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Lost Police Magazines and the Civilian Dilemma

On January 10, 2018, news broke of a Winnipeg police officer who lost a magazine filled with ammunition for his service weapon. Pistol magazines are difficult to find once they fall out of an officer’s duty belt. They are black plastic, less than 15 cm long and 5 cm wide and are hard to see in low vegetation, even in broad daylight.

One aspect of the story is not that a police officer lost a handgun magazine, which happens. Not often, but it happens. The thing is, the officer has no idea where he lost the magazine, let alone when. The best estimate is December 28, 2017, and January 2, 2018 –– six full days before the officer noticed the magazine was missing.

Is it disturbing that police and news outlets told anyone who found the lost magazine and ammunition to bring it to the nearest police station?

This is the Winnipeg police counselling citizens to commit a crime, as the missing police pistol magazine is a prohibited device under Canadian law. Possession of a prohibited device is a crime under Section 92(3) of the Criminal Code of Canada, punishable, on first offence, by imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years .”

Would police charge a person with possessing a prohibited device if they are returning a lost police magazine? Almost definitely not, but a ten-year prison term is a big chance to take, even if the odds are only 1 per cent. One would be better to stand beside the lost item and call police to retrieve it themselves. If you do not possess the prohibited device, you cannot be charged. Erring on the side of caution is probably the smartest move.

Of course, this also begs the question: if the item is so innocuous that police would advise citizens, without firearms licenses, to physically pick it up and deliver it to the nearest police station, is it really so dangerous it must be prohibited? Ah, you say, it must be inserted in a pistol. But still nothing happens. Of course, a person has to pull the trigger, right? So really, the danger is in the person, not the pistol, and certainly not the magazine. So why is it prohibited and a mere 10 round mag is a non-regulated gun part? Are only the rounds over 10 dangerous? These are really stupid laws.

Just a few days ago, another Winnipeg police officer lost a magazine for his service pistol. This time, thankfully, the officer noticed almost immediately, and reported the loss within 3 hours of it happening, between 10 p.m. February 4 and 1 a.m. February 5, 2018.

Once again, police and media asked anyone who found the magazine to return it to the nearest police station.

We advise erring on the side of caution. If you find the missing magazines and ammunition, call the police non-emergency line and give them the location of the lost items. Let police retrieve them instead.




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