This column appeared in today’s edition of the Saint City News.
Brent Rathgeber, St. Albert’s Conservative Member of Parliament, likes to pass himself off as a law ’n’ order kind of guy.
Rare is the month local media don’t receive a news release from Mr. Rathgeber trumpeting his commitment to “cracking down on crime,” handing out “serious time for serious crimes,” giving less time off to well-behaved prisoners and the like.
Obviously, Mr. Rathgeber wants us to think he’s a friend to victims of crime and a friend of the police.
But if you judge Mr. Rathgeber on his actions, not just his hot air, you’ll see he’s not nearly as interested in “fighting crime” as he says. At least, when it came down to voting to save a law that actually helps crime victims – in the best possible way, by keeping them from becoming victims – he did the opposite.
I’m talking about Parliament’s vote on Nov. 4 to dump the national long-gun registry, which the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police calls “vitally important for police all across this country.” Mr. Rathgeber voted to eliminate it. For months he has been pushing to shut it down as quickly as possible.
Here’s what the Chiefs of Police have to say about the continuing effort to dismantle the registry: “We believe the elimination of Canada’s national firearms licensing registration system for rifles and shotguns will make Canada less safe. We believe it will compromise the ability of law enforcement to deal effectively with gun violence. We believe law enforcement will lose access to information that helps us keep our officers and our communities safe.”
When it comes to listening to what senior law enforcement professionals have to say on this important public safety issue, though, Rathgeber has beans in his ears. He’s circulated 10 National Rifle Association-style householders on this topic. The latest one claims – contrary to what police say – that the registry “is ineffective against real gun crime that is endangering our communities.”
Other than the fact it was a Liberal initiative, Mr. Rathgeber’s main knocks against the registry seem to be that it cost too much to create and that it “burdens law-abiding gun owners with paperwork.”
No question he’s right about the registry’s price tag. But why dismantle it now that it’s been paid for? As for his complaint about paperwork, please! As a law-abiding car owners, every one of us who drives is “burdened” with paperwork, including licenses, plates and registration. Most of us are grown up enough to recognize that putting up with this paperwork protects our property and keeps our roads safe.
Asking law-abiding firearms owners to register their guns is not “picking on innocent farmers and hunters,” as Mr. Rathgeber’s taxpayer-financed flyer preposterously claims, any more than requiring car owners to register their vehicles is “picking on innocent motorists.”
Opponents of the registry like Mr. Rathgeber imply that only handguns are used to commit crimes, and that crimes only happen in cities. One need only think of the tragic events at Mayerthorpe in 2005 to know this is nonsense.
As the police chiefs say, this is not about law-abiding farmers and hunters, or city versus country, “it is about public safety. … It is about responsible gun ownership.”
When Parliament gave second reading to the bill to eliminate the gun registry, Rathgeber could have done the right thing and listened to the police. He did not.
As a member of the influential Public Safety and National Security Committee, which will examine the bill before it is sent on to the Senate, he still could. It’s pretty obvious he won’t.
That’s fine. But when Mr. Rathgeber tries to pass himself off as a friend of law and order, we know the truth. Actions speak louder than words.