Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber

The Conservative Member of Parliament for Edmonton-St. Albert, the riding in which I reside, has made a name for himself by being a noisy defender of the Harper Government’s effort to shut down the national rifle and shotgun registry and destroy all its records.

Brent Rathgeber likes to describe his party’s nearly completed plan to eliminate the registry and permanently trash all its information, despite the pleas of the police whom he also purports to support, as a way to preserve “the liberty of law-abiding farmers, hunters, fishermen, trappers and others.”

Liberty is good, as I think we can all agree, especially for someone who like Rathgeber also describes himself as a “libertarian.”

I was thinking about this yesterday as I read the Toronto Star’s scoop, based on a geographical breakdown of the federal long-gun registry’s collected data that had fallen into the newspaper’s hands, that there are approximately 287,000 “long guns” registered in Toronto!

Most of these, about 263,000 firearms according to the Star, are held by individuals, presumably in their homes.

I immediately wondered how many of these highly urbanized Ontarians, to use Rathgeber’s descriptive phrase, require these weapons because they are “farmers, hunters, fishermen and trappers”?

Probably a portion of them are hunters and fishers, although how many farmers and trappers live in Metropolitan Toronto is open to question. That said, heaven knows, if there were still a market for raccoon coats, Toronto might just be the place to set up a trap-line!

Moreover, what an Ontario fisherperson would need a rifle or shotgun for, I’m not sure either, since he or she would be unlikely to encounter a bear, one not driving a BMW to the TSE anyway, on the way down to the Humber River. But I guess a really big bass could be frightening if it started flopping around and snapping its jaws at you. You might want to think twice about shooting it in the botom of your boat, however.

In Rathgeber’s defence, it’s true that there is probably a slightly higher per-capita number of farmers, fishers and hunters living in his urban central Alberta riding. Edmonton-St. Albert is, after all, adjacent to a large farming area that is rich in wildlife — quite a large percentage of which will bellow “moo” if you approach it with a shotgun.

In this regard, northern Edmonton and St. Albert may be quite different from Metro Toronto where, we are informed by the Star, police make more use of the long-gun database than in any other Canadian centre.

It’s also quite possible that there’s both stronger police support and more voter support in the ridings of Metro Toronto than on the northern edge of Edmonton, making opposition to the registry more of a consideration for politicians like Rathgeber. Then again, since Edmonton-St. Albert is an urban riding, perhaps not — but, in that case, citizens are going to need to give Rathgeber a dingle and let him know how they feel about his position on the registry.

Getting back to Rathgeber’s “Others” category, I have no idea what my MP had in mind. Perhaps he was thinking of those law-abiding gun owners who, for one reason or another, are about to slip over into the non-law-abiding column whence they are deemed suitable grist for the vast gulag of multi-billion-dollar prisons that the libertarian Rathgeber also enthusiastically supports.

You know, like the law-abiding Saskatoon gun owner who somehow slipped up and let his 11-year-old boy take a loaded Colt .45 to school, where it went off in the lad’s knapsack. (When I tweeted this, other law-abiding gun owners were swift to inform me that the fellow in question obviously wasn’t law abiding — which, since he was until the gun left the premises, is part of the problem with the whole concept.)

The legions of Rathgeber’s fans and allies in the law-abiding gun owner community who now so enthusiastically follow this blog will be quick to point out that a Colt .45 is a handgun, not covered by the long-gun registry, and therefore I am a “fascist libtard” or worse who wants to seize their guns — and, by gosh, I should just come over and give it a try!

All I can say to them is that it would have been awfully hard for the young fellow to hide a rifle or a shot gun in his knapsack, and anyway, judging by their correspondence, a goodly number of them are looking for Rathgeber to champion their efforts to eliminate the handgun registry too. This is a topic I’m sure he’ll be happy to get back to us about with his position in the fullness of time and public opinion polling.

Like most “conservative libertarians,” Rathgeber is quite selective about what he chooses to be libertarian about. In this regard, I suppose, libertarians are rather like their frequent political allies the Biblical literalists, who inevitably pick and choose what parts of the Bible to be literal about. Well, one can’t be too libertarian, what with all those taxpayer-built prisons to fill!

Anyway, just in case the gun-registry controversy dies with the registry, Rathgeber also has another big cause — forcing the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to rely on charitable donations to survive, sort of like the “charitable” Fraser Institute, only without billionaires lining up to bankroll its efforts to lobby on their behalf. But that’s a topic for another day.

Meanwhile, it’s pretty clear the Conservative rush to wreck the gun registry had nothing to do with the rights of law-abiding gun owners and everything to do with wedge politics and fund-raising, at which it presumably it has been a fantastic success for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives.

In Rathgeber’s defence, his lush rhetoric about our liberty is typical of Canadians are hearing Conservative MPs in ridings throughout the country, good foot soldiers who have received their marching orders.

No doubt we’ll be hearing from him soon on how our freedom of investment choice must be defended by whittling down our retirement benefits.

Indeed, it’s never a bad time to start worrying when a Conservative politician commences talking about defending your liberty!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...