Pubdate: Sat, 05 Mar 2005
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2005 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Tom Oleson
Bookmark: (Rochfort Bridge)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Opinion)


MORE than $1 billion worth of gun control was not enough to save the
lives of four Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers in Alberta on
Thursday. This was despite the fact the killer had served time in
jail, was known to possess guns, known to have a violent nature, known
to have fired warning shots at visitors to at trespassers on his property.

In 1999 he was charged with firing a shotgun at two people who had
intruded on his property, charges that were dropped four years later
when the Crown failed to produce evidence.

Even another billion dollars worth of gun control would not have
prevented this horror from happening.

Stronger courts -- if there was ever a Canadian who should not own
guns, James Roszko was one -- or sharper Crown prosecutors might have
helped prevent it, but there isn't a finger that can honestly be
pointed in blame today at any third party.

Perhaps down the road when all the facts are in and the details have
been sorted out, someone may have a useful suggestion of how this
might have been prevented or how something similar can be avoided in
the future, but the fact is that horrible things just happen sometimes
with a kind of cosmic inevitability. Bad people do bad things and they
cannot always be stopped.

That does not stop gun control advocates from arguing that these
shootings show that gun control efforts must be redoubled.

Doing more of what doesn't work seems to be the Canadian answer to
almost everything. So the anti-gun lobby says we need more gun control
while the gun lobby says we need less. Every Canadian seems to have
some kind of agenda.

Because the shootings occurred at what the police believed to be a
marijuana growing operation, and because the killer was, according to
his father, a long-time marijuana user, the bright lights in Ottawa,
including Justice Minister Anne McLellan, argue that we need tougher
penalties for growing and trafficking in marijuana.

There is a certain backward logic to this argument.

Trafficking in marijuana is a hugely profitable business.

Police across the country find more and more grow-ops as more and more
people turn to growing and trafficking, and then turn to violence to
protect their investment. People charged with simple possession of
marijuana rarely go to jail these days; even people charged with
growing it don't often go to jail.

It is possible, as some Canadians argue and as Ms McLellan appears to
think, that stiffer sentences would deter people from getting involved
in the illegal marijuana business, although that flies in the face of
what the federal department of justice and provincial departments of
justice appear to believe.

If the prospect of being hanged in the morning does not deter one from
murder, why would six months or so in jail deter one from an extremely
lucrative criminal business?

We can spend another billion dollars on gun control, but that will not
bring four brave policemen back to life. Neither is it likely to
prevent the death of another policeman in the future. We can send
marijuana dealers to jail but that will not bring four brave policemen
back to life either.

Greater gun control and tougher drug laws will accomplish little more
other giving us the satisfaction of being seen to have done something.

There is no subtle, no political, no profound lesson to be learned
from the enormity of what happened in Alberta on Thursday. If there is
a lesson, it is pretty obvious, in fact. Perhaps the police can learn
something from the forensic analysis of what happened that will help
them with their procedures, help them to be better prepared for such
an eventuality in the future. But it is an inescapable fact of life
that terrible things and evil things do happen and they can happen to
the best and bravest of people -- 40 peace officers in Canada have
died by accident or murder in the last five years.

What happened in Alberta says nothing really about gun control or drug
enforcement. It does, however, remind us that the next billion dollars
destined for gun control might be better spent on resources and better
training and more manpower for the police.

It might remind us that marijuana use, like the use of alcohol and
tobacco, is largely a victimless crime.

It reminds us that if marijuana were legalized it would free up huge
amounts of money and police time to deal with crimes that do have
victims, it would take drug money out of the pockets of criminals and
put it into the pockets of the public.

And it would take peace officers out of harm's way in at least one
part of their dangerous work.

Those are things that need to be done, or at least need to be
seriously debated. But the doing and debating, as urgent as it might
be, is for another time. Today is a time for remembering --
remembering that as long as there are evil people to do evil things,
there can be no prouder word in the English language than this short
and simple one -- cop. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake