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Photo of the Colt C8 rifle stolen from an officers car.

Safe storage in Canada is the catch all tool used by prosecutors and recommended as charges by Police forces against civilians in nearly every headline you see.

It would appear that no matter how well a civilian attempts to secure their lawfully owned firearms, the default charge against them will always be lack of safe storage. No matter if the firearms were secured in a vault, that vault buried directly under their house, and then the vault has 3 feet of concrete poured on all sides of it, if that vault is breached safe storage charges are pressed against the owner.

Well if that's the case for civilians, shouldn't the same be true for our Police forces? If you look at some case studies, it typically isn't. In fact it's more difficult to find cases of Officers charged with unsafe storage than it is to find cases of there not being charges laid. We've been able to find one case of Ottawa Officers charged with unsafe storage, but to be fair the way that case reads is they were also obstructing another Officer and transferring firearms without authority. Unsurprisingly in our searching the search turned up more unsafe storage charges against civilians and only the one case against the Ottawa Police. So it would appear that unless there are greater offenses committed that can prove the Officers are outside the line of duty, then Officers aren't held to the same standard as civilians.

Such is the case as with the Calgary Police Officer that had his Colt C8, fully automatic, patrol carbine stolen from his car, to not face unsafe storage charges. In this case Howard Burns, president of the Calgary Police Association confirmed that “The criminal code and firearms act provide exemptions for case officers in relation to storage and handling of firearms in the execution of their duty,”. Even when a service pistol is stolen from the RCMP and later recovered at drug house in Surrey, the system doesn't press unsafe storage charges. Thankfully both cases mentioned it doesn't appear that either firearm was used in the commission of a crime. The cases do outline the fact that in Canada, Police Officers are exempt from storage charges while in the execution of their duty. Which it is difficult to prove when an Officer is or isn't doing their duty such as with the case of the Calgary Police Officer.

To be clear, this is no fault of the individual Police Officers, they're human and make mistakes the same as any firearm owner. They're part of the system the same as the rest of us, and it's that system that's forcing a wedge between every day citizens and the Police who's job it is to serve and protect them. The Officers career opportunities have likely been shortened by their actions, and that in itself is usually punishment enough. Yet at the same time civilians shouldn't face criminal charges for the same mistakes that Officers make, typically the loss of their property and the subsequent punishment to their career by any trial, is punishment enough to any civilian.

Safe storage was never intended to be used against firearms owners to press criminal charges, the intent was to keep firearms out of the hands of unqualified individuals such as children. There are already laws on the books that cover the careless use of a firearm, there is no need for further punitive charges to be laid that cost a civilian or Officer any further hardship. So long as nobody gets hurt by the actions of a civilian or Police Officer, then no crime should have been committed. If that's not the case in Canada, isn't it time the storage laws are made to be clear as non-punitive catch all charges laid against civilians?

Sources;

Ottawa Officers charged with unsafe storage; http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/2-ottawa-police-officers-charged-with-unsafe-storage-of-a-firearm-1.3116169

Calgary Officer that had his rifle stolen doesn't face charges; http://calgaryherald.com/news/crime/officer-who-had-rifle-stolen-wont-face-criminal-charges

RCMP firearm seized from Surrey drug house; http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/firearm-seized-from-surrey-drug-house-in-2014-had-been-stolen-from-rcmp-eight-years-earlier

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