”. They said that it is a waste of money and a waste of police time and resources. Both sets of parents had sons who were police officers and who were slain by long guns.
I share that with members and will share just as emphatically that I have talked with parents who have lost loved ones because of a handgun and want to see the long gun registry maintained. I say this to show that even among parents whose children have been slain there is a difference of opinion on this.
I want to emphasize some things that we are not changing as we look at Bill C-21.
We are not changing the requirement to have a licence if a person wants to own or acquire a firearm of any type. A person still must have a licence. That does not change. A person still must have the training that is involved in the handling of a firearm. The storage laws remain in place. We are still maintaining those.
The handgun prohibitions still remain. We do not endorse a ban on handguns because effectively there is one now. A person can own a handgun only under very strict conditions. A person can transport it only under very strict conditions.
I notice with interest some new legislation being proposed by one of the provinces. I am glad to see provinces engage in this discussion. That province is saying that it should be illegal to carry a handgun on a bus or to take it to school, for instance, but it already is illegal to do that.
A point should be noted about virtually any country where we look at a handgun prohibition, where handguns were banned and ordered to be removed from the hands of all citizens, such as Ireland, the United Kingdom and Jamaica. We watched this debate play out in our newspapers about two weeks ago. In all countries, everybody was agreed that over the period of time in the last 10 years or so where these handgun eradications took place, firearm use, death by firearms and the use of firearms in crimes all went up and went up substantially. I agree with my colleague who just shared his comments. It is difficult to try to endorse what we are doing here with actual statistics.
There are some things that we are changing and that we have changed.
Last year, recognizing that thousands of people were out of compliance because of the fees that were involved in being registered themselves, we waived those fees to encourage people to come into compliance so we would know who is out there with a licence to own handguns. Literally thousands of people came back into compliance, back into the system that tells us who has a firearm licence. We changed that and it proved to be a positive thing.
We also are proposing, with an allotment from our budget this year, that $14.2 million go into screening people who want any type of firearm. It would be screening at a much higher level than before. A person is going to need to have an interview with a firearms officer or his or her designate. Also, the person's two references will have to be interviewed. It is going to be tougher from the screening point of view to get a firearm licence than it is to get a passport. We are going to be checking into that more thoroughly.
Again, I have heard colleagues on all sides of the House recommend other things that can be done to alert those in the health care professions, and in other ways, to the possibility that they are dealing with a person who possibly should not have any type of firearm. Those are things that we need to continue to look at.
We also have put the funding in place because we believe that we fight crime by having more police officers on our streets and in our communities. We have put in the funding for a thousand more RCMP officers from coast to coast. I am engaged right now in discussions with provincial ministers and territorial ministers for a cost sharing formula to have 2,500 more municipal officers on the street.
We are proceeding with arming our border officers so that no longer when there is a concern about someone who is armed and dangerous coming to the border do they vacate their posts and shut down the border. That is going to assist them and it sends a message to people south of the border who may be carrying firearms that they will be greeted by people who are equipped to handle that eventuality.
We are giving extra funding to the teams that work together across the border on the whole area of smuggling. Police officers and police associations talk about the huge percentage of firearms smuggled into the country. We are being very aggressive on increased resources to deal with that.
We are putting literally millions of dollars into the whole area of gang activity and it is especially directed toward youth who would be prone to being drawn into gang activity. We want to show them that there are other choices. Millions of dollars will be and are in the process of going to local jurisdictions and local organizations that can be effective in reaching out and providing prevention programs.
Everything I have just mentioned in terms of more police, going after smuggling and a more aggressive police presence on the street also has to be accompanied by legislation. As members know, we now have legislation dealing with the mandatory requirement for somebody to spend jail time if they commit a crime with a firearm. We think it is right that a multiple offender with a firearm should go to jail for at least seven years.
I was disappointed that most of the Liberals did not agree with that. They voted against that. I have never fully understood it. The Liberals want a long gun registry for farmers and duck hunters, but they do not want people who have committed more than one offence with a firearm to have to go to jail. I have not fully comprehended that and I will be listening to hear an explanation.
This type of aggressive action of going after the criminals and going after the problems is something that the city of Toronto police have done over the last year following the tragedies in that city. Crime with firearms has been drastically reduced, notwithstanding two very tragic incidents that have happened recently. The Toronto police are putting into practice what we endorse. We think that we will continue to see crime with firearms go down.
Bill C-21 talks about three basic things. It is mentioning and making it a matter of law that to acquire any type of firearm an individual is going to have to be licensed. For any type of firearm, that individual will have to be licensed.
The bill also lays out rules for how businesses are going to have to record and maintain the records of any firearm transactions.
Then, getting to the contentious point, the area of long guns themselves, we are proposing that the long gun registry of non-prohibited weapons be dismissed, be removed.
There are reasons for that. There are millions upon millions of long guns out there, primarily used by duck hunters and other types of hunters and sports shooters. There are literally millions of long guns. Rightly or not, and I will always assume good intentions on the part of members of Parliament, in the last decade the Liberals thought they could embark upon a journey to see every single one of those long guns all across the country registered, the long guns themselves, millions and millions of them.
It proved to be a disaster. I will quote the Auditor General herself. She said that the long gun registry was “significantly over budget” and that her office had evidence that they were looking for an accounting solution. She also said, “The quality of the information is doubtful”, in reference to the long gun registry, “and they don't have the mechanisms to verify it”.
She went on to say, “If a police officer is consulting it, he cannot be certain that the information is complete and exact”. That is quite an indictment, with $946 million spent up to that point to support a long gun registry that the Auditor General herself said simply did not give accurate data. It may have been well intended, but it was an impossible task.
That leads us to the question that often comes up about something called the CPIC system. It is a police information system. I consistently hear that it is used 5,000 times a day to check for firearm occupation or firearm possession. It is not.
That CPIC system is available to police officers all across the country. If they pull somebody over for speeding or they catch someone for jaywalking, whatever the serious or less serious nature of an event may be, they plug into the system. They have a person's car licence there. They want to see who it is they are dealing with.
Coincidental to that, there are also links, as those who are familiar with websites know, to a number of different sites from the CPIC system. One of those sites is linked to the firearms registry. If they want to hit the link button and go into that particular registry, they can, but this is predominantly used by police officers who want to check that system daily for any person they stop.
There are 5,000 police officers in Toronto alone and 6,500 in British Columbia. In a day, they use the CPIC system thousands of times, but in the vast majority of those times they are not checking whether or not a person has firearms. It is some other related activity on which they are checking.
I wish people would exercise caution when they use that number.
In terms of the facts of the matter related to the firearm registry, in 1998 there were 51 deaths as a result of long guns. In the year 2003, just before the long gun registry was fully implemented, finally, after the Liberals had tried for many years to do so, the number dropped. The number of long gun deaths dropped from 51 to 32 without the long gun registry. Two years after the long gun registry was in place, the numbers went up to 55.
I will not use a specious argument and say that the long gun registry caused more deaths, because I do not think it did, but it certainly did not reduce any. What it did do was take away millions upon millions of dollars of resources and time that police officers could have been more effectively using in all of their efforts to reduce crime with firearms.
There is no evidential coincidence at all that over the period it has been place the long gun registry has reduced crime with firearms in any way, shape or form. The only thing that reduces it is aggressive activity, with more police officers on the street and some of the other items I mentioned.
We often hear quotes from those who want to substantiate the reason why there should be a long gun registry of sports shooters, duck hunters and farmers. Often we hear that this is one group of elected people who endorsed this particular bill and this path that we are embarking on.
Let me quote some other people whom we never hear quoted. Samara McPhedran is the chairwoman of the International Coalition for Women in Shooting and Hunting and she says, “The ideologically driven registry has not reduced rates of violence crime”. That is a fact. She says that it “has not improved public safety”. That is a fact. She says that it “has not prevented criminals from illegally obtaining firearms”.
She goes on to say:
|| Massive ongoing expenditure of public funds upon an ineffective system achieves nothing more than the misdirection of resources away from where they are urgently needed--social services, education, health care and policing.
We endorse what she says there 100%.
This is something that is not partisan or politically driven. I remember that the member of Parliament for Yukon, the Liberal member, talked about being very passionately against the long gun registry. He said, “One thing that upset Canadians, even those that support the registry, was the administrative mismanagement”. He said, “That made people think it was a gross waste of money”.
The Liberal member for Kings—Hants, who was also a federal Liberal leadership candidate, said,“We should be getting rid of the long-gun registry”. He said, “A billion dollars would have been better spent on health care or education or, for instance, in strengthening the RCMP”. That is from a Liberal member who was running for the leadership of the Liberal Party.
The Liberal member for Newmarket—Aurora was previously a Conservative, and I respect that. She ran for the leadership of the Conservative Party and now is a Liberal and I understand she is stepping down. That is certainly her choice and I respect that, but she said something interesting. She said, “As a mother, I am scared by gun violence”.
She said, “I believe we must protect law-abiding citizens from criminals, which is why we should increase the minimum sentence for violent crimes involving guns”. She is one of the few Liberals who think repeat firearm offenders should actually go to jail. She went on to say, “I believe it is not a crime for law-abiding farmers, ranchers and hunters who use firearms a as tool”. She said, “It is wrong the federal government has penalized them”.
Those are good quotes.
The Liberal member for Huron—Bruce is on record as showing once again that the gun registry does not work and makes that point very clearly.
Many in the NDP share the government's view on this. The member for Winnipeg Centre said that he and likely half of the NDP caucus would back a Conservative bill to scrap the registry.
The MP for Skeena—Bulkley Valley has said that he will keep his promise to abolish the gun registry. He is a man of his word and I believe he will. He says that there is no uncertainty about that. Politically, this view is shared by many.
We often hear the term “the police” want the long gun registry maintained. A few senior officers in a few associations, for a variety of reasons not totally understood, have said that they want to see the long gun registry maintained, but people should be honest. When they say that the police want the long gun registry maintained, at the very least they should say a few police officers are on record as wanting the long gun registry maintained.
For instance, the president of the Winnipeg Police Association said, “the Winnipeg Police Association has never supported the long gun registry”.
The Manitoba Police Association passed a motion saying that Ottawa should scrap the long gun registry.
The executive officer of the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers, about the long gun registry, said:
|| We've been against it right from the beginning...That's been our position since 1994 and it hasn't changed—we've been in opposition to our brothers at the Canadian Professional Police Association (on the registry).
The president of the Calgary Police Association is also opposed to the long gun registry, but he is proposing mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes. That is what we are proposing.
An officer from the Fredericton police said that officers responding to a potentially dangerous situation always assumed there was a firearm involved. He said that they always took the corrective practices approaching a domicile that there could be a firearm involved. He went on to say, “We don't check with the registry during a gun-related incident”. They have been trained to always assume that possibility is there.
It is not just western police, if somebody is reflecting on that. I have talked about some in Fredericton. The deputy chief of the Toronto police said that the money spent on registering shotguns should be used instead on stricter law enforcement and social programs to keep kids out of gangs. He said, “The $1 billion could be better spent elsewhere. It really has done nothing to solve the crime problem. The gun registry registers legal guns. Gangsters do not register their guns”.
Brian Ford, former Ottawa police chief, supported the registry at one point but makes an interesting statement. He says he supported it because he did not know the Liberals were lying to him. He stated, “I was assured by government—it's on budget”. He said, “They were lying. It bothers me. I was telling people what I believed to be the truth”. That is a dramatic statement from the former police chief in Ottawa.
Former Toronto police Chief Julian Fantino, now head of the Ontario Police, supported scrapping the long gun registry. He recognized that forcing law-abiding Canadians to register their rifles did nothing to reduce gun crimes and the money would be better spent on front line police resources.
Chief Bill Blair has done much to reduce crime with firearms in Toronto. He is not taking the position precisely on the long gun registry, but says this:
||—we know the gun problem in Toronto is overwhelmingly a problem of illegal handguns....Gangsters who carry guns in the city of Toronto do not register those guns so any changes in the gun registry are not going to have a significant impact on our efforts to control the operation and use of illegal handguns on our streets.
I have one more quote. I have quoted moms who have lost sons, parliamentarians and police. We should listen to the words of a former gang member. Former Toronto founder of Vice Lords and gang member said, “The gun registry has not had any impact on the availability of guns to gangs. If you want a gun, you can get one in a day, a couple of hours maybe”.
Across the board there is a consensus that we need to do all the things we are going to do to reduce crime with firearms, and I have gone through them. However, we also need to eliminate the long gun registry and let those precious resources get into the hands of our police officers.
Hon. Roy Cullen (Etobicoke North, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I think the introduction of this bill is a sad day for Canada.
We know why the Conservative government is introducing the bill. The Conservatives know it has no chance of being passed, but they are trying to deliver on a promise that they made, which is fair enough.
However, they know that the gun registry is supported by Canadians, maybe not in their political constituencies generally but by Canadians generally, who overwhelmingly support not only the handgun registry but the long gun registry, and I certainly do as well.
I listened with interest to the minister's comments. He quoted a member of a gang who said that the gun registry has not worked at all with respect to the acquisition of handguns. That might be true; I am not sure. However, by his own logic, then, he would be banning or dismembering the handgun registry, which does not make any sense at all.
We also know that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, not a handful of police chiefs, voted on this particular matter and it supports the handgun registry and the long gun registry. The Canadian Professional Police Association, the association that represents the rank and file police officers across this country, voted and supports the gun registry.
So, for the minister to argue that there are one or two police officers across Canada who support this is nonsensical and absurd.
We have heard the figure of $1 billion to build the gun registry. It did cost a lot of money to build the gun registry. In fact, it cost too much to build the gun registry. That was as a result of a number of problems, organizational problems, policy influx problems, a whole host of systems development problems that emerged, which our Liberal government restructured and fixed, but at that point in time, the costs had been incurred.
However, I would remind members in this House, for those who have worked in the private sector, systems development budget overruns are not unique to the Government of Canada, believe me. In my experience in the private sector, I have seen many large systems development projects run way over budget. Does that justify it? Of course not.
However, there is another reality. There is a concept in economics and business called “sunk cost”. Sunk cost means if it cost that much, it may have cost more than it should have, but the money has been spent.
So now we are faced with a house, let us say, that costs more than it should have. Does that mean we burn it down? The question really at that point in time is: What is that house providing in terms of benefits and what is it costing?
The reality is that operating the gun registry today is costing in the vicinity of $15 million a year, which is a very manageable cost for the benefit that it delivers.
I come back to the issue that if 5,000 police officers and law enforcement officers access the gun registry daily, which is the case, they might do it through the window of CPIC but these are the actual hits on the gun registry itself.
I do not know how the members opposite, who have a respect for law enforcement officers, I think they do because they seem to present themselves that way, would ignore the support of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Professional Police Association, and ignore the fact that 5,000 times a day law enforcement officers across this country access the gun registry, and that is a fact.
The other fact that I think the minister conveniently ignores, or in fact I think he misstated, perhaps he had not had the right information when he made his remarks, is that all forms of gun violence are down in Canada. While other types of murders have increased, murders with guns have declined, and I think that is partly the result of the gun registry. The mistake that is often made is to say that the gun registry is a panacea for crime, to deal with criminality.
Of course one cannot look at it that way. One has to look at the gun registry as a tool that is used by law enforcement officers. I am told it is very useful to them. I am told this on very good authority that it is very useful, especially for domestic violence calls when they want to know how many guns are registered in a home.
We all realize that police officers are not naïve people and if there are not guns registered they do not automatically assume that there may not be guns there. Unfortunately, there are some Canadians who have not registered their guns.
On that point it is only about 10%. We believe that 90% of Canadians have registered their guns, in contrast to the statistics that were quoted earlier. The police do know if the guns are registered and when they are going to a home where there is domestic violence they have to be very mindful of that. It is a useful tool for the police.
In fact, most countries in the world licence guns and register guns. Of course the government would be totally irresponsible if it eliminated gun licensing because that is something that is very valuable and results in guns being denied to many people who should not have guns.
Since the gun registry was put in place there have been approximately 16,000 firearms licences that have been refused or revoked.
Something else that the members opposite do not highlight or bring forward in a debate is that the Canadian firearms registry provides many affidavits that are used in the prosecution of firearms related crime. In fact, more than 5,000 of these affidavits have been used. This is a tool that is used by Crown prosecutors to convict people who are charged with gun related crimes.
For the member to say that people on this side do not support enforcement and conviction of criminals with firearms, this tells it right there. These affidavits are useful in convicting and putting people in jail.
The minister talked about how long guns are used. He used the expression that they were used by squirrel hunters and duck hunters. It sounds interesting, but the reality is that long guns are used in equal amounts in contrast to handguns for violent crimes.
In fact, if we look at the police officer deaths from firearms, I have a list and the number of police officer deaths from long guns is about the equivalent to the police officer deaths with handguns from 1996 to 2006. Long guns are used to commit murder and also by people to commit suicide.
The other aspect is to try to think of the long gun registry and the handgun registry as separate and distinct. I would like to read into the record from the Supreme Court of Canada. 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 has to do with the linkage especially between licensing and registration, the point that my colleague made earlier, that the two go hand in hand. There has to be both registration and licensing to make the system work and for it to be an effective tool for law enforcement.
We also know that if we look at the statistics and this was in 1995 I believe, the trend is very much the same. If we look at the percentage of firearms that are recovered at crime scenes, something in the vicinity of 47% are rifles and shotguns. Handguns comprise about 22%. So, to ignore long guns, we do at our peril.
These are rifles and shotguns. If these guns are not registered I shudder to think how the criminal world will adapt to that new reality and start sawing off more shotguns and using rifles indiscriminately to commit more crimes.
The part that I find particularly amazing is the fact that we have no difficulty licensing a car. In some areas we have no difficulty licensing pets. We do not have any problem with that but when it comes to registering a firearm, a lethal weapon, then some people get very upset and I am not quite sure why.
Gun ownership is a huge responsibility. It is a lethal weapon. We as Canadians have the right to know who owns the guns, who is licensed to own a gun, and are they responsible gun users.
There are crimes in the area that I represent, Etobicoke North. There is a sad history of gun related crime, drugs and gangs. Therefore, the argument often comes up that the guns that are used in those crimes, are all those guns registered? That is a fallacious argument. It does not have any merit whatsoever. It is like the equivalent of arguing that because we have police there should be no crime.
Of course we cannot eradicate criminality. We cannot eradicate gun related crime, but to deny police authorities a useful tool that they themselves are saying is a useful tool, and the capital costs have been managed away, at $15 million a year, if it saves one life it is worth keeping in place.
As I said earlier, the notion that the guns are not licensed or registered flies in the face of the data that everyone knows: some 90% of the owners are licensed and 90% of guns are registered.
I think we have to look at the gun registry as part of an overall scheme of dealing with criminality. In my riding of Etobicoke North we have taken advantage of the national crime prevention program to launch a number of crime prevention initiatives in Etobicoke North.
This program was introduced by our Liberal government. I am told that the program, like so many other programs that the Liberal government brought in, is being re-examined, repackaged, relabelled and rebranded. In fact, I am told the crime prevention program might be focused more on gun and gang related crime which frankly in my riding of Etobicoke North would not be a bad thing.
However, before we start changing the national crime prevention program, we should look at it very carefully because it has been quite useful in my riding, getting young people into activities other than drugs, gangs and violence. Has it eliminated drugs, gangs and violence in Etobicoke North? No, it has not, but to give up on effective tools like that, to give up on the gun registry, is a bogus argument and certainly something that I will not support. We know that most members of the House will not support the bill. It is sort of a masquerade going on in the House as the Conservative Party knows.
The idea is that we have to have a holistic approach. We have to look at crime prevention. We have to look at enforcement. We need more visible policing. In fact, I am very pleased that in Etobicoke North the police have taken action. They have used some of the tools that our Liberal government brought in, the anti-gang legislation, to arrest a whole range of people who are involved in drugs, gangs and violence.
It was our party, when we were in government, that introduced increases to mandatory minimums for gun related crimes. Notwithstanding what the minister said, and I know that he has tabled new legislation. This party will generally support any legislation that is reasonable. However, the reality is that young people do come out of prison, they have to be integrated back into society, and the idea that we can just lock them up and throw away the key just does not work.
We on this side support mandatory minimums and support increases in mandatory minimums for gun related crimes. In fact, that was the legislation that we tabled before the last election.
It was our party as well in the 2006 election that argued for a complete ban on handguns. The former prime minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard, came to my riding of Etobicoke North and we announced a complete ban on handguns which I think would have been useful.
Would it have solved the problem of gun related crime? How could anyone be so naïve, yet that is the argument we hear. It is the same argument, as I said, that there is no point in hiring police officers because there is still going to be crime. It is a totally bogus argument. I think that banning handguns would have been useful.
The minister said earlier that there is an effective ban on handguns today. Well, that is not the case because we know that many of the handguns that are used in crime in Toronto have been traced back to collectors.
An hon. member: That is false.
An hon. member: What a bunch of hooey.