Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

We can make some choices now

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I sometimes hear people decry government legislation stating it infringes on their individual rights.

I ask the question, what about the collective right of the whole? If we don't want government to legislate common sense decisions, it's incumbent upon us to make them on behalf of ourselves and the community.

We must understand individuals and communities have the ability and responsibility to make decisions leading to the creation of a culture of safety in our city.

I know some of those decisions aren't easy, and it's in our nature to think about the effects of decisions on ourselves first. But my hope is to get us to think about the collective, the community.

I am talking about the recognition that all of us must voluntarily accept our self-imposed limits so our communities can thrive. Let me give you a couple of examples.

Without divulging specific names, I can walk into any number of retail establishments in Winnipeg and purchase a replica handgun. I'm not talking about the old-fashioned rifle-style BB gun. I'm talking about an airsoft pistol or revolver that looks virtually like a real gun. Many of our robberies take place using both real and replica firearms. Who is to know the difference?

Furthermore, we've had instances where individuals have drawn replica firearms on our officers, forcing them to respond with lethal force.

I cannot think of any reason whatsoever why these items need to be sold in our city -- or anywhere else for that matter.

Each of these businesses could make the decision to increase the real and perceived safety in our city simply by taking these items off their shelves. I am certain these businesses would continue to thrive and provide for the needs of their employees and families without the sale of replica handguns. They are simply not required and the conscious decision to sell them hampers the safety of our city.

Another example is the serving of liquor. Yes it's true, our Liquor Control Act permits the sale of alcohol to those 18 years of age and older. But businesses have the right to adjust that age limit upwards to the benefit of the individual and the community.

In areas where we know intoxicated young adults are the source of considerable problems, should businesses continue to cater to this age demographic? I'm not talking about mere nuisance issues such as partying all night and keeping the neighbours up with loud music. Rather, I'm talking about violent crimes -- stabbing, robbery, assault -- which create a sense of overwhelming fear in a community. In some cases, residents fear the crime in their neighbourhood so much, they choose to move to a safer place.

No legislation is needed for this, just a commitment to the community.

Licenced premises have the right to set their own age limit regarding alcohol purchase and consumption.

In fact, we have at least one local example to prove it. In June 2012, the management of Toad in the Hole in Osborne Village decided to serve only those 25 and older in its Whiskey Bar. They wanted the best chance at having a responsible clientele, and to them, it was good business.

To me, it's good community membership. It's about time some of our other establishments practise responsible community stewardship and implement these types of supportive community measures, rather than waiting for them to be legislated.

Once we accept we can take responsible action without legislation imposing it upon us, we will find solutions to the social concerns that plague our city and create the culture of safety we all desperately want.

Devon Clunis is Winnipeg's police chief.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2013 B3

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