Prince Albert mayor seeks stricter handgun storage rules for shops

The mayor of Prince Albert is pushing for stricter handgun storage rules for gun retailers after firearms were stolen from a store in the city last week.

Greg Dionne wants to tighten rules for retailers following break-in at local gun store

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne plans to push the federal government to tighten the rules for retailers who keep handguns at their businesses. (CBC)

The mayor of Prince Albert, Sask., is pushing for stricter handgun storage rules for gun retailers after firearms were stolen from a store in the city last week.

Greg Dionne said it is a matter of public safety.  

"I want to see anyone who sells handguns — and only handguns, because they are the hot market for gangs — is that at night you have to have a safe and they have to be locked up every night in the safe," said Dionne.

"At least then, if they break in, it's not just a nice pair of bolt-cutters and — snap — you've got all the guns."

Security footage shows two masked suspects taking the weapons from Arnie's Guns and Archery shortly before 5 a.m. CST on Jan. 17. The number of guns stolen was not disclosed.

A representative from the store declined an interview with CBC News.

Safes should be a requirement, says mayor

Dionne said he was surprised and troubled to learn that gun retailers do not have to put display handguns in a safe overnight.

The current rules for display, which are federally enforced, state that restricted firearms may be displayed if they are unloaded and secured by a chain or metal cable that is passed through a trigger guard. There are other rules for display, but none dictate that the weapons must be kept in a safe.

The rules for storage, which are different than the rules for display, state that the firearm must be unloaded and securely locked up or stored in a location that is readily accessible only to the owner of an employee of the business.

There are further rules about how handguns, which are classified as restricted firearms, should be secured, but none requires that they be kept in a safe.

Long guns will still lure thieves: shop owner

Eileen Higgins, the owner of Saskatoon Gunsmith Shoppe, said she brings guns out to customers who request to hold them but otherwise stores them in safes.

Doing so won't stop thieves from stealing other types of guns, she said.

"Then they'll steal a long gun, shotguns, rifles," she said. "One of the last break-ins we had" — the fourth over the shop's 35-year history — "a whole bunch of shotguns were stolen. They were made into sawed-off shotguns."

Eileen Higgins, the owner of Saskatoon Gunsmith Shoppe, said shopkeepers can lock handguns in safes but thieves will still be lured by long guns. (Don Somers/CBC)

Higgins said she supports being tougher on criminals instead of Dionne's call for mandatory locking of guns in safes overnight.

"Whenever there's a gun crime, it's always, 'Let's go after the person with the licences, make it tougher to get handguns, shotguns, rifles, whatever."

'More than reasonable'

Dionne said his request for stricter rules is "more than reasonable." He said the province supports his views and will take his concerns to Ottawa.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice would not say if a decision to take the issue to the federal government has been made.

"Government has an ongoing dialogue with the city of Prince Albert and looks forward to speaking with Mayor Dionne about it further," it said. 

Dionne is concerned the stolen guns will make their way into the wrong hands. 

"For what it costs for the [gun] safe to keep people and the men and women in the police force safe, it's a small cost," said Dionne. 

"To sell restricted guns is a privilege in our country, and so I think putting them in a safe place at night is not an unreasonable request."

Guns are shown on display at Pawn King in Regina on Feb. 16, 2017. Twelve long guns were taken from the store. (CBC)

Other Sask. stores targeted

Last February, a dozen long guns — not handguns — were taken from a pawn shop in Regina, and police across the country are still finding guns taken from a sporting goods store in Regina six years ago.

Those firearms have shown up in Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto.

The Prince Albert Police Service said last week's break-in was the only time firearms have been stolen from either of the city's two gun retailers in the past five years.

It is not clear if the police service supports the mayor's calls for change. Prince Albert police declined CBC's request for an interview.

Dionne said he would bring the issue forward to the next Board of Police Commissioners meeting to try to garner more support for his demand that Ottawa tighten the laws.

with files from CBC Radio's The Morning Edition and Dan Kerslake