The "Cripplling Police Tackling Violent Crime" Act

Morley Lymburner
April 11, 2012
By Morley Lymburner
Since the Conservative government has now decreed police do not need to track rifles and shotguns, how are officers to proceed? It is one thing to curry the favour of law abiding gun owners but if they become victims what are the police going to do? The thoughtless killing of the long gun registry has gone a long way toward hindering police and little or no thought has been given to patching up the long list of orphaned legislation and legal loop-holes that now exist in the Criminal Code.

Since the Conservative government has now decreed police do not need to track rifles and shotguns, how are officers to proceed? It is one thing to curry the favour of law abiding gun owners but if they become victims what are the police going to do?

The thoughtless killing of the long gun registry has gone a long way toward hindering police and little or no thought has been given to patching up the long list of orphaned legislation and legal loop-holes that now exist in the Criminal Code.

Gone are the Halcyon Days of investigating incidents like Mayerthorpe by using the firearms registry as a starting point. Few people realize the registry's importance in tracking down Shawn Hennessey and Dennis Cheeseman, the two accomplices of James Rosko – or that some of the many weapons Rosko used were actually registered by him.

All of this is water under the bridge. We must move forward, but where? These types of incidents will continue. Bad guys and good guys will still obtain rifles and shotguns and somehow the country is suppose to be a better place because police will not be able to use a serial number to trace anything other than what the gun factory knows and is willing to share. The country is, somehow, a better place if a citizen's guns are stolen without a means to trace them. There is certainly no information forthcoming if the victim did not safely secure them from theft. Why tell and get charged yourself?

An analysis of Bill C-19's impact on the police ability to enforce Part III of the Criminal Code of Canada is presently in a startling state of disarray. The "Firearms and Other Weapons" sections have left considerable housecleaning to do but the housekeeper is yet to be hired. Incidents involving stolen, lost, misplaced, destroyed or criminally used long guns are going to be tougher to investigate.

Experts refer to each individual firearm as having a pedigree. When a large number of the same make and model are manufactured (or created), it's the serial number stamped on each at the point of origin that makes it unique. Police now have no other way of tracking long gun transfers.

Prior to the long gun registry, transfers were regulated through "Firearms Acquisition Certificates." Some records of serial numbers were required, but they didn't easily allow police (or anyone else) to know who possessed which gun. The FAC system was scrapped when the long gun registry began. Now, with Bill C-19 a fait accompli, what will happen as police try to track criminally used, stolen, lost, misplaced or destroyed long guns?

The orphaned legislation list under Part III Firearms and Other Weapons (s.84 to s.117) is long and includes:

• three firearm use offences;

• 11 possession offences (s. 97 not in force);

• two trafficking offences;

• one assembling offence;

• two export and import offences;

• four offences related to lost, destroyed or defaced weapons;

• seven prohibition orders; and

• one search and seizure order.

Also consider:

s. 91 Unauthorized Possession of Firearm

Generally this means the accused was found in possession of a firearm without a valid license. How, with the long gun registry gone, will police determine how and from whom the unlicensed individual acquired a long gun?

s. 98 Breaking and Entering to Steal a Firearm and s. 99 Robbery of a Firearm

Pre Bill C-19 a licensed owner would call police to report their registered long gun had been stolen. Police had the serial number of the stolen gun on their data base. If they found someone possessing it, there would seem to be a good chance for conviction under s.98 or s.99. Now, if a long gun owner calls police to report a stolen weapon and they no longer have a bill of sale and don't know the serial number, what do police do next? What will the report look like?

What about enforcing court ordered weapons prohibitions? Previously if a licensed gun owner was convicted of a crime and ordered not to possess weapons, police knew from their registry data base how many long guns they possessed. Those days are gone. Now what? Police can go around to the house but... on what grounds would they obtain a search warrant? Voluntary search? How about pleading and reasoning with the criminal?

s. 117 Search and Seizure

How do police search for or seize a long gun if they don't know the serial number?

These are thoughts to ponder in these "new" times. To politicians it is simply a political and academic debate. To the cops on the street and the citizens they toil to protect, it is reality. A majority of the 23 firearms offences described in the Criminal Code will be more difficult to investigate.

Bill C-19 will impair police in their ability to do their jobs, which is very troubling. Perhaps some of the high profile former law enforcement people currently involved in the law making arena can answer these many questions. I await patiently... as I must.

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