I am sure none of us want to hurt good people who own guns, but neither do we want guns in the wrong hands to hurt good people.Karen LudwigMember of Parliament for New Brunswick Southwest
Madam Speaker, I represent the riding of New Brunswick Southwest, a riding with many gun owners. We have at least 30 gun clubs. We also have one of the busiest gun dealerships in Canada.
For owners, guns can mean recreation and, sometimes, a way to put food on the table. For the clubs, sport shooting enhances socializing among those who admire craftsmanship in weapons and accuracy in targeting. For the dealerships, guns provide jobs.
I have discussed this legislation with owners, club members, dealers and other citizens all over my riding of New Brunswick Southwest. I also studied and completed a two-day course in firearms handling. I am proud to say that I now hold a firearms possession and acquisition licence.
I also talked with women’s organizations, survivors of gun violence and law enforcement officials. I spoke with the Minister of Public Safety. I brought his parliamentary secretary to my riding to speak directly with gun club presidents.
Along the way, I discussed the bill with a good many members opposite. I enjoyed going to a shooting range near Ottawa with the Outdoors Parliamentary Caucus. I have worked hard to fathom out this legislation and what it means for my constituents and other Canadians.
I conclude the following; I support responsible gun owners. I cannot see that Bill C-71 hurts them. Therefore, I support this legislation because it helps protect gun owners, as it does all citizens.
My riding, with its good, responsible gun owners, is considered a safe area. However, Fredericton and Moncton were also traditionally considered safe areas, too. We all remember the headlines about the tragic shooting in Fredericton in August of this year, and in Moncton in June 2014. It can happen so quickly when guns fall into the wrong hands.
Responsible people should be able to keep their guns without undue hindrance, but good people should be able to live freely in cities, towns and villages without undue risk from gun-carrying criminals or people who have threatened or inflicted harm on others.
Let us all remember the shocking number of tormented souls among us who, even though they were showing signs of mental difficulty, got hold of guns and committed suicide. Whether it is mental health, criminality or threatening behaviour, we should be able to double-check for dangers.
The bill is not a new handgun ban. It is not a long gun registry. In large part it is not new. There is a commitment in this legislation not to reinstate the long gun registry. A number of its main features existed before. We lived with those regulations for a long time, and they protected lives.
Then the previous government took them away. Since that time, for various reasons, gun-related deaths in Canada have sharply increased. So has the number of female victims of violent crimes with a firearm present.
Recreating and strengthening sensible legislation can put us back on a better track. For example, authorities will once again be able to require a permit for transporting restricted and prohibited weapons. This does not affect ordinary guns, only those on the higher side of danger.
In another restored regulation, the seller of a firearm will need to verify the purchaser’s possession and acquisition licence. This will take a brief phone call. Responsible sellers and buyers will not object to that. Nor will they protest legislation that, as in decades past, required firearms vendors to record what they sold.
The existing law already enables those granting a firearms licence to consider an applicant’s criminal offences or mental illness associated with violence or other history of violence, but only for the last five years. Bill C-71 allows taking account of the person’s earlier history. That is a sensible change. It derives from a private member’s bill put forward by a former Conservative MP.
The legislation incorporates other amendments from other parties in the House.
I hope we can continue to put public safety over partisanship. I am sure none of us want to hurt good people who own guns, but neither do we want guns in the wrong hands to hurt good people.
When all is said and done, this is a good bill for responsible gun owners. At times, strident voices from here and there have tried to paint too many responsible gun owners as villains. Sensible legislation can reassure the public that we are taking reasonable measures to keep guns in good hands and that common sense is prevailing.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Oakville North—Burlington, and I support this proposed legislation.
Questions and Answers
Mr. Harold Albrecht (Kitchener—Conestoga, CPC):
Madam Speaker, in my area I have a number of farmers who need to use guns. I have hunters and sport shooters. The sport shooters obviously go to the shooting ranges, and so this summer I decided to go to two of the shooting ranges in my area and learn about sport shooting. I have a PAL myself, but did not know much about sport shooting. When I went there, I was impressed with the attention to detail that these clubs give to following the rules, safety guidelines, and being 100% sure that people who use these guns are adequately trained.
They are more than happy to follow the rules and make sure that guns do not fall into the wrong hands and to make sure that the background checks are done. However, they object to something like Bill C-71, which would create an extra burden on legitimate firearms owners. They are happy to accept the burden if they could be assured that it would actually increase public safety, but they are convinced that Bill C-71 is a public relations exercise intended to convince the public that this would somehow increase safety when in reality all it would do is target legitimate gun owners and do nothing against violent criminals and gangs.
Ms. Karen Ludwig:
Madam Speaker, certainly when we are looking at enhanced background checks, they are critically important. I know from experience the questions that were asked regarding the five-year background check, which I was pleased with. I think that going deeper with the background checks would present an opportunity not only for public safety but also for prevention from self-harm. We heard from other speakers earlier about the risk of suicide and that 80% of suicides are gun related*. There are people who should not have guns and, to me, that is one of the most important pieces of the legislation that we are trying to put forward here.
*CORRECTION: 80% of firearm-related deaths are suicides.
Mr. Glen Motz (Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, CPC):
Madam Speaker, I want to provide some context for the misinformation in the member’s speech, as well as the rampant rhetoric from the other side. First, no evidence has ever been produced, and I have asked for it, on risks associated with the authority to transport, the ATTs. Not one case has ever been presented, and I have asked repeatedly for this information, showing that when law-abiding gun owners transport their firearms from a gun club to gun shop or to sporting competitions, or anywhere else, it has ever presented an issue. Second, the five-year background checks are not limited to five years but currently go the entire history of an individual.
I went to the member’s riding in the summer and spoke to the same people she spoke to. I heard very loudly and clearly that they are not in favour of this proposed gun legislation. I wonder what the member has heard from her community at large in regards to Bill C-71 and their disapproval of the proposed legislation, which does not target criminals.
Ms. Karen Ludwig:
Madam Speaker, my only regret when the member was in my riding is that he did not stop in for a visit.
As for what he heard in my riding, I have also heard concerns. Certainly, there is rhetoric that goes back and forth, which is why we need to look at issues as critical as this in the most bipartisan way. That, to me, is what is important.
I have spoken with gun club presidents, and there is a fear of what is next. What I am offering by way of reassurance is that I have done my homework. I went out, I took the firearms course and did my licensing. I talk with the largest gun dealer in Atlantic Canada every single week. I know their concerns. I have asked those questions, and I have put them forward to the minister. I think that is an important part of being a parliamentarian. However, I do feel assured in looking at the proposed legislation that it would not affect the average gun owner in my riding, whom I have the utmost respect for.