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Murray Grismer
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Murray Grismer
2010-05-26 16:12
Mr. Chairman, honourable committee members, and fellow witnesses, it is an honour and a privilege for me to appear before you today to assist you in your deliberations on Bill C-391.
As you already know, my name is Murray Grismer. What some of you may or may not know is that I am a serving member of the Saskatoon Police Service with over 23 years of service protecting the citizens of Saskatoon and Saskatchewan. At present, I hold the rank of detective sergeant, assigned to the major crime-serious crimes unit.
The courts in Saskatchewan have qualified me as an expert witness, able to give opinion and evidence on firearms. I have provided assistance to both federal and provincial prosecutions in the area of firearms-related crime. I'm a master instructor for the Canadian firearms safety courses and an approved verifier certified by the registrar of the Canadian firearms registry.
I want to make it clear from the outset that my comments here today before this committee are mine and mine alone. They do not reflect the opinion of my employer, chief, or the police service.
That said, I am the elected spokesperson of the Saskatoon Police Association on firearms issues, specifically the Firearms Act and the firearms registry. I was also the spokesperson for the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers on the issues of the Firearms Act and the firearms registry until the fall of 2002. During that time, I sat on the advisory panel to the Honourable John Nilson, justice minister and Attorney General for the Province of Saskatchewan, which brought forward Saskatchewan's position to opt out of the administration and enforcement of the Firearms Act.
I understand this august committee has had the opportunity to hear from a number of retired police officers who share my belief that the registry for non-restricted rifles and shotguns, commonly referred to as long guns, should be brought to an end. It's also my understanding I will be the only serving police officer called to appear as a witness who holds this position.
Therefore, ipso facto, I also represent the opinion of thousands of police officers across Canada who are, in my opinion, the silent majority and, for some, the silenced majority: not only police officers who have been ordered not to speak out against the long-gun registry but also officers who fear for their careers should they voice an opinion publicly in opposition to continuation of the registry or against the position adopted by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, their chief of police, or commanding officer.
To say the police community is divided on support for the long-gun registry is an understatement. The committee has heard from Mr. Charles Momy, president of the Canadian Police Association, who claimed that he represents the opinion of 41,000 police officers in Canada. The CPA endorses the continuation of the registry, yet in truth, they adopt this position without ever having formally polled their membership.
The CPA's position is not that of the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers, nor that of the Saskatoon Police Association. The Saskatchewan Federation is the only provincial federation or association that has polled its entire membership on the issue of the registration of firearms. When polled, the Saskatoon Police Association was 99.46% against a long-gun registry, while many of our compatriots in Saskatchewan were 100% in opposition to the registry.
There are some who may choose arrogantly or foolishly to consider the opinions of those who oppose the registry as uninformed or uneducated. Nothing could be further from the truth; we are neither. Instead, we recognize the cornerstone of public safety is the training, screening, and licensing of owners, not the registration of non-restricted rifles and shotguns.
The mantra of the former government of the day and the CACP was that “gun control is crime control”. The registry misses the target of the criminal use of firearms. Instead, it targets millions of legitimate firearms owners in the name of crime control. The fact is, the registry can do nothing to prevent the criminal use or criminals from obtaining firearms any more than the registration of vehicles can prevent them from being stolen or used by impaired drivers.
Ms. de Villiers of CAVEAT advocates on behalf of Canadians Against Violence. This is a laudable cause and one that I believe every Canadian supports, for violence makes victims of us all. To Ms. de Villiers, I offer my profoundest sympathy on the loss of your daughter, Nina de Villiers. However, a registry for long guns would not have stopped such a tragic event or addressed the failings of the justice system, and the retention of the registry will do nothing to prevent any such further event. Training, enhanced screening, and licensing of firearm owners, as we see today, might have prevented Jonathan Yeo, in the first instance, from being able to obtain a firearm. However, not even Canada's strict licensing regime or firearms registry can prevent random acts of violence. The best example of this failure is the shooting rampage at Dawson College by Kimveer Gill.
Chief Blair and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police contend that Canadians continue to support the registry that costs taxpayers over $2 billion and that in over a decade cannot be shown to have prevented even one death. Furthermore, what he is not telling you is that the CACP is not unanimous in their support and never has been. The fact is, the CACP publicly supported Allan Rock in the establishment of the registry in the beginning and continued to support it for the next 15 years, denying the mountainous cost overruns despite the ever-mounting evidence of the true cost to Canadians. This was projected in the beginning by firearms groups across Canada.
The complicity between the CACP and successive Liberal governments to establish and maintain the registry is nothing short of duplicitous. Now the CACP suggests to you that Canadians everywhere should turn a blind eye to the $2 billion oversight, claiming the money is spent. They say get over it, the registry now only costs $4 million a year to run. Moreover, this figure tends to change depending on which chief or senior member of the RCMP happens to be speaking.
At first blush, it may appear to be a miracle in business management rather than an exercise in creative accounting due to the amalgamation with the RCMP. Past yearly budgets of the Canadian Firearms Centre were in excess of $92.8 million.
Chief Blair will attempt to convince you that the retention of the registry is an officer safety issue. To the layperson, having no personal knowledge of firearms or the registry, this may appear reasonable. However, once one knows and understands the failings of the registry, the issue of officer safety takes on a far more sinister meaning. For officers using the registry, trusting in the inaccurate and unverified information contained therein, tragedy looms around the next door.
Knowing what I do about the registry, I cannot use the information contained in the registry to swear out a search warrant. To do so would be a criminal act. Thus I cannot in good conscience tell any officer, junior or senior, to place his faith in the results of a query of the Canadian firearms registry online.
To illustrate, it's acknowledged by persons within policing, the firearms centre, and the recreational firearms community that there are, at minimum, in excess of one million firearms in Canada that have not been registered. The registry does not indicate where firearms are stored or who may have control of the firearm, nor does it denote ownership. Tens of thousands of firearms are registered inaccurately using patent numbers and catalogue numbers in place of serial numbers or model numbers. Many firearms in the registry have multiple registrations for the same firearm.
This is but the tip of the iceberg for problems with the registry. Projections from within the Canadian Firearms Centre privately state it will take 70-plus years of attrition to come close to eliminating all the errors and to have all firearms currently in Canada registered.
This level of inaccuracy is unacceptable for any industry, let alone law enforcement. Police officers deserve better; the public and courts demand better. If there were to be the same potential for error within the national DNA data bank or the automated fingerprint identification system, the public and the courts would be outraged, and with just cause. Every entry in these databases is empirical--a level of accuracy the registry has not and cannot attain.
As a team leader for the Olympic security force, I had the opportunity to speak with police officers from across Canada. The vast majority of officers I spoke with did not support the continuation of the registry. They do not trust the information it contains and see it as a waste of time and money. Some I spoke with who did support the registry were shocked to learn of the vast inaccuracies and the potential officer safety risks associated with the registry.
Again I take you back to the issue of police safety. Police across Canada cannot and must not place their trust and risk their lives on the inaccurate, unverified information contained in the registry. From my perspective, if doing away with the long-gun registry saves even one life of one of Canada's front-line police officers, it is worth it. Retaining the registry at the risk of one police officer is too great a price to pay.
Mr. Ignatieff has proposed first-time failures to register long guns be treated as simple, non-criminal ticketing offences, instead of criminal offences, as they are currently. This epiphany has received the endorsement of many members of the CACP. However, it is disingenuous at best, nothing more than mere smoke and mirrors in an attempt to appease the concerns of the public and firearms owners across Canada.
The truth of the matter is that the CPA demanded such a condition of Allan Rock and the Liberal government of the day in order to receive their support for Bill C-68, the Firearms Act. Thus section 112 was placed into the Firearms Act, which makes it a summary offence for the firearms owner to possess an unregistered firearm in the first instance. The only difference is that Mr. Ignatieff's proposal makes it a ticketable offence like a traffic ticket. His problem is there is no federal mechanism, such as the Summary Offences Procedure Act, which allows for this. Firearms owners would still be forced, by appearance notice or summons, to attend court and be liable on conviction to a fine of not more than $2,000 or imprisonment for six months, or both.
In closing, I wish to thank you for your attention and leave you with these thoughts.
Polls indicate that the majority of Canadians want to see the registry for non-restricted rifles and shotguns ended. I contend this position is supported by the majority of police officers in Canada.
Bill C-391 is worthy of your consideration and support, for it brings an end to a registry that represents the largest and most contentious single waste of taxpayers' dollars, a registry consumed with errors and inaccurate data, and, more importantly, a registry that risks the safety of front-line police officers across Canada.
Thank you.
Duane Rutledge
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Duane Rutledge
2010-05-25 16:22
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, and fellow witnesses.
My name is Duane Rutledge. I'm a member of the Glasgow Police Service in Nova Scotia. I'm in my thirtieth year of service. I've been a police officer for two-thirds of my life. I have worked general duty, drugs, GIS, major crime, and undercover, and I'm a member of the emergency response team. Presently, I'm a dog handler. Since I was eight years of age, I've handled firearms in either a hunting or a work capacity.
I would like to thank the committee for giving me this opportunity to speak on this controversial matter regardless of which side I might stand on. As an average citizen, it confirms my faith in our system to be involved in the making and changing of laws in our country without fear of reprisals or punishment. It's something that's unheard of in most places. For that, I thank the Government of Canada and Canada's people for an open and inclusive justice system.
We are here today to discuss the long-gun registry and why I feel that it has not achieved what it proposed to do. In my view, it is a failure both in protecting citizens and in assisting the police in their efforts to keep communities safe and criminals off the street.
I feel that to understand this we must go back to the start, to how it was presented to Canadians by the government of the day. How it was delivered to the public was one of the biggest issues: that it would make society safer by registering. It was rural against urban and non-owners against owners. Its astronomical cost turned even those who were not gun owners against it.
Initially, it was looked at as a tax on gun owners. Mostly, it targeted rural Canadians.
It's an unreliable system. Some people registered their weapons in this country, some people registered a few weapons in this country, and a lot of people didn't register any. Now we have an underground economy as a result of that.
Also, people who have licences to “possess only” have the ability to possess guns that are not registered to them, the guns of other people. There is no way of tracking that regardless of what system there is, because no one keeps track of those movements.
For the most part, the people this law was targeted at were hunters, sportsmen, collectors, and rural people--basically, honest Canadians, which is most of this country. In my experience, a large number of Canadians did not buy into it on the front end, which has caused the underground economy of weapons. Most importantly, in my experience, criminals will not even participate in the registry.
People who register a gun realize that this does not make it safe for them or for anyone else. Speaking in particular, it is an administrative function. It will not render a gun safe. As for recording the serial number, putting a serial number on it is not adequate to stop a knife or a bat from harming someone.
It's the person with the intent to cause harm who the police are most concerned about. And at the end of the day, in every homicide in this country, the common factor is another human being.
Safe handling and storage, along with education of the public, is the best way to attack this. The most powerful piece of legislation passed in this country in my lifetime was the one that locked up guns and separated ammunition from guns. Also, it was for safe training and for handling the storage of firearms. In my belief, that's what has caused a drop in a lot of things.
On elimination of private ownership, which is on the minds of most gun owners, I don't believe that's the answer, because only the police, the military, and the criminals then would have guns. I recall my initial reaction back in 1996-97 when this proposed gun legislation became public. I admit that I was a little upset at the onset. I was not positive towards it, and I thought that maybe I should speak to people before I came up here because my views have been fairly steady all along.
So I took the time before I came up here to speak to colleagues in my policing community, both those on the federal side--for some of them it has been tried to muzzle them--and local police officers. I've talked to the prosecution service. I've talked to a judge. I've talked to the lady who runs our local transition house. I've talked to people who have criminal records to get a view of how they looked at the system.
I knew how I looked at it and I thought that maybe I was missing something. After my conversation with them, it's very clear. Very few of them believe that it has protected the public. There are a few in those numbers who did believe it was helping. The majority of people I spoke to did not believe that.
In my over 30 years of experience, I've encountered numerous situations involving violence. There are far more involving knives and edged weapons than guns. Shotguns and hunting rifles are not a weapon of choice for most criminals because of their actual size; when they are used, they are cut down to become prohibited weapons.
In the 1930s, handguns were registered, and violence in handguns is still growing today. It seems to be one of the biggest rises in this country, the use of handguns in cities, gangs, and organized crime, and automatic weapons.
In other words, I have no hesitation in saying that in my opinion, the long-gun registry does not help police stop violence or make these communities safer from violence. And there's no evidence that it has ever saved a single life on its own merits.
I am disappointed that this issue has become so political in this country. I've heard the chiefs of police quoted here and also the Canadian association of professional police. To my knowledge, my members, where I'm at, were not polled by the Canadian Police Association for their viewpoint on this. Many people have been, in an attempt to muzzle them from giving their full views on this issue. It's something that's uncalled for in this country. As I said, everyone should have the ability to speak their opinion, regardless of which side you stand on, and when someone says they represent someone, they should represent those people by actually polling them and getting their full views. I know that on the police level that has not been done, regardless of what people have been told, and there has been a fair amount of political pressure put on people to be quiet about this.
My own chief was outspoken about this. He was scheduled to testify here, and now he's not testifying. I spoke to him personally, but as to why he's not here, you would have to speak to him. I know why he's not here. I came, myself, as an individual to represent the people who I've spoken to.
As I said, in my opinion it has not done what it was set out to do. Inflammatory remarks by members of those organizations referring to policemen who disagree with this as anonymous, donut-eating, sitting-in-the-coffeeshop police officers is uncalled for, and there's no need for it, either at this level or at the level of representing the chiefs of police or the Canadian Police Association.
Thank you very much.
Gary Mauser
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Gary Mauser
2010-05-25 16:29
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this opportunity to address the committee.
I'm a professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University. I am here as an individual criminologist to present facts, not myths; facts, not emotion.
In this presentation I will briefly show how claims made by the opponents of Bill C-391 are blatantly false or misleading. For more details, see my submission, which has already been distributed to members of this committee. It is also on the web at the Social Science Research Network, SSRN.
Suggestions that the long-gun registry is vital to police because authorities consult it 10,000 times a day or more are false. This claim confuses the long-gun registry with the Canadian Firearms Registry On-Line, the CFRO. The Honourable Peter Van Loan, then public safety minister, in November 2009 analyzed the police data and reported that 97% of the time when authorities check the CFRO, they want information about the owner, not the firearm. This concerns licensing, not registration.
Bill C-391 proposes no changes in licensing. The long-gun registry only includes information about the firearm. Contrary to some people who have testified here, it contains nothing about the location of that firearm, nor the owner.
The key question we have to look at is the effectiveness of the registry, not whether guns are dangerous. Focusing on guns is myopic. It ignores the problem of substitution. Murderers are opportunistic. This is particularly true for spousal murderers.
It is disingenuous to claim that the best approach to saving lives was to invent a new bureaucracy for $2 billion merely to track long guns, and then waste more millions every year to maintain the illusion that we are doing something when demonstrably we are not. There is no convincing evidence supporting the claim that the long-gun registry has had any effect on homicide, suicide, or domestic violence rates. On the other hand, screening and training firearms owners, which we have done since the 1970s, has been shown to be effective.
The long-gun registry was not introduced until 2001—not in 1995, as some have led you to believe. Since 2001, homicide rates have been essentially flat, even though homicide rates had been plummeting since the early 1990s. The long-gun registry has not saved any lives.
Few guns involved in violent crime have been stolen. Studies differ, but the numbers are as low as 1% and as high as 17%. This is not the bulk of guns used in crime. Almost all of the guns involved in criminal violence have been smuggled. Smuggling is a problem in Canada, Australia, and the U.K. That is the source of crime guns, not your citizens.
Suicide rates have slowly declined over two decades. Firearm suicides have declined as well, but suicides by hanging have soared. Some call this a success. In 1991, 3,500 people took their own life; in 2005, 3,700. The long-gun registry has not saved any lives.
Sixteen percent of suicides involve firearms. Almost half of suicides involve hanging. You wouldn't know this from some of the opponents' testimony. Hanging, carbon monoxide poisoning, drowning, and shooting all have nearly identical fatality rates. Eliminate one and the rest remain. But oh, we could have a $2 billion bureaucracy for each of those.
Some suggest that the costs of the long-gun registry are minimal, but $4 million a year is a gross underestimate. That would make a massive contribution to programs that are more effective: suicide prevention efforts, community clinics for abused spouses, treatment programs for those with addiction problems. It is disappointing that women's groups, even medical groups, ignore real problems to flog firearm fears.
No jurisdiction anywhere in the world can show that the introduction of new gun laws has been linked to a reduction in murder, suicide, or aggravated assault. See my Harvard paper, which I did with criminologist Don Kates, also available on the web at SSRN. Research by both the National Academy of Sciences and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta back up my claim.
It is difficult to understand why the chiefs of police support the long-gun registry. The CFRO has so many errors that relying upon it puts the lives of rank-and-file police members at risk. This is a classic database problem: garbage in, gospel out. The police should know better.
Millions of entries are incorrect or missing. Most striking, less than half of all long guns in Canada are in the registry. The long-gun registry does worse; it misdirects the police. People who have registered their firearms are less likely to be violent than Canadians who don't even own firearms. They should be. Gun owners have been screened by the police since 1979. We are told that 15% of the guns used in homicides are long guns. What is not said is that virtually none were registered. How does the gun registry help?
When I spoke at the Ontario Police College, one of the instructors told me privately that trusting the registry was a way to get good police officers killed. Consider the four RCMP rookies who were gunned down by James Roszko in Mayerthorpe, Alberta. His firearms were not in the registry. Trusting the registry lulled these young people into a sense of safety. The registry showed no guns present: so there must not be any. When they went to his home they were killed. Poor training contributed to the deaths of these rookies. Experienced front line police officers know that when attending to potentially violent situations, they must always assume a weapon could be present. The registry is no help.
Similarly, when enforcing court orders to confiscate firearms, the registry cannot be relied upon to identify firearms at a residence. The RCMP have testified in court they cannot trust the registry. The registry is no help.
Opponents to Bill C-391 argue that the long-gun registry is important because rifles and shotguns can be used in domestic homicide. This is a red herring. The problem is the murder of family members, not the means of killing. Almost all firearms used by abusive spouses to kill their wives are possessed illegally. They are not in the registry.
It has been illegal since 1992 for a person with a violent record to own a firearm. They are not even in the CFRO. There is no empirical support for the claim that the long-gun registry has reduced spousal murders. Knives are used in almost one-third of domestic homicide. Rifles and shotguns, much less often--18% or so. Why aren't opponents of Bill C-391 concerned about women being killed with other weapons?
Opponents of Bill C-391 claim that spousal murder with guns have fallen threefold since the law was passed, while spousal murders without guns have remained the same. This is false. Spousal murders with and without guns have been slowly declining since the mid-seventies. The long-gun registry, I repeat, was not started until 2001. See charts one and eight in my submission.
Bill C-391 does not change licensing or screening requirements. It only concerns the long-gun registry. Neither the long-gun registry nor licensing is typically useful to police in solving spousal homicides. In almost all cases the accused is immediately identified.
The focus on the long-gun registry is a red herring. It distracts attention from serious problems such as gang crimes. Gang-related homicides have been increasing since the early nineties. In 2008 about one in four homicides was gang-related. Almost all of these were committed with illegally possessed handguns. See my charts two and three in the submission.
In closing, I urge committee members to read my submission in full. They will find my claims to be fully substantiated. My citations are not newspaper clippings.
I support gun laws that are based on what has been shown to work, not those based on perceptions or fears. When a government program isn't working, it should be shut down rather than being permitted to drain funds for no good reason except employment.
Finally, I wish to thank the chair of the committee, as well as the committee members, for allowing me an opportunity to show how the claims of the opponents of Bill C-391 are blatantly false or misleading.
Thank you.
Mitch McCormick
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Mitch McCormick
2010-05-06 15:55
Mr. Chair, if it's all right with you, can we start with Mr. Tinsley and Mr. Shipman? I'll finish.
Jack Tinsley
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Jack Tinsley
2010-05-06 15:55
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Jack Tinsley. I was born and raised in Winnipeg, and I've lived there all my life.
If I may take a minute, I will tell you a little about my background and what I believe qualifies me to come to Ottawa and stand before you today. Thank you all for hearing me.
I was a police officer in Winnipeg for over 33 years and retired with the rank of inspector. I was a SWAT team member for over 11 years, most of it as a team leader in the sniper unit. I have used deadly force in the defence of my life. I understand the concept. I spent a number of years in uniformed patrol and then moved into investigative policing in the drug squad. I made many dozens of undercover drug purchases from drug dealers and many undercover purchases of stolen or unregistered handguns, a number from parolees out on early release from prison. I have been declared an expert in the area of illegal street drugs and drug trafficking at all levels of Manitoba courts. These experiences and many others in a progression of higher ranks over the span of my career have led me to three conclusions.
One, drugs are now, and have been for the last 25 years or so, the direct or underlying cause of most crime. The majority of murders and crimes of violence, most robberies and break-ins, and even high-volume shoplifting and other property crimes, are now committed by persons involved in the drug trade or addicts. Organized crime now flourishes on the drug trade, and it has surpassed all others with its immense profits.
Two, criminals do not obtain firearms licences and they do not register their very disposable firearms. They could not care less about the rules. What is interesting is that the FBI recently released their latest crime statistics, and they believe 95% of all gun crime is now gang related. These are the same gangs that are running that drug trade. I accept that as credible information, and it cannot be dismissed as not being applicable to Canada as well. We can all rest assured that most or all drug dealers everywhere are armed. The huge sums of cash involved and the very characters of the often desperate players in their circle of trade dictate that.
Three, the Canadian long-gun registry, in its approximate decade of existence, has not proven to be a deterrent to violent crime. Outside of having the small and often unreliable benefit of allowing for us to count guns, and just the ones that honest gun owners have registered at that, it is not a particularly useful investigative tool for law enforcement, which is exactly what the registry was intended to be in order to prevent gun crime and save lives.
These are bold statements, but they could not be more true. Unfortunately, you will not hear from great numbers, if any at all, of the hundreds of currently serving police officers, some of whom have been shot in the line of duty, or from more than a few chiefs of police who would tell you the very same things. There's a reason for this: they have been effectively silenced after making it known that they also believe the long-gun registry is ineffective and had previously let it be known that they would also testify to that fact at these proceedings. To be blunt, they've been ordered not to appear at this hearing by their respective chiefs of police, and therefore not to speak from their hearts and consciences with a mind to promoting effective alternatives for reducing violent crime against women and all other persons in this country.
Others, such as more than a few police association executives across Canada who have in the recent past clearly voiced their opposition to the continuance of the long-gun registry, for the same good reasons have now pulled away from standing here and telling the truth, as they perceive future ramifications for themselves when vying for appointed positions within the Canadian Police Association and other organizations.
On Monday, a currently serving Winnipeg Police Association director called me. George Van Mackelbergh is a respected officer who spent many years enforcing laws against the Hells Angels and other violent organized criminals. He most emphatically stated that he does not support the continuance of the long-gun registry. He is not alone. I've spoken to an abundance of experienced officers, several just this week, who have all said the same thing. The information benefits they have gained from the registry are too few and are unreliable. The cost is too high, and the bottom line is that only law-abiding gun owners have registered their firearms. The criminals, for the most part, have not.
Are the facts that dangerous that the national association of chiefs of police had to send representatives to each police chief across the country to exert political pressure on those dissenting and calling for the repeal of the registry to get back into the fold? Whatever happened to free speech? I have heard at least a couple of chiefs of police use the same cliché in support of the registry: “We applaud any initiative that makes our job easier.” Should this include any ineffective initiative? I think not, especially when there are better options available, such as calling for the termination of house arrest and release from custody on a recognizance for violent crimes, which criminals ignore and have the opportunity to reoffend at will.
Is it right for a leader to use the power of his or her office to further their own political agenda and then deny everyone else within the ranks that opportunity in case they should disagree?
You might be thinking at this point that I don't know what I'm talking about. I assure you that I do, first hand.
After the long-gun registry had been written into law, I wrote an article that outlined my perspective on the potential of the long-gun registry based on my experience of 26 years, at that time as a police officer who worked the street. In short, I said it would not address violent crime issues, it would be expensive beyond belief, many citizens would not comply with the law, and that the way to go, if we as a country were serious about reducing violent crime, was to keep criminals locked up with meaningful sentences from our courts. I also said the laws that were in place before the registry came into effect were good laws and that we just needed to enforce them. All of this rings true today, 10-plus years later.
In the article I also repeated the irrefutable fact that guns do not kill people; people do. I also said it was a good idea, and still is today, to have all gun buyers qualified for the right to acquire any gun. The old firearms acquisition certificate system that was previously in place provided the much needed hands-on look at every FAC applicant by a police officer. The officer would contact spouses and ask hard questions about safety issues or concerns. Very few potentially dangerous persons slipped through the cracks in that era and got an FAC. It was a proactive approach of the first order. Today we are mired in a bureaucracy that does not provide for that face-to-face interaction by applicants with a trained police officer who would conduct a thorough background check on each applicant.
In any case, when I completed the article I gave it to the serving deputy chief of the day, whose opinion I respected, for his thoughts about the content of my writing. He indicated that his position on the matter was exactly the same as mine and the many other officers who served within the ranks at that time. However, his verbatim remark to me was, “If that article is published, you have just committed career suicide.” That deputy chief's name was Lawrence Klippenstein, and upon speaking to him just a few days ago, it was clear also that he supports the repeal of the long-gun registry.
The article was in fact published in 1999 in the Winnipeg Sun. However, quite some time prior to that happening, I provided a copy to the chief of police out of courtesy, and his reply was, “I respect your opinion, but I do not agree.” His reply goes on to instruct me not to associate the article in any way with the Winnipeg Police Service. Subsequently, I spent the last nine years of my career as an inspector, with the exception of a couple of months in a district in the duty office on shift work. That's about seven years longer than any other inspector that I'm aware of.
Was this being disciplined or the career suicide I had been cautioned against? That's my guess, but I said what I felt needed to be said and I've never regretted it.
I have nothing to gain or lose by appearing here today. My conscience will be clear when I leave here. I have said again what needs to be said in clear language to this committee and to the Canadian public. It is time to abandon this long-gun registry. I'm sure it was instituted with the best of intentions, but it has cost us nearly $2 billion and it has not been effective in deterring violent crime. There is no shame in saying that. New Zealand did after their nearly identical registry failed them after seven years in law. Then they scrapped it, and I quote, “It be an elaborate system of arithmetic with no tangible aim.”
Australia instituted a $500 million initiative in 1997, a law that forced Australians to turn in 640,381 personal firearms. A year later, homicide, assault, and armed robbery crimes had all increased. These are violent crimes. Non-violent crimes such as break-ins also increased dramatically. It would be generous to say their program was merely unsuccessful.
There are a couple of interesting and very pertinent facts that I would like this committee to be aware of, mostly in relation to just how much the police use the information available to them.
Dave Shipman
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Dave Shipman
2010-05-06 16:09
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for providing me this opportunity to speak before you on this important issue.
My name is Dave Shipman. I was born and raised in Winnipeg, and I currently I live in a rural setting just outside the city. I feel qualified to attend at this hearing as a result of my life experience and involvement in law enforcement from the age of 19 to the present.
I spent 25 years with the Winnipeg Police Service and nearly 19 of those years investigating violent crimes in the homicide robbery division. During 16 of those years I was also a member of the special weapons team and a team leader on the entry team.
I retired 10 years ago and immediately took up a position as investigator in charge of the organized crime/gang unit with Manitoba Public Insurance, where I remain so employed.
I've been involved with the criminal intelligence service in Manitoba during these 10 years as well. For those who are not familiar with it, each province has its own criminal intelligence service with the federal governing body, Criminal Intelligence Service Canada.
The CISM includes all law enforcement and investigative bodies in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. The nature of my work, investigating organized crime and gang activity as it relates to organized insurance fraud, and my involvement with CISM, puts me in contact with serving police officers on a continual basis.
My experience in dealing with violent criminals and gang members is probably far more involved than that of the average police officer. Believe me when I tell you that I have put hundreds and hundreds of dangerous violent men in prison over the years, often for unspeakable crimes, including rape, robbery, home invasions, and murder.
It is in the arrest and interviewing of these men and their associates that I've obtained a good working knowledge of their mindset. First and foremost, let me say that a vast majority of violent attacks, attempted homicides, and homicides committed domestically involve weapons other than firearms--knives being the preferred weapon.
Of the few domestic homicides I can recall that involved long guns, committed by either sex on the spouse, they were long guns that were legally owned and there had been no previous encounters with the law. No amount of gun registry would have stopped lives from being taken.
I have watched the long-gun registry with interest, both as a serving police officer and a gun owner/hunter. First, and it has been said time and time again, criminals do not register guns. The guns they seek out and use to commit violent crimes are most profoundly smuggled or stolen handguns and, to a lesser extent, stolen and cut-down shotguns or rifles. Firearms that are capable of firing at an automatic rate are smuggled in from the U.S., and drug dealers and gangs--the two intertwined--are the favourite customers. None of these situations can be corrected by a long-gun registry.
Handguns have always enjoyed a restricted status, and ownership brought significant restrictions as to how and where the firearm could be possessed. Automatic weapons were always illegal to possess, with the exception of law enforcement and legitimate grandfathered collectors. The national gun registry has done nothing to deter illegal possession of these guns.
Again, criminals intent on procuring and possessing these guns are not about to register them. So how does the gun registry assist the police in preventing gun crime? It simply does not, and it offers nothing to protect our citizenry from being victims of gun crime perpetrated by well-armed criminals.
I'm not against licensing of gun owners. The possession and/or acquisition of firearms should be a licensed, controlled process to prevent criminals and otherwise unstable or dangerous individuals from legally obtaining and owning firearms. But the registry is really only about counting guns--guns belonging to people who have chosen to involve themselves in the system.
Civil disobedience to the registry has been rampant, with entire provinces refusing to enforce the failure to register and attorneys general announcing refusal to prosecute. Amnesties that have lasted for years have been put into place. Thousands and thousands of legal guns remain in our country outside of the registry, and many thousands of illegal guns are stolen or smuggled into the hands of criminals whose last worry is the gun registry.
I've heard from proponents of the registry that it assists police officers because they can check with the gun registry to determine if guns are registered to the person they are interested in or the residence or location they are attending. While this check can certainly be done, I've yet to talk to a serving street cop--I'm talking about the average constable attending call after call after call--who has checked the registry, even a single time, or who even knows how to use it. In checking with the supervisor officers of the major crimes unit, the homicide unit, and the organized crime unit, not one can ever recall using the registry before going to make an arrest.
I spoke to the head of the Winnipeg Police Service tactical support team, which is the new term for the old SWAT team that we were on. This is a 24/7 support unit that, from its inception to the level of coverage two years ago, has been involved in several hundred planned operations, mostly high-risk warrant service, drug warrants, Criminal Code firearm search warrants, and the like. He indicated that the gun registry is worthless in preventing gun crime. He did advise that, by protocol, members of his unit confer with the registry when planning tactical operations, but their experience was that the registry has been only sometimes accurate, only sometimes up to date, and largely ineffective—and I quote—“because we all know that criminals don't register their guns”.
By way of history, upon the inception of Bill C-68, the Winnipeg Police Association membership voted by way of referendum that they were strongly opposed to the long-gun registry. Identically, the Manitoba Police Association also opposed the long-barrel registry, after taking the issue to a vote by the membership. And so it went for the police associations in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Then-WPA president, Loren Schinkel, now with Manitoba Justice as coordinator of aboriginal and municipal law enforcement, often referenced Premier Gary Doer's line about the Government of Manitoba not supporting the bill, saying that we need to get tough on gangs and restricted guns, not turn goose hunters into criminals.
If the long-gun registry was going to be such a significant crime-fighting tool, does anybody believe that entire police services would fail to embrace it wholeheartedly? Yes, fragments of police services utilize the registry by way of protocol, but with criminals not registering their stolen or smuggled handguns or cut-down stolen firearms, previously legally registered or not, it is of little use. Because of the hit-and-miss situation of any individual actually registering legal guns, because the registry does not keep up with the movement of individuals from place to place, because criminals do not register, no police officer could ever rely on a check against the registry to determine if a danger did or did not exist. A police officer must be ever vigilant, no matter the circumstance, and the fact that the registry might indicate that an individual or an address does or does not reflect legal gun registration is of little assistance, all things considered. The old possession and acquisition certificate did as much, without the arithmetic of counting guns.
The most alarming area of gun use escalation surrounds the ever-increasing street gang activity tied dramatically to the drug trade. As I deal on a daily basis with gang members in my current occupation and monitor their other criminal activities through my involvement with serving police officers in the criminal intelligence service, I can tell you first hand that gun crime is escalating and that handguns are far and away the weapon of choice of these criminals to enforce their piece of the drug trade pie. Anytime I get a gang member in my office, I turn to the subject of guns somewhere along the way, and it is not unusual for the gang banger to brag, “I've got a nine; I've got a Glock.”
Shots ringing out in certain parts of Winnipeg have become commonplace activity, and drive-by shootings of individuals and residences the same. The registry is not the answer to stopping this.
The long-gun registry was an ill-thought-out piece of legislation in answer to the tragedy at École Polytechnique in 1989. It did not stop another similar tragedy at Dawson College in 2006. It will not stop the next deranged individual from attempting a similar attack in the future.
Holding the long-gun registry out as a protector of women is simply not valid. It is a lie. We must do better to protect women and the citizenry of our country by putting meaningful consequences in place for criminal offences and concentrate on stopping the flow of illegal gun traffic over our border into the hands of criminals.
A minimum sentence for gun crimes with minimum time served would serve as a far better solution than the long-gun registry. It is said that the abolishment of the two-for-one sentencing issue will increase incarceration and associated costs an additional $2 billion, roughly what we've spent on the registry already. Having only registered six million to seven million, with an estimated 17 million total guns in Canada, if that is correct, I wonder how much more money that would cost us. I would rather put the $2 billion towards keeping those criminals in jail and making sure they could not hurt anybody else.
Thank you for offering me this time to speak to you. I sincerely hope that what I've said will assist you in making an informed decision.
Mitch McCormick
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Mitch McCormick
2010-05-06 16:19
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, ladies and gentlemen.
As you know, my name is Mitchell McCormick. I'd like to thank you for providing me with this opportunity to speak before you today on this very important issue.
I would like to take a moment to provide you with a brief background about myself so that you might understand why I support Bill C-391 and the repeal of the long-gun registry.
I, too, was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and I still live there with my wife and two daughters. I was a police officer with the Winnipeg Police Service for twenty-seven and a half years. During that time I worked in uniform, but the majority of my career was in specialty units as a detective. As a detective, I worked in the vice division, the break-and-enter squad, and the major crimes unit.
In addition to these duties, I was also a member, for 15 years, with the Winnipeg Police Service emergency response unit, the SWAT team, as Mr. Shipman and Mr. Tinsley have indicated. At the time I was a member, it was a part-time team that was called on to attend armed and barricaded incidents as well as to execute high-risk warrants where weapons, and in particular firearms, were suspected of being involved. Before I stepped down from the unit, I was a team leader in charge of the assault team. One of my responsibilities was to develop the entry plan into whatever place or location we were attending to.
Prior to retiring, I was a supervisor in the major crimes unit. The major crimes unit is responsible for investigations such as commercial robberies, serious assaults, attempted murders, kidnappings, and, on occasion, homicides. It also can be assigned to high-profile or sensitive investigations, as deemed by the chief or the executive.
In 2005, while I was in the major crimes unit, I was assigned to such a file as one of the supervisors. It was a half a million dollar break-in at one of the banks in our city, and the suspect had been identified by the original investigators as being a male by the name of Gerald Blanchard. Much has been written about this individual. There have been numerous articles in magazines. CBC's fifth estate did a documentary about our investigation. He was successfully prosecuted and convicted for participating in a criminal organization and break-ins to banks in Ontario, Winnipeg, Alberta, and British Columbia.
I mention this individual because early on in our investigation we learned that in 1995 he had been arrested in the United States for stealing a police officer's handgun and a police car. He was subsequently convicted of possession of a firearm by a felon, theft, and escaped custody. He received five years in a Nebraska prison. Upon his release, he was deported back to Canada, as he was a Canadian citizen. Subsequently, in 2003 he applied for and received a firearms licence. In 2004 he was able to register three semi-automatic rifles and two shotguns.
In 2007, at the completion of our investigation and our wiretap, we arrested Mr. Blanchard and a number of his associates. We also executed warrants in British Columbia, where he had five residences and one storage locker. He had storage lockers in both Alberta and Ontario, which he had rented under one of his more than 32 aliases. In one of the residences and in each of the storage lockers we found firearms and ammunition that he had not registered.
Mr. Blanchard had been provided a firearms licence and was allowed to register firearms. None of the firearms we seized, to my knowledge, were the ones he had registered. His record in the U.S. did not appear to have been discovered. Although he had a minor record for property-related offences here in Canada, he was allowed to register firearms, as I mentioned before.
I would agree if anyone was to say that Mr. Blanchard was not your typical criminal. In particular, he differs from most criminals because he is the rare exception who actually registered a gun. Most criminals never register guns.
This investigation and the details I've told you about are just some of the reasons that some, maybe not all, police officers do not and cannot rely on the registry. The fact that he may have firearms is certainly beneficial when trying to determine the individual you are against, but this information was available prior to the long-gun registry coming into effect. I would dare say that Mr. Blanchard, had he applied for a firearms acquisition certificate through the old system, would have never been allowed to in fact obtain a licence. He would have had to deal with a police officer who would have done a more in-depth background check, and that does not appear to have been done in this case.
Whether Gerald Blanchard had a firearms licence or had weapons registered to him would not have changed the way in which we went about arresting him or executing the numerous search warrants around the country, as the background that we did on him showed he had the potential to have firearms.
It is the background on the individual, not the number of reports or how many guns a person has, that determines how we do our job. It has been said so many times—and Mr. Tinsley has indicated it—that guns don't kill people; people kill people.
As a constable, detective sergeant, the sergeant of detectives, and a team leader of an emergency response unit, I can tell you that I never once used the long-gun registry, nor do I know anyone who worked with me or for me who has.
In order to do our job effectively and safely, we do not take anything for granted. Every person I arrested and every building I entered, I suspected there was a person inside who might be armed with a firearm or a weapon that could harm me. The background on the person was the information I relied on the most. I would never rely on any type of registry to confirm or deny there was a weapon, or numerous weapons, inside. Just knowing a person has a firearm is indication enough for me. Knowing about the person more than knowing how many guns may or may not be at the address, as I said, was what I relied on to formulate my plan.
I do this because I don't take anything for granted. I think this is a result of almost being killed myself. As I mentioned, one of the units I worked in was the vice unit. In the summer of 1986, while working undercover, I was assigned, along with my partner, to assist in a stakedown. We had information that the building was going to be broken into. While sitting in our cruiser car waiting for the suspects to show up, I observed two unrelated individuals, one of whom was assaulting the other with a long, heavy bar. I surely thought he would kill him, so I alighted from my vehicle to intervene while my partner radioed for backup. Upon approaching the male with the bar, I drew my firearm. I identified myself and told him to drop the bar. He turned and ran away, dropping the bar as he went, and I chased after this male, thinking that I wished I had never taken out my firearm, because now I had no way of getting it back in my undercover holster, because it was a piece of leather in the back of my belt and the individual I was now chasing was unarmed.
I chased the male halfway down the block before he turned, and as I was about to catch him, he lunged at me with what I first thought was a punch, which I blocked with my leg. I immediately felt a burning pain in my leg from what I would later find was the result of a six-inch-long Rambo-type knife with a serrated edge being plunged into my upper left leg, right up to the handle. I will never forget the motion of his arm going back and forth as he tried to remove the knife that was stuck in my leg. Once he removed the knife, I fell to the ground. This individual then came at me again. I managed to fire two rounds over his head before he fled.
I nearly lost my life that day. I am positive that had I not been able to block that initial attack with my leg, the results would have been different. My wife was eight months pregnant with our first child. The thought of me never knowing her...or my second child, still bothers me today.
The truth of the matter is--and I believe this--that far more people are killed by knives than by long guns. Just as registering every knife would do nothing to stop violent assaults or murders, neither would registering long guns stop people from committing violent acts.
I'm sure this committee has heard before, and I must say it again: guns don't kill people; people kill people. The long-gun registry, although enacted with good intentions, will not stop gun-related violence.
The Canadian firearms program does have some good educational points, like enabling and promoting responsible firearms use and storage. However, by and large, the registry is ineffective, inaccurate, and could be dangerous if a false sense of security occurs.
My daughters are now 24 and 20 years of age. My youngest attends the University of Winnipeg, in the heart of our city, just blocks from where I almost lost my life.
I do not believe registering the knife that almost killed me would have stopped my situation from happening, and I do not believe registering guns will prevent gun crime. Target the person, not the weapon. Do a proper background on people before they get access to guns. We can save lives proactively with police resources effectively targeting criminals.
Thank you very much.
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