November 1, 2011
Miller speaks to second reading of the Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand today to speak in favour of Bill C-19, the Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act. On May 2nd, Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to end the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry once and for all, and that is exactly what we are doing.
For the past 7 years, I have heard from my constituents that they have concerns about the actual effectiveness of this registry and the fact that it targets law-abiding citizens - - NOT criminals.
My constituents want effective solutions that keep their streets and communities safe. That is why our Government has taken concrete steps to improve our justice system.
We have put forward tough new sentences to keep dangerous criminals where they belong: behind bars. We have also made major investments in crime prevention.
Mr. Speaker, this is how we keep Canadians safe: Tough sentences and smart crime prevention funding. It is not by promoting a measure that is essentially a glorified list of non-criminals that has cost billions of dollars and focuses on people who are by nature, law-abiding citizens already. Targeting people like hunters, farmers and sport shooters isn’t going to stop crime. And, in fact, it hasn’t.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to focus my remarks today on the dictatorial legislation that is the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry.
As I have already stated, the registry is a collection of data regarding law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters that is held by the Government of Canada. This is data that had been collected with a gun to our heads, so to speak and under the threat of extreme punishment, including serious jail time. In our view, this is simply wrong.
Mr. Speaker, I am one of those individuals who reluctantly registered my long-guns under this threat. I waited until the very last minute in 2003 to register my guns. I was the mayor of my municipality at the time – a role that I took just a seriously as my role as a Member of Parliament. I feared that should some over-zealous conservation officer or policeman charge me for owning an unregistered gun that had been legal for my whole life, that it would then give me a criminal record, which would disqualify me from holding a public office. I tell you, Mr. Speaker, registering my long rifles, many of which are family keepsakes was one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make. I was made to feel like a common criminal if I didn’t comply. It still sticks in my craw.
The previous Liberal Government foisted this measure onto law-abiding Canadians under the guise of preventing tragedies perpetrated by individuals who use firearms for criminal purposes. However, there is absolutely no evidence that the long-gun registry has prevented a single crime or saved a single life.
Now, I have heard the arguments from the Opposition who maintain that since Canadians must register cars, boats, ice shacks, and so forth. In their misguided view, they believe that something as potentially dangerous as a shotgun or rifle must be registered. The key discrepancy shows at best a fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between administrative and criminal law, or, at worst, was just an effort to muddy an important issue of fundamental liberty. Guns don’t kill people. Bad people with guns kill people.
If someone does not register their car, they will face a small fine determined by the province in which they reside. If someone does not register their shotgun, they face the prospect of a criminal record and serious jail time or both.
As Conservatives and as individuals who care about the protection of fundamental freedoms, we must stand up and say it is wrong to put people in jail for what amounts to paperwork errors.
Mr. Speaker, my family, by nature, are law-abiding members of our community. My father, who is now 79, actively hunts with me, my 4 brothers and many of his grandsons. In fact, we will all be doing some deer hunting next week, which is an annual fall tradition. He also reluctantly registered his rifles and shotguns. He was issued a possession ownership license (POL) and was able to purchase ammunition for 5 years until his POL expired. Now under the long-gun registry, he is made to sneak around like a criminal and ask me or someone else with a valid possession acquisition license (PAL) to buy ammunition for his rifles, some of which he has owned since he was a teenager. This is not right!
Now, Mr. Speaker, Bill C-19 is just a starting point. C-19 does what we said we would do – eliminate the long-gun registry. As I said earlier, you will still require a license to own or purchase guns and ammunition. Further legislation will be needed to make further improvements to this farce that the Liberals created. In my opinion, we need to merge the PAL and POLs so there is one license and extend them from 5 to 10 years.
Also, anyone like my father and thousands more like him across this country, who have had a valid PAL or POL or a legal hunting license in the past, should be grandfathered into the system so they do not have to prove again what they proved years ago - that they can safely operate a firearm. Another change that I will personally push for is the creation of a prohibitive offenders’ registry. This registry would target people who have committed and are convicted of a firearms crime - - the very people who give law-abiding gun owners a bad name.
As I stated earlier, the gun registry is simply not an effective way to reduce crime. As the Honourable Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism so succinctly stated, we must measure results and not intentions. The results simply are that there is no correlation between crimes committed with long-guns and the implementation of a measure that needlessly targets law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters.
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to discuss a portion of this Bill that has received significant attention from both the media and the Opposition. That is the destruction of the records contained in the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry. The fact of the matter is: we told Canadians we would get rid of the long-gun registry once and for all, and Canadians can take that promise to the bank.
Now, let’s examine what that means. The registry is comprised of a few components. It is compelled by the force of criminal law, the collection of personal information of law-abiding gun owners. We will end that. It is also the retention of records of law-abiding gun owners. Obviously, when we said “we will scrap the long-gun registry”, destroying those records was implicit and I might add it should also include the records of individuals who buy ammunition. I license my truck, but when I buy brake pads or tires for my truck, I do not need to show my driver’s license. Neither should you have to show your gun license to buy ammunition. I will work hard to change that.
Mr. Speaker, the registry is the records and the records are the registry. Now, I realize that the NDP and Liberals would have us hang on to the records so that they could more easily recreate a back door registry should they ever have the chance to do so. Our Government will not allow for that!
As the Minister of Public Safety said, claiming you want to scrap the registry but keep the records, is like a farmer saying he will sell you his farm so long as he can keep the land. Frankly, Mr. Speaker it comes down to a single imperative. We made a commitment to Canadians that we will no longer target law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters through the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry. That is exactly what we will do.
We believe, as I stated earlier, that Canadians should be able to trust their politicians. When they promise to do something or vote for something, there should be no question, no second thought.
On that note, I would like to remind the Members from Skeena-Bulkley Valley and Western Arctic who have recently decided to turn their backs on the wishes of their constituents and turn their backs on the commitments they made on May 2nd that they are breaking their election promise to their constituents.
The memories of voters are long, especially on this important issue. Several of my colleagues on this side of the House know this very well.
The Members for Yukon, Nipissing-Timiskaming, Sault Ste Marie and Ajax-Pickering are here, in part, because their predecessors forgot that they are supposed to represent their constituents to the Government, not the other way around.
I hope that Members Opposite will listen to the views of Canadians and vote to end the nearly 17 year old legacy of waste that is the long-gun registry.
In closing, as deer hunters in my riding head to the bush next week, they can take solace that this government is finally getting rid of this hated long-gun registry!