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Halifax Regional Police Decry Gun Selfie

Halifax Regional Police issued this stern warning after arresting a man for possession of a paintball gun at Saint Mary’s University.

“HRP would like to remind people not to post pictures of themselves with firearms or guns that appear to be actual firearms. Police have to treat these investigations as if they were firearms which could potentially lead to dangerous situations. It also ties up police resources and could result in various charges for the person posting the pictures.”

Social media lit up over that statement.

Taking a photograph of you holding a firearm, real or not, is no crime. Not even if Halifax Regional Police imply otherwise.

Saint Mary’s University security officers, it seems, spend their time trolling Facebook and Twitter instead of performing actual security duties. SMU security notified police at 10:45 p.m. Friday night when they found a photo of a student holding a paintball gun on social media.

Their concern? It was a GUN! Oh, and the background of the photo appeared to be a university dorm.

The problem here is three-fold.

First, mass hysteria takes over every time a photograph of someone holding a gun hits social media. Someone calls police.

Second, every complaint of a person holding a firearm in a photograph posted to social media forces a police investigation. They have no choice. Halifiax Regional Police Sgt. Rob Lowther explains:

“You have to look at the world, it’s a dangerous place. We couldn’t tell looking at that picture if it was a real firearm or an artificial one or a toy. It looked real to me. We have to treat everything like that as if it’s a real gun.”

The CSSA takes no issue with the fact police must investigate. We too live in the real world. Our empathy stops when, speaking with police authority, they demand citizens stop posting photographs of themselves holding firearms.

The Halifax Regional Police implied that uploading photographs of you holding a firearm to social media is a crime. We don’t remember when the posting of a photograph of a gun became a criminal offence? That’s the million-dollar question many good citizens asked the Halifax Police.

The response by the HRP to that question, posted three days later as an update to the original press release, clarified its position:

“While it is not an offence to post pictures of people with firearms or guns online, we ask that people do so responsibly and consider unintended consequences so they don’t alarm their fellow citizens and unnecessarily tie up police resources.”

Third, this young man committed no crime. Regardless, the police took him into custody, questioned him and eventually released him. They did not rule out criminal charges against him.

This young man did nothing wrong – he took a photo of himself holding his paintball gun. He posted that photo to a social media account. No crime committed.

But that didn’t stop the Halifax Regional Police from issuing this veiled threat to citizens:

“For clarification, our intent was to remind citizens that some pictures that include firearms (real or not) can cause fear and disruption to our community. We have a responsibility to investigate complaints we receive, and when responding to a weapons complaint, we must operate under the assumption that the firearm is real until we can prove otherwise. This can involve a significant use of police resources. Depending on the situation, the investigation may result in firearms charges under the Criminal Code or Firearms Act or public mischief charges.”

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