I would like to thank the chair and the members of the committee for allowing me to appear before you today.
My name is Donald Weltz. I come before you in support of Bill C-19, an Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act.
I will attempt to briefly outline my introduction to firearms and my enforcement background so that you have a more informed understanding of my experience with long guns.
As was stated earlier, I retired in 2007 with 32 years of service as an Ontario conservation officer with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and was named officer of the year in 2007.
I have owned long guns since I was 12 years of age. I was instructed in the safe use and handling of those guns by a police sergeant with the Kitchener Police Department, as it was known then, and by a World War II vet who was a lifelong friend and father figure for me over the past 46 years until his passing in February 2009. I also hunt, although as I get older I find that I spend less time hunting.
My primary duty throughout my 32-year career as an Ontario conservation officer was fish and wildlife law enforcement. I was issued with and I carried a side arm as part of my uniform and was required to qualify yearly in its use. I was trained in the powers of search, seizure, arrest, and the use of force, similar to the Ontario Provincial Police. In 1975 I attended the Ontario Police College in Aylmer, Ontario, for my basic enforcement training.
Throughout my career as a conservation officer I have personally checked thousands of long guns being used by hunters in the field, and I have been required to search under warrant numerous homes and other buildings to secure evidence of crimes. These searches included buildings located in isolated bush areas in remote parts of the province, and dwellings, outbuildings, and commercial buildings in rural and urban areas.
I can tell you that the registration of long guns did not make my job as a conservation officer safer. It doesn’t matter whether as an officer you search one house in your career or 2,000; the legal requirements are the same, and the possibility of violence and resistance from the occupier of the building you are about to search is always present. To go into a search with a semi-complacent attitude, believing that there are no guns present--and thereby being left with a perceived diminished risk to your safety and that of your fellow officers because a check of the firearms database has indicated there are no guns registered to the individual at that location--can be a deadly mistake.
As an officer, I was trained to expect the unexpected. I preferred to enter situations relying on my training, my fellow officers, and my heightened awareness of what might be waiting for me. An officer who enters a building in a search situation and who lets his or her guard down as a result of relying on information relayed to the officer that there are no firearms registered at that location is placing himself or herself and others in a dangerous situation.
Although as a conservation officer I had the ability to run checks through the firearms data centre, I can only remember doing so once or twice, and those were on occasions when I was trying to determine whether the hunter I had stopped for a routine check legally owned a specific firearm in the hunter's possession.
Similarly, the registering of long guns does nothing to increase the safety of the public. The fact that a long gun has been registered does not prohibit that firearm from being used by an individual with criminal intent. It is not the long gun that commits the criminal act, but the individual in control of that long gun who has spontaneously, or through deliberate and premeditated intent, taken it upon himself or herself to carry out a criminal act.
How does the registration of a long gun stop someone in a fit of rage induced by drugs, alcohol, or a nervous breakdown from going to the locked gun cabinet, unlocking it, taking out that registered firearm, removing the trigger lock, loading it, and hunting down and shooting the people he believes are responsible for his problems? The act of registering long guns does not stop this type of situation.
I have heard people ask why individuals would be upset with registering their long guns. We have to register our vehicles, they say, so what's the difference? In looking at that analogy of registering your vehicles, I would ask this question: has the fact of registering our vehicles reduced the number of impaired drivers? In an impaired driving situation, is the vehicle the problem or is it the driver who decided to drive while their ability was impaired with alcohol?
To the best of my knowledge, I do not know of any criminal who has registered their firearm knowing that they intend to use that firearm during the commission of an offence. Long guns, as their name suggests, are just that: long guns. They are not the weapon of choice of criminals because they cannot be concealed easily. Long guns are typically used by hunters, target shooters, and farmers, who generally are regarded as law-abiding citizens.
As for the destruction of firearms records upon removal of the long-gun registry, I am in favour of that data being destroyed, as there will be no legitimate reason to keep it when the long-gun registry is repealed. The police already have driver's licence and vehicle registration information on file for millions of individuals in Canada.
Of all the tragedies that have occurred in Canada involving firearms, did the firearm actually commit the offence, or was it the person in possession of the firearm who caused those devastating events that changed so many lives?
In conclusion, I believe that firearms owners should be licensed and that firearms should be stored safely, which will go a long way towards reducing careless or accidental firearm incidents. I also believe that the registration of long guns in the current registration system is costing taxpayers millions of dollars each year and is doing absolutely nothing to make our police or the public safer. Therefore, I would ask this government to repeal the long-gun registry.
Thank you again for this opportunity.