Gun bill starts fall session with bang

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Local MP wants long-gun registry gone

A local official says he plans to help shoot down the long-gun registry once Parliament resumes next week.

Parliamentarians will return to the House of Commons next Monday. One of the first major issues before them will be Bill C-391, a private member’s bill that, if passed, would eliminate the contentious long-gun registry. Canadians have been required to register their rifles and shotguns since the end of 2002. Critics have called the registry a waste of money and called for long-guns to be removed from it.

Bill C-391 will be up for third reading on Sept. 22, says Edmonton-St. Albert member of Parliament Brent Rathgeber, and he plans to support it. “The millions and billions of dollars that have been spent forcing duck hunters and farmers to register their shotguns and their .22s without any evidence that it prevents or deters crime ought to have been spent to put more police officers on the streets.”

Contentious registry

Police are split in their support of the long-gun registry, says Rathgeber, who has studied the issue extensively through the public safety and national security committee. Police chiefs favour it, but front-line officers reject it, saying that it would be risky to rely on it in the field.

“Mayerthorpe is a very interesting case study on the ineffectiveness of the long-gun registry,” he says, referring to the deaths of four Mayerthorpe RCMP officers in 2005. James Roszko did not register the guns he used to shoot those officers, but did have a third registered gun in his possession that led to the conviction of Dennis Cheeseman and Shawn Hennessey for manslaughter. “The long gun registry did nothing to prevent that massacre.”

The Liberals and the Bloc oppose Bill C-391, Rathgeber says, meaning its fate is up to the handful of NDP members who supported it at second reading. NDP leader Jack Layton has said he would allow his members to vote freely on the bill.

The NDP is in a lose-lose situation, says Chaldeans Mensah, political science professor at Grant MacEwan University — they’ll lose urban votes if they support the bill, and rural Saskatchewan ones if they oppose it. “It places the party in a very difficult situation.”

Little change over summer

The Conservatives have lost a bit of support over the summer due to issues like the long-form census, Mensah says, but the Liberals have yet to see any gains. “The margins have tightened considerably over the summer.”

This week’s Ipsos Reid survey put the Conservatives at 34 per cent of the vote and the Liberals at 31, unchanged from last month.

Mensah expects immigration and refugees to be a hot topic this fall, particularly due to the recent shipload of Sri Lankan refugees that arrived in B.C. “This issue is going to be a hot potato for government,” he says — parties will want to look tough on human trafficking without sullying the nation’s reputation of openness towards refugees.

Parliament will also face calls for more stimulus cash due to the ongoing recession. “I’d have a difficult time supporting any stimulus package that’s as large as the one contained in the last budget,” Rathgeber says, but he would consider a smaller one. “I think we’ve weathered the deepest part of the recession.”

The Conservatives will likely table motions on human smuggling this fall, Rathgeber says. He personally planned to table a private member’s bill that would beef up sentences for assaults on transit drivers. “Transit workers are in a very precarious position,” he says, citing the recent beating of St. Albert resident and Edmonton bus driver Tom Bregg as an example.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.