Image: Wikimedia Commons

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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 stormtroopers. 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.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article contianed a reference to a shooting incident with an incorrect date. That reference has been removed.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe...