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.