Its official title is, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (non-registration of firearms that are neither prohibited nor restricted). My preferred title is: An Act to Scrap the Long-Gun Registry!
After just four months on the job, the Conservative government introduced this week legislation that proposes to end the federal requirement to register and track each and every rifle and shotgun in the country.
Bill C-21 follows quickly on the heels of a one-year amnesty put in place last month to shield firearms owners from prosecution for not registering their long-guns. The amnesty will protect long-gun owners until the Conservative government can pass this legislation.
Now that we?re well on our way to scrapping it, the history of the long-gun registry fiasco bears repeating for the benefit of those under the mistaken impression that it did anything to enhance the safety and security of Canadians.
The previous Liberal government told Parliament in 1995 that the firearms program, specifically the long-gun registry, would cost a grand total of just $2-million. By March 2005, 10 years after its inception, the cost for the long-gun registry had spiralled to $946-million. Today it has surpassed $1-billion.
Those costs don?t even include the additional tax dollars spent by the provinces and territories in enforcing the registry, nor the cost to firearms owners and businesses in order to comply with the legislation. The Library of Parliament estimates these enforcement and compliance costs run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
All this for a registry that is riddled with errors and is ultimately unreliable, according to the Auditor General.
As for doing anything to protect Canadians, the evidence speaks for itself and is not surprising to those of us who have always maintained that criminals do not register their weapons. Gun crime and gang shootings in our urban centres have become a real threat, even to innocent bystanders. The guns these criminals use are usually stolen, and often smuggled across the United States border.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair stated, ?We know the gun problem in Toronto is overwhelmingly a problem of illegal handguns. 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.?
That is why the Conservative government believes Canadians are better served by re-directing precious resources to boost border security and enact tougher laws and sentencing for the illegal use and possession of restricted firearms, something we have done in another piece of legislation, Bill C-10.
The hand-gun registry, which has been in effect since 1934, will be continued. All firearms owners must continue to be licensed to purchase or possess firearms and to purchase ammunition. Background checks, safety training and safe storage requirements will also continue to be enforced.
One of the fundamental promises upon which the new Conservative government was elected was the promise to scrap the long-gun registry. This decade-long Liberal experiment is an indefensible waste of tax dollars masquerading as a public safety initiative. Its days are now numbered.
Promise made. Promise ke