Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Jack Tinsley. I was born and raised in Winnipeg, and I've lived there all my life.
If I may take a minute, I will tell you a little about my background and what I believe qualifies me to come to Ottawa and stand before you today. Thank you all for hearing me.
I was a police officer in Winnipeg for over 33 years and retired with the rank of inspector. I was a SWAT team member for over 11 years, most of it as a team leader in the sniper unit. I have used deadly force in the defence of my life. I understand the concept. I spent a number of years in uniformed patrol and then moved into investigative policing in the drug squad. I made many dozens of undercover drug purchases from drug dealers and many undercover purchases of stolen or unregistered handguns, a number from parolees out on early release from prison. I have been declared an expert in the area of illegal street drugs and drug trafficking at all levels of Manitoba courts. These experiences and many others in a progression of higher ranks over the span of my career have led me to three conclusions.
One, drugs are now, and have been for the last 25 years or so, the direct or underlying cause of most crime. The majority of murders and crimes of violence, most robberies and break-ins, and even high-volume shoplifting and other property crimes, are now committed by persons involved in the drug trade or addicts. Organized crime now flourishes on the drug trade, and it has surpassed all others with its immense profits.
Two, criminals do not obtain firearms licences and they do not register their very disposable firearms. They could not care less about the rules. What is interesting is that the FBI recently released their latest crime statistics, and they believe 95% of all gun crime is now gang related. These are the same gangs that are running that drug trade. I accept that as credible information, and it cannot be dismissed as not being applicable to Canada as well. We can all rest assured that most or all drug dealers everywhere are armed. The huge sums of cash involved and the very characters of the often desperate players in their circle of trade dictate that.
Three, the Canadian long-gun registry, in its approximate decade of existence, has not proven to be a deterrent to violent crime. Outside of having the small and often unreliable benefit of allowing for us to count guns, and just the ones that honest gun owners have registered at that, it is not a particularly useful investigative tool for law enforcement, which is exactly what the registry was intended to be in order to prevent gun crime and save lives.
These are bold statements, but they could not be more true. Unfortunately, you will not hear from great numbers, if any at all, of the hundreds of currently serving police officers, some of whom have been shot in the line of duty, or from more than a few chiefs of police who would tell you the very same things. There's a reason for this: they have been effectively silenced after making it known that they also believe the long-gun registry is ineffective and had previously let it be known that they would also testify to that fact at these proceedings. To be blunt, they've been ordered not to appear at this hearing by their respective chiefs of police, and therefore not to speak from their hearts and consciences with a mind to promoting effective alternatives for reducing violent crime against women and all other persons in this country.
Others, such as more than a few police association executives across Canada who have in the recent past clearly voiced their opposition to the continuance of the long-gun registry, for the same good reasons have now pulled away from standing here and telling the truth, as they perceive future ramifications for themselves when vying for appointed positions within the Canadian Police Association and other organizations.
On Monday, a currently serving Winnipeg Police Association director called me. George Van Mackelbergh is a respected officer who spent many years enforcing laws against the Hells Angels and other violent organized criminals. He most emphatically stated that he does not support the continuance of the long-gun registry. He is not alone. I've spoken to an abundance of experienced officers, several just this week, who have all said the same thing. The information benefits they have gained from the registry are too few and are unreliable. The cost is too high, and the bottom line is that only law-abiding gun owners have registered their firearms. The criminals, for the most part, have not.
Are the facts that dangerous that the national association of chiefs of police had to send representatives to each police chief across the country to exert political pressure on those dissenting and calling for the repeal of the registry to get back into the fold? Whatever happened to free speech? I have heard at least a couple of chiefs of police use the same cliché in support of the registry: “We applaud any initiative that makes our job easier.” Should this include any ineffective initiative? I think not, especially when there are better options available, such as calling for the termination of house arrest and release from custody on a recognizance for violent crimes, which criminals ignore and have the opportunity to reoffend at will.
Is it right for a leader to use the power of his or her office to further their own political agenda and then deny everyone else within the ranks that opportunity in case they should disagree?
You might be thinking at this point that I don't know what I'm talking about. I assure you that I do, first hand.
After the long-gun registry had been written into law, I wrote an article that outlined my perspective on the potential of the long-gun registry based on my experience of 26 years, at that time as a police officer who worked the street. In short, I said it would not address violent crime issues, it would be expensive beyond belief, many citizens would not comply with the law, and that the way to go, if we as a country were serious about reducing violent crime, was to keep criminals locked up with meaningful sentences from our courts. I also said the laws that were in place before the registry came into effect were good laws and that we just needed to enforce them. All of this rings true today, 10-plus years later.
In the article I also repeated the irrefutable fact that guns do not kill people; people do. I also said it was a good idea, and still is today, to have all gun buyers qualified for the right to acquire any gun. The old firearms acquisition certificate system that was previously in place provided the much needed hands-on look at every FAC applicant by a police officer. The officer would contact spouses and ask hard questions about safety issues or concerns. Very few potentially dangerous persons slipped through the cracks in that era and got an FAC. It was a proactive approach of the first order. Today we are mired in a bureaucracy that does not provide for that face-to-face interaction by applicants with a trained police officer who would conduct a thorough background check on each applicant.
In any case, when I completed the article I gave it to the serving deputy chief of the day, whose opinion I respected, for his thoughts about the content of my writing. He indicated that his position on the matter was exactly the same as mine and the many other officers who served within the ranks at that time. However, his verbatim remark to me was, “If that article is published, you have just committed career suicide.” That deputy chief's name was Lawrence Klippenstein, and upon speaking to him just a few days ago, it was clear also that he supports the repeal of the long-gun registry.
The article was in fact published in 1999 in the Winnipeg Sun. However, quite some time prior to that happening, I provided a copy to the chief of police out of courtesy, and his reply was, “I respect your opinion, but I do not agree.” His reply goes on to instruct me not to associate the article in any way with the Winnipeg Police Service. Subsequently, I spent the last nine years of my career as an inspector, with the exception of a couple of months in a district in the duty office on shift work. That's about seven years longer than any other inspector that I'm aware of.
Was this being disciplined or the career suicide I had been cautioned against? That's my guess, but I said what I felt needed to be said and I've never regretted it.
I have nothing to gain or lose by appearing here today. My conscience will be clear when I leave here. I have said again what needs to be said in clear language to this committee and to the Canadian public. It is time to abandon this long-gun registry. I'm sure it was instituted with the best of intentions, but it has cost us nearly $2 billion and it has not been effective in deterring violent crime. There is no shame in saying that. New Zealand did after their nearly identical registry failed them after seven years in law. Then they scrapped it, and I quote, “It seems...to be an elaborate system of arithmetic with no tangible aim.”
Australia instituted a $500 million initiative in 1997, a law that forced Australians to turn in 640,381 personal firearms. A year later, homicide, assault, and armed robbery crimes had all increased. These are violent crimes. Non-violent crimes such as break-ins also increased dramatically. It would be generous to say their program was merely unsuccessful.
There are a couple of interesting and very pertinent facts that I would like this committee to be aware of, mostly in relation to just how much the police use the information available to them.