Do Police Really Trust Their Lives to a Flawed Gun Database?

A deputy commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police said he supports Quebec’s plans to recreate an expanded firearms registry and would like Ontario to do the same because it increases safety for the police and the public, Orillia Today reported today.

“We are not supportive of the elimination of the firearms registry in any way,” Scott Tod was quoted as telling the newspaper in an interview. “From an officer safety standpoint, it provides us information that is readily accessible to our individual officers who are responding to residences and other places, businesses that may have firearms present or registered to those addresses.”

No matter how often I hear this “officer safety” or “public safety” argument, I just can’t believe it.

Let’s say the police are about to drop in on someone in the middle of the night in response to a 911 call. They’re heading over because they have strong reasons to believe at least one of the people in the home is breaking the law and is so violent they are potentially putting someone’s life at risk.

The cops park in front of the home and check the database of gun ownership.

“No guns at this address, so we’re safe!” one officer tells her partner.

“What about the screams and the smashing that we hear? It sounds pretty nasty. Plus, we know that database is full of errors,” the partner says. “We should be careful. We should get backup.”

“Nah, don’t be paranoid. The law says all guns must be registered, and the registry doesn’t list any here. Trust me, we’re safe.”

Did the police really trust their lives to a flawed database?

I don’t believe it for a second.

Update 08 June 2017: I was wrong. Multiple other reports from police show they assess the risk of armed violence based on what they read in the database. (For example here and here.) I don’t know if this is bad judgment, bad management, bad training or something else, but the sooner it stops, the longer some officers will live.

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