Are there really 287,000 law-abiding farmers, trappers, hunters and fishers in Toronto?

A strong market in central Canada for raccoon coats like the one worn by this man accounts for the large number of urban trappers who live in Metropolitan Toronto, law-abiding gun owners who account for some of the 287,000 long guns in that city. Or something like that, anyway. Below: Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber, some of his fashionable Conservative fellow MPs.

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 Mr. 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 Mr. 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 bottom of your boat, however.

In Mr. 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 faming 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 Mr. Rathgeber. Then again, since Edmonton-St. Albert is an urban riding, perhaps not – but, in that case, citizens are going to need to give Mr. Rathgeber a dingle and let him know how they feel about his position on the registry.

Getting back to Mr. 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 Mr. 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 Mr. 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 Mr. 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,” Mr. 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, Mr. 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 Mr. 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 Rabble.ca.

11 Comments on "Are there really 287,000 law-abiding farmers, trappers, hunters and fishers in Toronto?"

  1. Anonymous says:

    David, I have a question concerning the boy in Saskatchewan who took what I'm assuming is, or soon to be was, his father's gun to school.

    As something of a Liberal iconclast, what do you feel is an appropriate response to this incident?

    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.

    That may well be, given the new response to situations like the boy who brought the gun to school. But what would you have gun owners do? They didn't give up their right to vote, did they? Maybe you think they aren't enough of a voting block to make a difference, but that seems kinda hollow doesn't it? David, there's only one party standing up for their basic charter-rights, which have become meaningless under the firearms act by the way, and even the Conservative support is luke-warm at best. What do you expect David? What other option is available, and why is their response, to vote overwhelmingly Conservative, not appropriate in a nominal democracy?

  2. David J. Climenhaga says:

    In answer to Anonymous 6:22's question, I would have expected gun owners, as the reasonable law-abiding members of society they say they are and which I assume many of them in fact to be, to have co-operated with the reasonable request that they register their guns. The refusal of a significant group to do so will, it is a political certainty, inspire some of their fellow citizens who reasonably fear the proliferation of firearms in society to take more radical measures in future to control their possession.

    This said, obviously gun owners who agree with you have a right to lobby the government for changes to the law that suit them. This goes even for the lunatics who think they need their guns to foment future revolutions against the government. My principal complaint is not so much with gun owners – although I would say their often threatening rhetoric does not show them in a particular reassuring light – but with the Harper government for its cynical wedge politics. If the Harperites' opponents also someday use firearms as a wedge, I don't think either the Conservatives or militant gun owners will have much to complain about in that.

    Finally, I'm afraid I fail to see what Charter rights are being violated here. There is no Canadian Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, nor is the right to property explicitly protected in our Charter.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the response David. I'll take your comments out of order, if I may.

    Finally, I'm afraid I fail to see what Charter rights are being violated here.

    That tells me that you haven't read the Firearms Act. Now, I'm not a lawyer, nor do I have any ties to the legal profession, however, I do have a good understanding of the law, and I believe that the Charter guarantees the right not to self-incriminate. This, is what the firearms act says, under section 103, "shall

    (a) give the inspector all reasonable assistance to enable him or her to carry out the inspection and exercise any power conferred by section 102; and

    (b) provide the inspector with any information relevant to the enforcement of this Act or the regulations that he or she may reasonably require."

    The section in question, 103, details the powers of the state to inspect a person's home or business to ensure compliance with the Firearms act. What I understand in section 103 of the Firearms act is that the "duty to assist" can be interpreted to have the effect of creating a duty to help the state build a case against the owner. And it is that which is, in my humble opinion a violation of the owner's charter right against self-incrimination. If an owner has the temerity to refuse to assist an inspector, as should be their right, it could potentially lead to charges of obstructing justice. That seems to me to be fundamentally unjust in a free and democratic society.

    Further, it is I believe a fundamental precept of our Justice system that accused persons be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The reverse of that, the presumption of guilt recquiring the accused to prove their innocence is considered by most to be a violation of the Charter. Here's what the Firearms act says under section 112 (4):

    "Where, in any proceedings for an offence under this section, any question arises as to whether a person is the holder of a registration certificate, the onus is on the defendant to prove that the person is the holder of the registration certificate."

    Here's what section 107 says; "Every person commits an offence who, without lawful excuse the proof of which lies on the person, alters, defaces or falsifies…"

    These are two examples of reverse onus provisions which are, in my humble opinion, repugnant and unlawful in Canada. This essay explores the issue in much greater detail: http://www.lowe.ca/Rick/FirearmsLegislation/charterViolations.htm. I don't agree with every argument presented, but I firmly believe that certain sections of the Firearms act are violations of a person's charter rights, and that's without reading-into the charter a right to keep and bear arms.

    If you want to disagree with my interpretation of the law, that's fine, I hold no especial claim to wisdom, or insight in this matter, other than what I've read and understood. However, millions of firearms owners do agree with my interpretation, and so my question originally is, or was, how do you expect them to react? Their reaction seems perfectly reasonable to me, given the circumstances.

  4. Filostrato says:

    The fisherperson needs an unregistered long gun for the purpose of shooting fish in a barrel, of course. Harperites know this from their fund-raising success every time they raise the "I'll give you my gun when you take it from my cold dead hands" pocket-picking exercises.

    Around here, farmers put plaid or hunting orange blankets on their livestock at the beginning of the shooting season. Some still get drilled full of holes every year. A friend moved from her former home in Lanark County when bullets whizzed by her ear as she and her children were playing out on their back deck.

    As for "Libertarians", they're awfully choosy about what they're willing to take on. When Rathgeber finally shoulders all his own burdens and takes out his own appendix to protest the Big Socialist Medicine Plot, I might believe him.

    As usual, the Onion has nailed it again.

    Libertarian Reluctantly Calls Fire Department

    CHEYENNE, WY—After attempting to contain a living-room blaze started by a cigarette, card-carrying Libertarian Trent Jacobs reluctantly called the Cheyenne Fire Department Monday. "Although the community would do better to rely on an efficient, free-market fire-fighting service, the fact is that expensive, unnecessary public fire departments do exist," Jacobs said. "Also, my house was burning down." Jacobs did not offer to pay firefighters for their service.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I would have expected gun owners, as the reasonable law-abiding members of society they say they are and which I assume many of them in fact to be, to have co-operated with the reasonable request that they register their guns.

    I believe that the request to register firearms is no longer a reasonable one, and an argument to assert the requirement to register can only originate from ignorance, fear, malice or a combination of the three. And let me expicitly rule out any kind of statement concerning some unseen future revolution against the government. Let me introduce the Armi Jager AP-80: http://img23.imageshack.us/img23/826/img3960m.jpg

    And let's put that side-by-side with an AK-47: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rifle_AK-47.jpg

    The RCMP recently declared the AP-80 a prohibited weapon on the grounds that it was the same design as the Mitchel Arms AK-22, and therefore was a "variant" of the AK-47, and prohibted under Former Prohibited Weapons Order 13. People who know a little about guns can understand that the AK-47 has several variants, the AK-74, the RPK, the Galil, and the AKM to name a few. These are all of course automatic, center-fire assault rifles, or machine guns. They all feed on a full-power rifle round, like a 7.62x39mm round. None of them operate using rimfire .22 Long Rifle rounds, which is what the Mitchell AK-22 and the Armi-Jager AP-80 use. So between the AK-47, and its variants, and the Mitchell AK-22, and the Armi Jager AP-80, none of the firearms share parts, or operating mechanisms. They look similar, but are in reality very different creatures, one class being center-fire fully automatic firearms, the other being rimfire semi-automatic firearms. It is not, therefore reasonable to say that the Mitchell AK-22 and the Armi Jager AP-80 are a "variants" of an AK-47, they share absolutely nothing with the AK-47 except for some cosmetic similarity. Their function is entirely distinct, and different. Yet, this is exactly what has happened. And the RCMP have used this argument to cease the privately owned property of the firearms owners who own these offending firearms. And further, court challenges will because of the way that the Firearms act is written, not succeed in preserving a citizen's right to the enjoyment of his or her property. Rather because of a previously over-zealous and overly-fearful Liberal government, these innoccent law-abiding people must now be punished by having their property ceased and destroyed. That is… assuming that their property was registered. Those who didn't register? They get to keep their guns. And that's just one example.

    Therefore, I submit that unless the laws are drastically changed, it is NOT reasonable to persist in requesting that firearms owners register their firearms. The laws do not do nearly enough to constrain the possibility of the abuse of state power. If the laws, specifically the Criminal Code and the Firearms act were reformed, THEN, and only then, could a case be argued for registration as a reasonable request.

  6. Anonymous says:

    If the Harperites' opponents also someday use firearms as a wedge, I don't think either the Conservatives or militant gun owners will have much to complain about in that.

    This is easiest of all. Conservative oponents already have, and do use firearms as wedge-issues, and have since at least the Liberal Red-Book of 1993. The accusation that the Harper government is using Firearms as a wedge issue, and that this use of firearms owners and their donations is cynical, and, not to put words in your mouth but "un-Canadian" may well be accurate. But it is no different than the Liberals using their promise of universal firearms registration to make Kim Campbell look soft on guns. It is no different than the fear-mongering that the New Democrats perpetuated using the Steyr HS .50.

    In other words, the "Progressive" camp is equally as guilty of being "un-Canadian" as the Harper government, and, one could argue that if it wasn't for an over-zealous and deeply misguided Liberal government in the 1990's, this would be a non-issue in the current political climate. But because of Liberal and New Democratic stubbornness, the issue has become extremely polarizing, and any sense of a reasonable discussion is all but impossible.

    The Progressive camp cannot honestly suggest that they haven't greatly assisted in creating Harper's wedge issue. Opportunistic of Harper perhaps, but he's had so much help. You, I, or any other Canadian in Harper's position would do the exact same thing.

  7. Nordic says:

    I just do not see the utility of the whole long gun registry. On the one hand, crime rates have been declining for decades (welcome doddery baby boomers) yet the Harper cons want to build more jails.

    On the other hand people in favour of the registry are implicitly endorsing this ‘tough on crime’ nonsense by saying that registering what amounts to a trivial number of weapons that are really useless for all but a tiny number of crimes, has some great social purpose.

    300,000 long guns in the Greater Toronto Area with a population of over 6 million are trivial.

    All the NDP has managed is to hand Harper and Co a golden handshake in the rest of Canada.

    As was said in another post: “The NDP … did not even have the strategic good sense to let Harper kill his biggest fund raising tool by ending the long gun registry during the minority Parliament. With that gone Harper would have had real trouble in several western seats and rural Ontario as voters focused on the other Conservative policies that are very harmful to rural Canada. Now it is too late to undo Harper’s successful attacks on rural Canada and a pox on the NDP for their stupidity!”

  8. Anonymous says:

    And you wonder why thwe left is failing. So because Toronto is Toronto everyone is a cookie cutter of what YOU want Toronto to be. And when the top gets blown-off your little dream world, you can't deal with it. Canada is more than just NDPers you know.

  9. Anne Wilson says:

    Maybe gun owners should get a legal opinion,but not Prof. Morton's. I read as far as "criminals won't register their guns". Sure, but they don't know they're going to be criminals, do they? They're all law-abiding, and then, they let the kid take the handgun to school,etc.

  10. Alex P says:

    As my father told me many times, an unloaded gun fires once a year. That can be extended to, a presumed securely stored gun gets taken to elementary school once a year. And, I'm afraid, someone who bought a gun legally turns it on someone they never thought they would hurt far more than once a year.

    What's a society to do?

    Meanwhile, my friend in Toronto assures me the raccoons have guns, too.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The pro-gun lobby shows its orchestration again. Do they have nothing better to do?

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