EDMONTON - The RCMP will spend at least $1 million to add more high-powered guns to its arsenal, a move recommended after four Mounties were shot to death six years ago in Alberta.
The C8 patrol carbine — a version of a rifle similar to an M-16 — is now used by the army and police tactical squads, including the RCMP's emergency response teams, and other police agencies.
By the end of next year, it will also be made available to front-line RCMP members.
Departing RCMP Commissioner William Elliot told Mounties in a memo earlier this week the C8 will fill "gaps in our operational firearms capabilities."
Insp. Troy Lightfoot with the force's criminal operations branch in Ottawa confirmed Friday that about 375 of the guns, each costing at least $2,800, will initially be ordered. Instructor training on the weapons is set to begin next summer.
In comparison to other high-powered weapons, the carbine is more accurate and fires more bullets with less penetrating power, thus reducing the chance of someone else being hit.
Lightfoot, who was at the RCMP's training depot in Regina on Friday, said the C8 won't replace other weapons the force uses, including pistols, .308-calibre rifles and shotguns.
The carbines will be distributed among the country's detachments after a risk assessment determines the need in each location. "Risk will be different in every detachment," he said.
Lightfoot added that several factors went into the decision to purchase the guns, including an increase in calls dealing with firearms and high-powered weapons. Some of those calls have involved officer deaths, the most notable near Mayerthorpe in 2005.
"Mayerthorpe has definitely weighed into our decision."
Constables Anthony Gordon, Leo Johnston, Brock Myrol and Peter Schiemann died after they were shot with high-powered bullets from a semi-automatic military assault rifle.
They had been guarding a marijuana grow-op and stolen parts cache in a Quonset hut on the farm of James Roszko. Roszko was hiding in the metal shed and ambushed the officers. He shot himself after he was wounded by another Mountie.
An inquiry earlier this year into the deaths was told that officers who surrounded the shed after the shootings needed more weapons. They had to ask to borrow rifles from neighbours because the local detachment had just one long-barrelled gun.
Myrol's father, Warren, told the inquiry that Mounties in the field have to have the weapons they need and suggested a minimum of three rifles and two high-powered rifles in every detachment.
"(Politicians) must make sure every police force has the right weapon for the right job available," he said. "They shouldn't have to wait for the community to bring them a weapon."
Alberta provincial court Judge Daniel Pahl said in his report that the RCMP was "heavily outgunned" by Roszko and recommended the force improve access to long-barrelled weapons and carbines.
Pahl also strongly endorsed development of better body armour for officers. Earlier this year, the RCMP announced 6,800 new and improved bulletproof vests would be delivered to detachments by April 1, 2013.