Police Chief Herman – Open Letter to Citizens

To: Mr. John Rafferty M.P., Thunder Bay-Rainy River
Mr. Bruce Hyer M.P., Thunder Bay-Superior North

And an open letter to the Citizens of Thunder Bay and Oliver Paipoonge
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I am writing this letter in one last attempt to convince both of you that your stated intention to vote in support of scrapping the long gun registry is not in the best interest of public safety in the communities that you represent.

At a meeting of the Board of Directors and Executive of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police held in Windsor, Ontario on April 27 and 28, 2010, the Board unanimously passed a resolution supporting the long gun registry and that Parliament reject the Private Members Bill that would effectively scrap the long gun registry. This is not new, as the O.A.C.P. has long supported the continuance of the firearms registry

I am well aware of the opposition to the registry by a number of people in Northwestern Ontario. However, I believe that their opinions are misguided and based on misinformation that has been circulating for years. On the issue of scrapping the registry, public safety must always outweigh partisan politics.

Contrary to the misinformation that is being put forward, the registry has been operated effectively and efficiently since the Royal Canadian Mounted Police took over administration of the system in 2005. As well, the cost of maintaining the registry on an annual basis has vastly been reduced to approximately 4 million dollars a year. This equates to less than 10 cents per Canadian per year, which is cost effective by any person’s standards.

Canadian police officers use the registry in excess of 11,500 times per day for a vast array of reasons. In essence, it has become an effective law enforcement tool for front line officers who put themselves at risk for community safety on a daily basis.

As well, the vast majority of police leaders, Police Associations, and Police Services Boards are united in our position that scrapping the registry would be a mistake and would take away an important community safety initiative. These organizations represent the vast majority of the 60,000 plus police officers that make community safety their business.

I have stated publicly that the police have no interest in criminalizing those who don’t register their firearms. Certainly, there are other options available in our legal system to move people to compliance of registering their firearms. I have also stated that a license simply tells us a person has a right to own a gun, while the registry tells us what guns the person actually owns. Contrary to statements that two are duplicitous in nature, there is a huge difference between a licence to own a gun and the Registry. Knowing what guns a person owns can mean the difference between the ability of the police to legally obtain authorization to search and seize firearms in a potentially dangerous situation and having that situation turn tragic because of the lack of pertinent information, which is currently available through the registry.

I have sent you previous correspondence outlining in detail how the registry is used by our Police Service, and how it protects the citizens and police officers that you and I serve on a daily basis. I would ask that you review that information, then re-evaluate if your intention to vote to scrap the registry is in the best interest of community safety.

I have heard comments that the registry does not prevent crime. I disagree with that statement based on the fact that the legal seizing of firearms in a potentially dangerous situation can only enhance community safety, and thus, ultimately may prevent a serious crime from occurring; something that is very difficult to measure. This is most evident in cases of potential workplace violence and spousal/ partner assault cases.

It is difficult enough for this Police Service to address crime and disorder issues in Thunder Bay without a very effective tool being taken away from us for purely political reasons. In Northern Ontario, as elsewhere in Canada, we register many of our personal belongings, which include our motor vehicles, boats, and recreational vehicles. The ability to access the information from those registries is as important to law enforcement as the long gun registry is.

As the Chief of Police of Thunder Bay, I am requesting that you do not support the Private Members Bill, and that you take into consideration the safety of my officers and the citizens of Thunder Bay when you vote on this matter.

Yours truly,

Robert P. Herman
Chief of Police