This week, Canada?s new Conservative government tackled one of the federal policies most reviled by the constituents of Prince George-Peace River ? the long-gun registry!
On Tuesday, Auditor General Sheila Fraser fired her latest shot at the Canada Firearms Centre, detailing, among other serious transgressions, how its officials conspired to hide a $39-million cost overrun from Parliament and Canadians. The very next day, our government announced how it plans to put the bloated and broken long-gun registry out of its misery.
The Conservative government will introduce a bill to end the registration requirement for long-guns. As you know, ours is a minority government so it will not be easy to get that legislation tabled, debated and passed. However, in the interim, we are taking steps to demonstrate respect for law-abiding gun owners, reduce waste of your tax dollars and ensure the safety of Canadians.
For starters, we are immediately transferring responsibility for the Firearms Act and regulations to the RCMP. This move alone represents an annual savings to taxpayers of $10-million.
We are also waiving the fee to renew a firearms license until May 17, 2008 and we are issuing refunds if you have recently paid to renew or upgrade your license. Plus, we are eliminating the physical verification of non-restricted firearms.
Until we are able to change the law in Parliament, current Firearms Act requirements remain in force. However, we are implementing an amnesty to protect gun-owners from prosecution for possessing a non-restricted rifle or shotgun without a valid license or registration certificate. This amnesty expires on May 17, 2007.
The majority of my constituents support the scrapping of the long-gun registry. However, there are many Canadians, particularly those living in major urban centres, whom mistakenly believe the scrapping of long-gun registration somehow jeopardizes their safety.
Let me sort out a few myths. First and foremost, the Conservative government is maintaining the registration of handguns. Canadians have been required to register their handguns since 1934 and that will not change. Of the 549 murders in Canada in 2003 only 2 were committed with a registered long-gun.
You?re also likely to hear that the Canada Firearms Registry On-Line (CFRO) gets 6,500 hits per day from police officers. Sounds impressive until you realize that whenever a police officer enters your name for any reason, even an address check, an inquiry or ?hit? is generated with the CFRO!
Under the new system, thorough background and safety checks will continue to verify violent behaviour and certain criminal convictions. Applicants for a license will also be subject to specific safety standards and training.
Safety storage requirements will be maintained to prevent accidents and access to firearms by unauthorized persons. Police will still know whether a person is authorized to own a legal firearm.
When the smoke clears, it will be apparent that the safety and security of Canadians is a priority for our Conservative government. Yet without the unnecessary waste of tax dollars and the harassment of law-abiding citizens!
If you have questions about these new firearms initiatives, such as information on refunds, please go to www.cfc-cafc.gc.ca or call 1-800-731-4000.