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RCMP head asks for investigation into High River gun seizures

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OTTAWA -- The head of the RCMP is asking for an investigation into the seizure of firearms from homes evacuated during flooding in Alberta after the move was criticized by the Prime Minister's Office.

Commissioner Bob Paulson has written to the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP and asked the agency to look into the matter. He said he and a lot of Canadians have questions about the force's actions in the devastated town of High River.

"I am quite concerned by the sharp criticism that has arisen in the media with respect to the gun seizures from evacuated homes," Paulson wrote in a letter to Ian McPhail, the interim chair of the watchdog agency.

"Naturally this is quite troubling to me, and I am sure to you, as indeed it must be to many Canadians who wonder what was going on in High River."

The Mounties said they took the weapons as officers searched homes in the town's flood zone to look for stranded people, pets and anything that might pose a threat to returning residents.

In a statement issued last week, the RCMP said officers found some gun owners had laid out their weapons in plain view as they presumably moved valuable possessions to higher ground. The weapons were tagged for return to their owners.

"The last thing any gun owner wants is to have their guns fall into the wrong hands," assistant commissioner Marianne Ryan said at the time.

Earlier this week, the force said the weapons could be reclaimed with the presentation of a possession-acquisition licence.

While Paulson praised officers for their "heroic work" during the flooding, he said he wants the investigation to assess whether the gun seizures were "well-founded, reasonably executed and in accordance with our policies."

RCMP in Alberta referred requests for comment on Paulson's letter to the national office.

The Prime Minister's Office criticized the seizures at the time, saying the RCMP should be focusing more on protecting life and property. Opposition politicians, in turn, jumped on the PMO for meddling in the operational affairs of the national police force.

Last week, Alberta Premier Alison Redford said the RCMP were simply securing weapons, rather than "leaving them sitting on fireplace mantles in a town that was evacuated."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 6, 2013 A22

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