Sooke Mounties now armed with high-powered rifles

Semi-automatic carbine rifles part of RCMP’s push to better arm police officers

Sooke is joining hundreds of other RCMP detachment across Canada and equipping its officers with semi-automatic carbine rifles.

So far, eight Sooke officers have been trained with the weapon, said Sooke RCMP Staff Sgt. Jeff McArthur.

“We have more than half the staff trained on [the carbine] so it’s going better than expected,” McArthur said, adding the detachment recently bought another carbine. Each gun costs $4,000.

The nationwide RCMP push to better equip its forces comes in wake of the deadly 2014 Moncton police shootout with Justin Bourque, who fatally gunned down three police officers and wounded two others using high-powered assault rifles.

Equipped with only pistols and shotguns, the incident showed the RCMP that its officers were terribly outgunned when dealing with such a threat.

McArthur told Sooke council last week the goal is to have a carbine in every police cruiser.

Though admittedly necessary, Mayor Maja Tait expressed concern over the need for carbines in Sooke.

“I’m just surprised that such high-powered equipment is needed in our community, or anywhere. [The carbine] is an aggressive piece of equipment,” she said. “I suppose it’s one of those things that you train on, you maintain, and thankfully never have to use.”

McArthur said it was better to have RCMP officers equipped and ready to go then not having them at all.

“I know that your opinion would change tomorrow if we needed to put it into action, but right now when it’s not needed, there’s always those questions,” he said. “Do you want a police force that’s unable to handle a potential threat, or one that’s ready?”

The RCMP carbine, also known as a machine gun or assault rifle, is a variant of the Colt C8, the Canadian cousin of the American Colt M4 carbine, used by law enforcement agencies, military personnel and special forces.

Unlike the military-bound C8, however, which is fully automatic and used in the Canadian Armed Forces, police C8’s are semi-automatic (single-shot or short-round-bursts). A carbine can hold anywhere between 10 and 30 rounds per magazine, depending on model, while light machine guns can hold 200 rounds or more.

Sooke is no stranger to machine guns or assault rifles.

Last year, a drive-by-shooting left two people in hospital and led to a week-long manhunt across Vancouver Island, while in another incident, individuals were caught “practice shooting” semi-automatic weapons in Otter Point near a residential area.

Mounties also seized numerous illegal assault rifles during several drug busts both in Sooke and the Greater Victoria area in the last year.

Regardless of their application, RCMP-bound carbines will not be in the public eye, McArthur added.

“You won’t see us packing them into the Stick in the Mud, unless their price of coffee goes up substantially,” he laughed.