Senator Daniel Lang is opposed to gun registration, and for good reason. He comprehends history.
Senator Lang represents The Yukon, and was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2009. He comprehends the issues that are important to Yukoners and indeed all Canadians.
He is one of the sponsors of the bill to end the long gun registry and, to quote him, he looks “forward to being actively involved in ensuring that this legislation is passed by the Senate quickly.”
He has remained true to that statement and has attacked the uselessness of the long gun registry at every opportunity. His his latest speech on Bill C-19, currently before the Senate, is well worth reading. While I don’t agree with everything Senator Lang says, I do agree with most of it.
This transcript is from the Hansard – 1st Session, 41st Parliament, Volume 148, Issue 66, Monday, April 2, 2012
Honourable senators may recall that when I spoke to the bill at second reading, I quoted the Spanish poet, George Santayana, who said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I went on to explain that, 93 years ago, the Canadian Parliament enacted gun control legislation requiring gun owners to obtain a permit for all firearms, including small arms, rifles and shotguns. Honourable senators, a year later this requirement was repealed.
It is important to note that the Minister of Justice of the day, Charles Doherty, stated:
“There has been very general representation that the existing law operated too rigorously, lent itself to abuses and subjected citizens to unnecessary annoyance.”
Here we are today repealing similar legislation, yet it took 17 years, even though we had the Internet.
Honourable senators, we heard testimony in evidence from 30 witnesses on all sides of the issue. I have to say at the outset that I now have a better understanding and appreciation for the sincerity of those who support the continuation of the long-gun registry. They are Canadians who feel very passionately about gun control. In some cases, they have lost a family member to gun violence. In some cases, witnesses spoke of violence against women and, yes, we listened to eyewitnesses speak about the tragedies of École Polytechnique and Dawson College.
Honourable senators, I want to assure these witnesses that with the elimination of the long-gun registry, Canada will still have one of the toughest licensing systems, as well as storage and transportation requirements, for long-gun firearms that will safeguard the public.
At the same time, many witnesses spoke about the inaccuracy of the registry itself. Not one — not one — witness refuted the fact that the registry was full of unreliable information. I want to bring to the attention of honourable senators some examples from the present system that we have in place and the information contained therein.
Did honourable senators know that there is a glue gun registered now in the registry? Its entry is as follows: “Mastercraft” with a serial number.
Did honourable senators know there are thousands upon thousands of firearms all registered with the same number and the same serial number?
As well, honourable senators, it is common knowledge that there are millions of long guns that have never, ever been registered.
Therefore, honourable senators, we have a registry that is not only incomplete, but that is also an unreliable database that cannot be depended on. We learned during the course of our hearings that, in some cases, it provides the front-line police with a false sense of security. We also learned that a large majority of front-line officers have said they do not support the registry.
It is important to note that the police chiefs across the country are also split on their support of the registry as it stands today. The Calgary Chief of Police stated:
I believe that the long-gun registry gave the uninformed and misinformed a false sense of security. Too often the gun registry was presented as the panacea for all of society’s firearms problems. The reality is it did little to protect society from the gun violence being perpetrated by armed thugs and criminals on the street, none of whom have possession of acquisition licences and none of whom registered the weapon in a national database.
Due to the unreliable data and the inaccuracy of the registry as it stands, there have been cases where evidence provided to a court from the registry does not hold up in a court proceeding.
In the course of our hearings, one witness stated:
Knowing what I do know about the registry, I cannot use the information contained therein to swear out a search warrant. To do so would be a criminal act. Projections from the Canadian Firearms Centre privately state that it will take 70 years of attrition to eliminate all the errors and have all the firearms in Canada registered. This level of inaccuracy is unacceptable for any industry, let alone law enforcement. Police officers deserve better. The public and the court demand better.
Honourable senators, I ask how can we support the continuation of a registry that is so inaccurate and so flawed?
I would like to turn the attention of honourable senators to another serious issue that arose during the hearings, and that is the topic of suicide — truly a tragedy when it happens to any family. We heard compelling evidence over the course of our hearings, particularly from a resident physician from McMaster University who came before us and told us that with regard to suicide, there is no significant immediate impact or impact over time as affected by the long-gun registry.
We also heard from another witness that the International Coalition for Women in Shooting and Hunting in Australia has published a long list of papers demonstrating the lack of correlation between the introduction of firearms legislation, most notably a gun registry, and the falling rates of firearms accidents, homicide and suicides.
Honourable senators, we should also look beyond our borders and use the experience of New Zealand and its long-gun registry. At one point, New Zealand had a long-gun registry much like our own. However, in 1983 the Arms Act was passed, which ended the requirement of registration for most long guns. It is my understanding that their Parliament felt that it was too expensive and not useful at protecting their citizens. Their new approach focuses on licensing rather than registration of the majority of their firearms.
That brings me to our licensing system. We have one of the most rigid and meticulous licensing systems in the world. When one applies for a long-gun licence, one undertakes to undergo a lengthy process. This includes an application that questions all aspects of an applicant’s private life. I can tell honourable senators from experience that this is an application that one does not undergo in any other application for any other government service. This delves into one’s personal life like no other request from government does.
I should also point out to honourable senators that two character references are required as part of the application procedure. There is an interview with one’s spouse or former spouse. There is also a safety course and exam with a minimum requirement of 80 per cent achievement to pass.
Once one has gone through this process, which is lengthy, one is then issued a five-year licence. In order to renew it, one needs to complete a renewal form and one’s former spouse or partner has the opportunity to comment on the application.
I also want to point out something that is really important: The requirement for safe storage of firearms and ammunition remains in place. This, in my judgment, is important from the point of view of the safety of anyone involved in the use of firearms.
During the course of our hearings, we heard from a number of witnesses who commended our licensing process. One witness described our licensing system in the following way:
I agree that the measures in place for licensing are very stringent, and they are applaudable.
Although we disagreed with that particular witness about the question of the registry itself, it is important to know that there was a commonality amongst almost all of the witnesses that our licensing system is widely supported.
Another witness spoke about that as well. She stated:
Licensing in Canada is the thing in our system that I applaud and the major difference between Canada and the United States.
Honourable senators, talking about gun laws in Canada and the United States is like comparing apples and oranges. I want to tell you that we are very fortunate to be Canadian.
I would like to bring the present debate back to my region of Canada, Yukon. One of the reasons this bill is so important to me and to the majority of the people in Yukon is because we have always felt that the long-gun registry is an invasion of privacy. In fact, it made us, as Canadians, criminals because we had to prove the state wrong.
I would like to quote Olympic gold medalist Linda Thom who appeared before us. Many senators may know her. She said:
. . . I’m accorded fewer legal rights than a criminal. Measures enacted by Bill C-68 allow police to enter my home at any time without a search warrant because I own registered firearms, yet the same police must have a search warrant to enter the home of a criminal. I’m not arguing that criminals should not have this right — they should. I’m arguing that this right should be restored to me and all Canadian firearms owners.
Honourable senators, it has been said that it was former Minister of Justice Allan Rock’s view when he came to Ottawa that the only people who should have firearms were the police and the military. This is exactly the misguided attitude that led to the fiasco of the long-gun registry. It shows a fundamental misunderstanding of our country — not only of the culture of firearms owners but also the understanding of crime and how one prevents it.
For those of us who live in remote northern settings, as I said earlier, we felt the registry was discriminatory to all our residents, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. We view our long guns as a necessary day-to-day tool not unlike the tractor that a farmer uses to plow his field. In this context, the debate on the long-gun registry has never been absent from the political discourse in Yukon for the past 17 years.
Honourable senators, this registry has cost a lot of money. It has not made Canadians safer. As I stated earlier, we have one of the most effective licensing systems in the world. I think all honourable senators would say that we need to continue to take measures to keep guns out of the wrong hands. That is what our licensing procedure does. However, it has been proven that the registry simply does not achieve this goal.
Honourable senators, the question of the computer database and the elimination of it with the long-gun registry has come up in debate and is a clause of the bill. It is clear that the long-gun registry is the database and it all must be eliminated if we are to do away with the long-gun registry. I want to be clear that the private, personal information in that registry that was sent by individual Canadians should not be kept or transferred to another level of government.
Honourable senators, the most important question now that we have to ask ourselves as we debate this legislation is this: Has it been demonstrated that the registry saved any lives during the last 17 years? I think it is safe to say during the course of our hearings and the hearings in the other place that there has been no substantial evidence to support this claim.
This then brings into question the practical usefulness of the registry and its cost. That is the question that we will vote on in the course of the week. We have heard many times that criminals do not register their guns. I want to quote from the Calgary Chief of Police and his description of the long-gun registry. He said:
It is the largest repository of honest people that exists in this country. There is no doubt about it. The only people who choose to register their long guns are meticulously honest people who are not involved in criminal activity. It is as simple as that.
Honourable senators, I hope that members on both sides of this chamber will vote in favour of Bill C-19. The time has come to eliminate the long-gun registry.