Friday, May 7, 2010
Former city police officers, opposed to long gun registry
OTTAWA -- Putting criminals behind bars for longer will do more to prevent gun violence in Canada than the long-gun registry, three former Winnipeg cops told a House of Commons committee Thursday.
"(The gun registry) is not a particularly useful tool for investigating crime," said Jack Tinsley, a former inspector with the Winnipeg police.
Eliminating early parole and house arrest would keep criminals from committing crimes, he said, while the gun registry just tracks numbers of guns by people who have chosen to register them.
Tinsley also said returning to the system of firearms licensing control in place before the gun registry would be more effective in keeping guns out of the hands of people who will use them to kill because it required face-to-face interviews with police and background checks with spouses.
"Very few potentially dangerous persons slipped through the cracks in that era," he said.
At the same hearing, representatives of women's shelters and a victim of the 1989 Montreal massacre that compelled the gun registry in the first place pleaded with Parliament not to eliminate it.
Nathalie Provost, one of the 28 people shot by Marc Lépine at École Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989, said the firearms registry recognizes it is a privilege to own a gun and privilege comes with responsibility.
The gun Lépine used, said Provost, is an unrestricted long gun and if the gun registry is abolished, that weapon that killed 14 women and injured 14 others would no longer need to registered.
"For me there is no logic to that," she said.
The three officers were speaking on their own behalf, not as representatives of the Winnipeg police. Last week, a Winnipeg Police Service spokesman told the Free Press the gun registry had proven to be an important and valuable investigative tool.
Prior to the hearing Thursday, the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs, Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Police Boards held a press conference to continue pressuring Parliament not to scrap the long-gun registry. The third group has already appeared at the committee, while the first two will appear at a later date.
Tinsley said they do not represent all police and said in fact, more officers have not come forward in favour of eliminating the registry for fear of retribution by their police chiefs.
Dave Shipman, who retired from the Winnipeg Police Service a decade ago after 25 years and now works as a gang and organized crime investigator for Manitoba Public Insurance, said officers on the street don't use the gun registry.
"I have yet to talk to a serving street cop, I'm talking the average constable attending call after call after call, time after time, who has checked the registry or even knows how to use it," said Shipman.
He said the gun registry was an "ill-thought out" response to the Montreal Massacre, and did not stop the gun rampage by Kimveer Gill at Dawson College in Montreal in 2006.
Heidi Rathglen, who witnessed Lépine's shooting in 1989 as a student at École Polytechnique, said in fact the weapons Gill used were registered and the gun registry helped police identify him and the weapons he had as the shooting was still underway.
I believe these officers are mistaken. Longer prison sentences do absolutely nothing to prevent future crime. Research has shown that longer sentences actually increase recidivism once offenders are released. Also, the threat of prison, does not deter offenders or the general pubic. Prison does not deter criminals. The only thing that deters them, is the prospect of getting caught by the police. Most criminals are not rational thinkers and do not weigh the costs and the benefits of committing a crime. Most criminals act on impulse, therefore, they are not deterred by the possibility of prison.
I think that the gun registry is helpful for police. Like the Liberals suggest, a first time failure to register firearms should be a non-criminal, ticketed offence. The paperwork should be simpler and we should eliminate fees for new licenses and renewals. The registry allows police to check for the presence of household firearms, which is vital information when attempting to protect victims and officers themselves. It also gives police a starting point to their investigations. The registry has saved lives, and that`s important.