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What police have said about the gun registry

(The original document may be found here.)


In June of 2006 I will be commencing my 24th year as a member of the Ontario Provincial Police. For 18 of those years I have been assigned the rank of Detective, specifically assigned to major criminal investigations. I must point out that in all my experience as a police officer I have only investigated one homicide were a firearm was the weapon used in the slaying. In contrast, the majority of murders that I have been involved in as an investigator, a knives were preferred and two separate occasions a hammer was the weapon of choice. I have however been involved in the investigation of countless offences such as robbery, where handguns were the weapon of choice and I must point out Sir, that the firearms registry did not assist in solving one, nor obviously in deterring one. The reasons that the firearms registry is so highly ineffectual are, I believe obvious, but basically it affects the wrong people, law abiding citizens and not criminals. [READ MORE]
SOURCE: Letter to all MPs dated April 5, 2006

As you have already responded to the position of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) in this regard, I offer my wholehearted agreement. As a retired member of the RCMP, who supervised police officers in Canada’s largest Detachments, I have grave concerns about the reliance on the registry for data which could result in death or injury of a police officer. Accepting the premise that criminals will not register guns, one has to wonder how that would affect approaching a residence or premises that had been checked with the registry and found “no firearms present”? In the case of a “hit” that indicates the residence in question is owned by a lawful firearms owner, what approach would the police take. My experience has told me that the greatest hazard to police officers is complacence and I found it prudent to continually remind my staff of that fact. Relying on a flawed system for officer safety will eventually lead to a tragedy. It is unfortunate that the CACP did not take the time to consider the consequences of their position and the safety of the men and women they represent.
SOURCE: E-Mail to Garry Breitkreuz, MP dated February 1, 2006

I am appalled at just how much has been spent to date on the firearms registration process. But perhaps even more disturbing is the misplaced focus on legal firearms. 
Like many reasonable Canadians, I support programs that address the structural and social situations that give rise to crime. Our first objective should be to promote law-abiding, non-destructive behaviour in as many members of society as possible. There comes a point, however, where punishment and protection of the public must be the focus. In these cases, illegal acts and violent behaviour should be treated with appropriate penalties. From reading my views on gun control and firearms legislation, I suspect that many might feel that I am a “gun nut” with pro-American feelings regarding gun possession. This is just not so. Growing up, my family had limited contact with firearms but we were raised to believe that a gun was a serious tool to be used in appropriate circumstances only. I can understand people who emotionally react to guns as all bad but I am convinced that such emotion can mask the true problem of illegal gun possession and/or usage. During my 37 years of policing I carried a handgun as a tool of my profession. I was also exposed to a wide cross-section of collectors and target shooters who used, stored and transported their weapons in a legal and responsible manner. They are not the problem. The misdirection of time, effort and funding is unforgivable. I believe that Canadians are much too astute to believe that either Bill C-68 or the proposed handgun legislation is anything other than a waste of time, effort and money. Wasting public funds that could really make a difference in acute justice issues, in my view, borders on criminal activity. 
THE NORTH SHORE NEWS, “Gun legislation an election issue” published January 11, 2006 

ERIC W. FERGUSON, Retired Chief of Police and RCMP Officer: 
I was 75 years of age on Dec. 31, 2005. Part of my life’s story was serving 24 years with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and four years as Police Chief for the City of Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. For the past six or seven years I have stood by and watched the Liberal Government of Canada mishandle gun control and in the process not save one life, but encouraging criminals to commit more offences and yes, help to turn good honest Canadians into criminals. Now Prime Minister your plan to banish all handguns is real “dumb”. Sir, have you not figured out yet, that criminals do not register their guns, not now or in the future? Your political plan will not save one life! 
SOURCE: Moncton Times and Transcript Letter: “Prime Minister had his chance and failed”, Page D8, January 4, 2006 

A female police officer, gunned down with a weapon powerful enough to kill an elephant while answering a noise complaint, had previously helped arrest her alleged killer for harassing another policewoman. FranAois Pepin was charged yesterday with first-degree murder in the death of Const. Valerie Gignac and possessing a firearm. Pepin was also charged with breaking a 1999 probation condition by having a gun outside hunting season. Laval police, reeling from Wednesday’s death of their colleague, were blunt in their assessment that the justice system let them down. “How come if you have a ban, you’re not allowed to possess a firearm for 10 years, how come you can allow it for the hunting season?” asked Denis Cote, president of the Quebec municipal police federation. “If you’re a threat for everybody, make sure you’re a threat for all 12 months in a year.”
SOURCE: New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, “Officer killed with rifle that could fell an elephant” Page A5, December 16, 2005

WHEN WILL politicians quit abusing law-abiding members of our society for personal gain? Guns do not kill people. People kill people. Whether it is a gun, knife, baseball bat or other weapon it is merely the means to gain the end result. Mr. Martin, your government promised that the foolhardy gun registration laws you initiated would end the high amount of violence throughout Canada. That plan failed and now to get votes in the greater G.T.A. area you propose an entire ban on all handguns. Did the government ever take a good look at why the violence is occurring? What has the justice system done for us? (Add up the number of years spent in jail by these offenders in the past 10 years for the serious crimes they committed.) Have you tracked the parole boards’ decisions? (How many re-offenders have committed serious crimes while on parole?) Who are committing these violent crimes? Is there a common link to drugs? Why can criminals readily obtain hand guns brought in from the U.S.A.? Who are the persons committing all these violent crimes in Toronto? Is there a common link to any specific people and has anyone tried to improve society of these persons, or addressed their problems? Finally, how many of these crimes have been committed by persons who legally own registered handguns? NONE!
SOURCE: Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal Letter: “Rob Liberals of 3 area seats over latest foolhardy gun ban” December 17, 2005

“I met with an RCMP officer this week who was told by his superiors to stop sending requests to the gun registry before attending domestic disputes because he ‘was putting his life in danger’. The RCMP officer was told the usual ‘no guns’ response to his query ‘creates a false sense of security’. The young officer was also told that if he ever criticized the gun registry publicly his career would be over,” reported Breitkreuz.
SOURCE: MP Garry Breitkreuz’s News Release dated December 15, 2005 – Name withheld at the officer’s request

But the move may not have the desired effect of cutting down crime because criminals will still be armed, said Al Koenig, president of the Calgary Police Association, the union representing about 1,500 local police officers. “Banning handguns simply doesn’t work. You want minimum sentencing for possession of handguns or using them in the commission of an offence.” “That is a very simple solution to a very complex problem,” Mr. Koenig said. “The ironic thing is after spending $2-billion-plus trying to register them, the best the government can come up with is to outright ban them — it doesn’t solve the problem,” he said.
SOURCE: National Post: “Liberals to ban handguns” Page A1/Front December 8, 2005

Not only has the gun registry diverted billions of dollars from the blue front lines, it has also sowed the seeds of ill will amongst a growing portion of otherwise law abiding gun owners. This group was previously steadfast supporters of the law enforcement community. Many of them now increasingly view us as the enemy or as buffoons. The registry is great at telling me what LAW ABIDING people duly registered their guns. These were never the people I needed to worry about. I don’t trust the registry because it will never be able to tell me what I need to know about the riskier anti social [expletive deleted] I may potentially be pulling over at 3am. Criminals and kooks DON’T REGISTER their guns. Every just thinking person abhors gun deaths, but the registry is a costly and misleading flop. There were several technical reasons that guaranteed it would be a flop from the get go. The worst part is that the “gun lobby” warned us about them from the start. They were right and the Chiefs of police were wrong. Believe it.
SOURCE: Letter to the Publisher of Blueline Magazine, November 25, 2005

The strongest lobby against the Firearm Registry is “Truth”; which the public, police and media are slowly come to grips with. They realize they have been sold a dead horse that no matter how much life you try to blow into it, or how much money they spend on Band-Aids or proposed miracle cures, will never ride. The value of the Registry when responding to a domestic dispute is again another red herring thrown out by the Proponents as justification for the obscene expenditure of money. As a police officer with 19 years experience, the last thing I am willing to stake my life on is the information contained in the Firearm Registry. Not only is the information unverified and inaccurate, it has little to do with where a firearm is possibly stored or located. Of greater value is the licensing of owners for this at the very least is an indicator of who may potentially have a firearm in their possession; and yet I would still be a fool to risk my life on negative hit to a query of this information. As a police officer who represented the Saskatchewan Association of Police Officers in opposition to the Firearm Registry, I have spoken with police from across Canada who see little or no value in the Registry. Many have gone so far as to question the rational or motive of the Canadian Professional Police association’s continued endorsement of it. I have to agree with you when you question, “How can it ever work?” I don’t believe it can; it hasn’t in any other jurisdiction where tried. It is time to bury that dead horse; start allocating the resources to Canada’s Police and Justice Systems so that we all can feel safer in our homes and at our professions.
SOURCE: Letter to the Publisher of Blueline Magazine, November 22, 2005

I am an R.C.M.P. member who complied with the registration process for long guns in the last online registration push. Last month I traded the firearm I registered online at wholesale sports in Saskatoon. When they went to process my registration for the new firearm they were told that the one I traded in was never registered. Another waste of taxpayers’ money. As a police officer that just confirmed my faith in the current gun registry system and that the current government is doing nothing to protect our members and the general public.
SOURCE: E-Mail dated September 8, 2005 – Name withheld at the RCMP Officer’s request

(Many more quotes are available here.)

PUBLICATION: National Post 
DATE: 2006.07.27 
EDITION: Toronto 
SECTION: Letters 
PAGE: A17 
BYLINE: Sergeant Bob Cottingham (ret’d) 
SOURCE: National Post

Former cop says drop the gun registry

Re: In Defence Of The Gun Registry, letter to the editor, July 24.

As a former police officer who spent 25 years working in Alberta, the last six as a detective in the criminal investigations section, I solved a lot of crime through good old-fashioned police work, as well as interviewing perpetrators and obtaining lawful confessions. I also solved crimes through the collection of DNA and the comparison of fingerprints using cost-effective, established police databases. I also accessed these databases to find information on suspects’ names, criminal records and descriptions, which resulted in hundreds of successful arrests.

Not once, however, during my career do I recall using the gun registry to solve a major crime. Simply put, the vast majority of criminals use firearms which don’t come close to being included in this bureaucratic jumble of information. Letter-writer Wendy Cukier may also be disappointed to know that I observed that most front-line officers have little faith in the gun registry, and see it as another bloated and failed attempt by the former government to appease its constituents.

As loyal police officers, most of us went along with our police associations’ decisions, when they supported the registry in its infancy. But then we saw that the registry only encroaches on our law-abiding citizens and has little effect on most criminals using firearms. I suggest that the courts use the existing firearms laws to punish illegal gun users more severely. A drop in gun related crime will surely follow.

Sergeant Bob Cottingham (ret’d), Lethbridge, Alta.

PUBLICATION: National Post 
DATE: 2006.07.28 
EDITION: National 
SECTION: Letters 
PAGE: A13 
BYLINE: Alex Popovic 
SOURCE: National Post

Another cop blasts holes in gun registry

Re: Former Cop Says Drop The Gun Registry, July 27.

As a former police officer, I support the views of Sergeant Bob Cottingham. Like him, I believe the firearms registry serves a very limited purpose in police work. In fact, it might be undermining the very purpose it was supposed to support.

First, no police officer should rely on the registry to determine if there are firearms in a home. To do so would be foolish. A second justification for the registration has been that stolen guns will be identified and returned to their owners. The reality is that the Canadian Police Information Computer (CPIC) already lists stolen property and identification numbers.

Regardless of where one stands on the need to have firearms in the hands of civilians, the reality is criminals don’t respect laws. The registry has not saved a life or helped the justice system to stop gun trafficking. Instead, it has created a new class of criminals, whose only crime is that they believe in their right of ownership of property. It is time to consider how we can really take the illegal guns out of the hands of criminals. Spending billions on a paper exercise that provides little tangible benefit is not the way to go.

Alex Popovic, Inspector (rtd.), Mississauga, Ont.

PUBLICATION: The Toronto Star 
DATE: 2006.09.21 
SECTION: Letters 

A flawed waste of time and money

Re: Canada’s gun laws must be tougher. Editorial, Sept. 18.

Though the chiefs of police may endorse it, as a working police officer in Toronto for 33 years, I found the long gun registry terribly flawed and a waste of time, energy and money. It needs to be dismantled, not strengthened.

For the last six years, I worked the streets of the Jane-Finch area, so I’ve attended my share of weapons calls. Not once did I ever seek or rely on information from the gun registry. It was irrelevant. Your statement that it is used 5,000 times a day by police is misleading. A check of the registry is done automatically every time an officer is dispatched to an address, wanted or not. 

From its inception, I was advised not to depend on it to make decisions. It is outdated, inaccurate and completely unreliable. To make a decision at a call based on registry information would be foolish at best and deadly at worst. 

Gun free zones would ensure only criminals have guns and central repositories would only ensure a greater haul when they are broken into. Perhaps, if there are more officers walking the streets or the courts were not so backlogged that plea bargaining has become a necessity, gun crime might be detected early and punished appropriately. The $2 billion from the gun registry would have gone a long way in making that happen. 

Michael Mays, Sgt. Ret’d, Barrie, Ont.

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