PHOTO: RCMP officers like these in High River during the flooding to 2013 were subjected to a vicious campaign of vilification by some Alberta gun enthusiasts for seizing abandoned weapons in the Southern Alberta town (CBC photo).


We know firearms are dangerous – especially when they’re not in the hands of so-called “law-abiding gun owners,” which would mean, I guess, they’re either in the hands of “law-breaking gun owners” or plain old-fashioned thieves, who are presumably lawbreakers by default.

We can also be confident lots of firearms have been abandoned in Fort McMurray – first, because so many Albertans wherever they live own guns, legally or otherwise, and second because the vast majority of the 88,000 or so people who normally reside in the northeastern Alberta oil sands city aren’t there right now because of the devastating recent forest fire and the attendant evacuation order on its entire population.

Moreover, we can be fairly confident many of those firearms are at risk, at the very least, of theft by ne’er-do-wells because it turns out it’s been quite easy for people so inclined to remain in Fort McMurray despite the evacuation order, notwithstanding the presence of about 300 Mounties in the temporarily abandoned city.

Indeed, the RCMP reported that as of Tuesday there have been at least 100 cases of forced entry into homes in Fort Mac. Many, of course, will turn out not to have involved criminal intent. Some will.

We don’t know if any high-risk offenders remained in Fort McMurray. We do know at least one did in High River in 2013, where the RCMP seized 609 firearms from 105 homes, which is an interesting statistic in its own right.

So it’s fairly shocking to learn that the RCMP – apparently unnerved by the campaign of vilification waged against them by a militant segment the province’s gun enthusiasts and their journalistic supporters after the Southern Alberta town of High River was flooded in 2013 – are not going into abandoned homes to ensure improperly stored firearms aren’t lying about in plain sight for the taking.

Instead, presumably on someone’s orders, the RCMP have their blinders firmly in place and are apparently refusing to look for legal weapons abandoned in a manner that is likely to make them illegal weapons soon enough.

The Mounties may have got the right-to-bear-assault-weapons nuts off their case for this bizarre policy of turning a blind eye to a serious threat to public health and public order, but ordinary citizens of Alberta ought to be concerned.

To give credit where credit is due, it shows that the effectiveness of the Astro-Turf campaign by the Canadian gun-lobby during the Harper Government to bring wide-open U.S.-style gun ownership to this country, including conspiracy theories about the so-called High River “gun-grab” and the use of swastikas and other Nazi imagery to portray the Mounties as thuggish storm troopers. This effort continues to bear fruit for supporters of unrestricted gun ownership in Canada, even though voters in most parts of the country repudiated former prime minister Stephen Harper last fall.

Naturally, the gun lobby’s journalistic auxiliary – made up mostly if not entirely of Harper supporters – has been crowing about this victory for law-non-enforcement.

When the dust and ash have finally settled in Fort Mac, one wonders how many guns will have gone missing because of this neglect by the Mounties to do their job, and how many of these weapons will end up “in the wrong hands” in the streets of Alberta’s towns and cities, not to mention other places in Canada?

There is no percentage for our federal or provincial governments of the Liberal and NDP persuasion to allow this neglect by the RCMP to continue. Alberta’s self-described LAGOs will continue to support conservative parties with their money and their votes no matter what.

Police officers have the legal authority and a moral duty to forcibly enter abandoned houses and seize unsecured firearms that are in view. It’s hardly reassuring to learn they are failing to perform this basic public safety task.

Indeed, the law needs to be amended to make it legal for police to seize firearms that are not in plain view, but are abandoned and easily accessible to thieves.

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  1. There is an interesting sidebar to this story. The real purpose of the now defunct non-restricted gun registry was to directly connect a specific firearm to a specific firearms license. In other words, theft, sale, loss or destruction of a firearm had to be accounted for through the registry. But that won’t be happening now.

    Improperly stored guns that go missing won’t necessarily be reported. And neither will those assumed to be destroyed in the fire. Ultimately, it may matter little but at least we could expect an accounting of owned firearms when the registry was in place.

    1. what idiot would not report the theft of a $1000 piece of property? Oh… you mean criminals that are banned from owning the guns in the first place. Yeah, the gun registry was instrumental in getting criminals’ guns registered. Are you another Coalition for Gun Confiscation disciple?

  2. I may be blindly optimistic, but I am hoping there is a significant difference between the Fort McMurray situation and the High River situation. With High River gun owners apparently moved their legally stored guns to an illegal location at a higher point in the house to protect them from the rising water. In that case I was fully supportive of the police moving them to a safe location, where they were later returned to the owner guns could again be legally stored, and really didn’t see what the big fuss was about, other than to give right wing newspapers something to scream about.

    With Fort McMurray, however, since there is no rising water, there is no reason for the gun owner to remove the firearm from its secure (and legal) location. As a result the police have no reason to remove guns.

    That said, however, it is a little scarey to think of being in one of those burning neighbourhoods when the flames find where the owner has stored his ammunition!


  3. There is a little too much paranoia and fear around sometimes – chill everyone. I doubt the police really want to spend their time searching high and low specifically for guns in the middle of a natural disaster. Their main concern is the safety of the buildings and the residents. If the door is locked and the residence seems safe, I suspect they really don’t want to deal with it further. If there are guns in plain sight, it could be a potential problem and they may decide how to deal with it depending on the situation. As the community is now evacuated, they may decide it is not a problem.

    In any event, I don’t blame the gun owners here either. I am sure as the fire is approaching quickly, the last thing most people are thinking about is securing their guns. However, from a practical prospective, in the case of a flood it is more likely people may have quickly moved things up from basement storage, so it was probably more an issue in High River.

    1. They shouldn’t have been “thinking” about securing their guns during the fire because, by law, their guns should already have been secured. But then a LAGO would have known that – those who didn’t were clearly not LAGOs. The question is, how many self-professed LAGOs are actually not LAGOs in terms of not securing their guns. And as a society, how much do we tolerate law-breaking (however minor) by these self-professed LAGOs; in other words, should it take more than a violent crime to move a gun owner from the LAGO category to the non-LAGO category? The lobby can’t have it both ways.

      1. Using that logic, the police could also arrest people going over the speed limit as they fled the flames. So are you saying the gun owner cleaning his gun and seeing the flames advance towards his home should put the the gun away first and endanger his life? I suppose that is easy for you to say from the safety of wherever you are outside of Alberta.

        The whole problem with this is trying to make things black and white. An emergency such as this is an exceptional situation and probably not the time for police to go around vigorously enforcing every law on the books.

        The police probably could have also arrested the teacher that took children to safety, if she didn’t get permission from their parents, even though she undoubtedly saved their lives. She acted very responsibly, although definitely not within the “rules”.

        I don’t own a gun and I generally agree with the rules around the storage and registration of them. I am certainly not in any way associated with the “lobby” you refer to. However, I can see there is paranoia and fear on both sides of the issue of guns.

      2. EXPAT ALBERTAN • 2 Weeks Ago
        says a habitual law breaker.
        All victimless ‘crimes’ should not have been criminal laws in the first place.

  4. I have to disagree with this article. I don’t think police should be able to go into evacuated homes on the small chance a home owner was storing his/her guns illegally. Fort McMurray, due to its location in the north, probably has a high percentage of gun owners. Police would have to search every home and apartment. Knowing authorities/strangers are going into your home, without your permission, to check if you were doing something unlawful, wouldn’t sit well with most law-abiding, already stressed evacuees. Having said that, if there was a lawful means for police to enter the home of a known pimp or other criminal, I could accept the violation of privacy. It might be a slippery slope though, to make exemptions. I could see the rationale for the High River gun search for the reasons Bob stated. In this fire emergency, police would be better deployed preventing break-ins.

    1. I might be wrong, but I don’t think police broke into homes during the High River flood, but, rather, entered homes that were unlocked or already broken into. You’re right, though; if a house is secured, there is no reason for police to enter it in this instance (assuming the threat of the fire has passed and they do not have to enter to check that there are people at risk).

      1. No, they broke into houses that weren’t even damaged solely to search and remove firearms and other private property. It lead to a large investigation, done by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission of the RCMP, and found all kinds of wrongdoing. The RCMP even broke open locked cabinets, and cut into safes.

        Read it for yourself at

        1. Your own link doesn’t corroborate your opinion:

          “In summary, RCMP members were authorized as part of a declared state of emergency to enter High River buildings and with the exception of a relatively small number of homes, the force used to enter was necessary to comply with directions from emergency management officials. However, once inside the homes, RCMP members discovered firearms and contraband and, with insufficient supervision and guidance by senior RCMP members or any judicial oversight, performed warrantless searches and seizures of firearms from some of the evacuated homes. In addition, the lack of a public communication strategy resulted in the public’s mistrust of the words and actions of RCMP members and set in motion a domino effect of challenges for the RCMP.”

      2. Guess you weren’t there. The police broke into houses and admitted to it publically. Guns were not the only things taken as people reported having personal items taken. Only a couple of dozen people did not abandon their homes and those same people averted the damage the rest had.

      3. Yes , you are wrong . I lived just outside High River at the time . They actually battered doors and often ransacked people’s homes . I helped friends of mine remove refregerators after the water receded . Their doors were broken in . Fact !

      4. There were over 2000 complaints of forced entry to homes/buildings by the RCMP in High River. Some with the use of locksmiths, others by smashing through doors and windows. Some of the homes damaged and left unsecure by the RCMP would have otherwise sustained no damage from flooding. These homes were often the only homes entered on the street. It seems those homes were targeted by the RCMP, possibly and wrongfully because the owners of those homes had registered their firearms. Some of those homes were searched several times if guns weren’t found on the first, second, third searches, due to the guns being locked up and well hidden. It rightfully raised the question, did the RCMP still have a list of firearm owners from the then “scrapped” gun registry? The answer was obvious. But we had an incompetent and lazy government too spineless to investigate. The RCMP admitted to at least 754 forced entries out of over 4600 entries. The taxpayer was held liable for all forced entries by the RCMP.

  5. Wow talk about mis-informed ignorance posing as journalism. Perhaps if you had done a little research you would not have written such a shoddy piece of drivel.
    I would first comment on the nonsense about a law abiding firearms owner. Since you are so inclined to comment I guess we should look at non law abiding vs law abiding journalists? Do you submit to a daily background check? Can you successfully mange it each and everyday?

    The highRiver gun grab is well documented as being wrong. The so called improperly stored firearms were in fact stored correctly and in accordance with the law.
    It’s to bad so many hacks with an agenda can be published. I guess research and critical thinking have been removed as necessity to the craft.

  6. Think for a second what you are advocating for here. You are saying it is ok for the RCMP to enter homes and search for guns. No warrant required, see section 8 of the charter. Is that really the kind of Canada you want to live in? Don’t be blinded by who is outraged on the “other side” occasionally they get something right.

  7. Interesting concept that if a thief breaks into your home, enters, breaks into your safe, removes your property, he’s guilty of break & enter, criminal trespass, property damage & theft.But you think it’s “ok” for police to do the same. High River taught them it’s not ok.
    It’s perfectly legal to put a firearm in a legally approved case and take it with you if you have to flee a disaster, so if you break into a home & find an empty gun safe, policeman or crook, you are going to be prosecuted and sued.Peace officers have a sworn duty to arrest criminals, not become criminals, grasp the concept.

  8. That is a very interesting RCMP report, Joe. I see it was released February 2015. I wonder how many of the recommendations were acted upon before the Fort McMurray emergency. I found it surprising the commission could not find anyone who gave orders to the High River officers to search for guns (or gave orders for them to stop). The report rightly put the blame at the top of the hierarchy and the extremely poor communication and emergency training within the organization.

    I think when the response to this latest disaster settles down, local emergency management operations may need a review. Evacuation notices for the schools and hospital didn’t seem to arrive in a timely manner: I’m sure there will be lots of lessons learned.

  9. I find most people in this thread are miss informed on what the laws atchouly are when it comes to gun storage of non-restricted and Restricted firearms. Most comments on this thread are suggesting that all fire arms must be locked in a cabinet or safe. That is just not simply be case. Only two classes of fire arms (restricted and prohibited) are required by law to be locked in a cabinet or safe. Non-restricted (your average hunting rifle or shotgun) are only required to have a trigger lock, cable Lock or the bolt removed. Making the firearm unable to fire. They then can be placed in closet corners under beds in drop ceilings under blankets or any other location that is not in plain sight.

  10. DAVID CLIMENHAGA, spoken like a true nanny statist. We don’t need the RCMP to break in and take the firearms! We need them to stop the criminals from entering the homes and taking the firearms! What’s to stop the criminals from breaking in and taking the guns when the town is not evacuated?
    Oh, what’s that? The RCMP can’t be everywhere, all the time? You mean they can’t and won’t protect you from criminals at all times? Then I guess it is up to all of us to protect ourselves and our property against criminals and we need the same tools as the police to do so.

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