(This column was published in the North Shore News on Jan. 24, 2001)

 

Gun law didn't save these lives

By Leo Knight

DESPITE the best intentions of Justice Minister Anne McLellan and all the hand-wringing social engineers that live in the rarified air of Parliament Hill, three innocent people were killed last week.  

 

At about three o'clock on Friday afternoon, a family member suffering from a mental disorder apparently gunned down three members of the LeClaire family of Medicine Hat, Alberta. The murder weapon is believed to be a long-barrelled high calibre rifle. Just the sort of weapon McLellan's gun control law, Bill C-68, is supposed to control, ostensibly saving lives.  

 

The tragic case is particularly poignant coming less than three weeks after Bill C-68 took effect on Jan. 1.  

 

While the specific facts of this case are only slowly becoming known, what is clear is that no amount of legislation would have prevented the killings. Equally, the case underlines what is possible because of government under funding of treatment facilities for persons with severe emotional or mental troubles.  

 

The LeClaire family was fairly average by all accounts. Reg LeClaire Sr. owned a small business, a cabinet making shop, in a nearby town. His son, Reg Jr. worked in the family business with him.  

 

Chris LeClaire, 22, had been diagnosed a year ago with schizophrenia. Despite the fact he was receiving outpatient treatment, there was no way of ensuring he took his meds.  

 

This was not a crime of a habitual criminal. Nor was it triggered by a war over control of drug territory or for any of the reasons that places like Surrey, Vancouver, Richmond, Calgary and Edmonton have almost nightly shootings.  

 

Quite the contrary, it seems these murders occurred because of a dispute over whether Chris should take his meds. In his disturbed mind he felt he was OK. To the rest of the family, that was clearly not the case.  

 

When police arrived at 3:52 p.m. last Friday at the quiet, unassuming house, they discovered three dead bodies. They also discovered a very disturbed man armed with a rifle. A quite legal weapon, such as are kept in millions of houses across this country.  

 

But the disturbed man with the rifle threatened police triggering a 21 hours standoff with the tactical squad of the Medicine Hat Police Service. RCMP tactical team members cordoned of the neighbourhood and began the laborious process of getting the disturbed armed man out of the house without further loss of life.  

 

Chris LeClaire has now been charged with the murders of Reg Sr., Janet LeClaire and Reg Jr.  

 

A tragedy to be sure. But, one that could only have been prevented had there been sufficient community resources to help those with mental difficulties -- and this includes contained treatment if that is deemed necessary.  

 

The gun control registry created by Bill C-68 is all about a huge expensive bureaucracy and nothing about saving lives or controlling crime. If government spending is all about priorities, clearly half a billion dollars could be better spent on almost anything else.  

 

Maybe even the mentally disturbed.  

 

* * *  

 

Kudos to the members of the Vancouver Police Department who conducted the successful investigation into the drug trafficking activities of several members of the Hells Angels.  

 

On Monday, following a five month trial, Francisco "Chico" Pires and Ronald Lissing were found guilty of several conspiracy and drug trafficking charges following a complicated and lengthy trial. Congrats also to prosecutor Peter Hogg who took on a case the more spineless members of his profession ran away from.  

 

The investigation had to be conducted in virtual secrecy, away from police headquarters, CLEU and all regular aspects of the police department to ensure no part of the inquiry was compromised.  

 

One of the more interesting aspects of the trial -- the fact that the accused were members of the largest outlaw motorcycle gang in the world -- was concealed from the jury throughout the process. Police witnesses had to be excruciatingly careful not to slip and risk a mistrial.  

 

Ironic, isn't it? The Angels try and perpetrate the myth that they are just a bunch of fun lovin' guys who like to ride motorcycles. But when in the dock on serious conspiracy charges, they don't want the jury to know their affiliations lest the jurors take a dim view from the outset.  

 

A note to Premier Dosanjh, who likes to tell anyone who'll listen that his government is tough on crime and organized crime is a high priority: This investigation cost almost $2 million and took 20 officers almost two years to take down the criminal operations of just two members of the Hells Angels.  

 

I should add the funding did not come from the provincial government, but was authorized directly by now-deceased former VPD Chief Ray Canuel. The government mandarins at CLEU at the time, weren't told because the security of the investigation could not be assured. Read into that what you will.  

 

There are over 90 members of the Hells Angels in British Columbia. The total budget of the newly founded Organized Crime Agency of B.C. is a mere $13.5 million. And they are responsible for investigating Asian organized crime, traditional organized crime (Mafia), East European organized crime as well as outlaw motorcycle gangs.  

 

Do the math.  

 

Dosanjh can't talk the talk if he is not prepared to walk the walk.

 

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