Long gun registry aids search warrant
A Maple Ridge man who police spotted hanging out with gang members and drug dealers is now facing a ban on owning guns.
An application filed in Port Coquitlam Provincial Court seeks the firearms prohibition on grounds of public safety as Ridge Meadows RCMP believe it’s too dangerous for Brad Hall to possess guns, or any prohibited weapon.
Hall, 37, came to the attention of Mounties in August after they received several complaints from his neighbours about “suspicious activity.”
In an application for a search warrant, police detail the neighbours’ concerns. They include complaints about “lots of late night activity,” people coming and going from the home, and notes about a skinny blonde woman living with Hall who they believed was selling drugs.
The complaints prompted police to begin an investigation that included undercover surveillance.
In the search warrant application, Const. Steve Auger wrote on Aug. 16 that police saw two men leave a car and walk to Hall’s townhome on 118th Street.
When police ran the licence plate of the SUV the men arrived in, they learned it was registered to a man they allege is a “mid-level drug trafficker in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows,” known as ‘The Russian.’
On Sept. 5, police saw another man leave Hall’s townhouse complex and when they ran the plates of the Ford F-150 he was driving, the officer found the truck linked to Joseph Markel, a former gang member.
Markel was killed in gang-style shooting three days later in Port Moody.
On Sept. 20, Const. Zaheer Abdulla spotted another black pickup truck pull up outside Hall’s home. That truck was registered to a woman “known to be Markel’s girlfriend,” according to the warrant.
A week later, another RCMP officer spoke to a confidential source, who police wrote “is known to be reliable.” That source revealed Hall had rifles in his residence.
Const. Auger also noted that two firearms owned by Hall had been found in a drug stash house in May, months before neighbours began complaining about him.
Although the federal government abolished the Long Gun Registry this year, RCMP were able to find out that as of May 12, Hall had eight non-restricted firearms registered in his name. The guns registered included a 12-gauge shotgun, .40 S&W Just Right Carbine, a bayonet and pellet rifle.
“There is no reason to believe Mr. Hall, who has been accumulating firearms, would have suddenly sold them in May 2012,” Const. Auger wrote.
“His present association with drugs, drug traffickers and gang members … and due to the fact that two of the firearms were located in a known stash house, it is not desirable or in the interest of Hall’s neighbours for him to have the ability to purchase more.”
Ridge Meadows RCMP admit that the information about eight firearms owned by Hall was helpful when they applied for the search warrant to seize them.
But with the long gun registry no longer being in existence, there are no current records that police have to quickly access information about rifles or shotguns.
If a person wants to buy any firearm, they must have a Possess and Acquire Licence (PAL). Only restricted firearms – hand guns – must still be registered, said RCMP Cpl. Dale Somerville.
In order to purchase ammunition, you must have either a PAL or a Possession Only Licence (POL).
“So, police cannot check up on anyone who has a rifle or shotgun as those records are not currently being kept, Somerville added.
“There is a case in front of the courts that the records from the Long Gun Registry be kept, and we believe these records would then become the property of the Canadian Firearms Registry Office.”
The federal long-gun registry was created by the Liberal Party in 1995, in the wake of the Dec. 6, 1989, massacre at Montreal’s École Polytechnique, in which 14 women were killed by a gunman.
Since the long-gun registry was scrapped by the federal Conservative government last April, Quebec has gone to court and won the right to keep its portion of the long-gun data.
The federal government, however, has since destroyed most of the remaining records of registered long guns and is currently appealing the Quebec court ruling, stopping it from erasing the Quebec data.
Quebec now has plans for its own provincial firearms registry.
Randy Kamp, the member of parliament for Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission, believes the information that helped RCMP build ground for a search warrant was likely a fluke.
He noted dismantling the Long Gun Registry was a Conservative promise that was kept.
“In our view, it is largely ineffective and wasteful and, for the most part, didn’t contribute to public safety,” Kamp said.
He added the federal government’s approach is three-fold: continued registration of prohibited and restricted firearms such as hand guns; a licensing regime with background checks before anyone can get a license to possess; and stricter penalties, such as mandatory minimum sentences, for crimes committed with firearms to deter criminals from using guns.
“Criminals didn’t register their guns,” said Kamp.
“And many law-abiding people didn’t register their guns, either.”
He said police can still access information about long guns and other firearms through the licensing system that still exists.
“It is still available to law enforcement and provides more information than they would have got from a [Long Gun] registry.”
The official NDP opposition did not return calls for comment.