HIGH RIVER, Alberta, June 28 (UPI) -- The Royal Canadian Mounted Police should return hundreds of guns they confiscated from flood victims' homes in Alberta, the prime minister's office said Friday.
The office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement saying the Mounties should focus on "more important" matters than seizing guns they said they found improperly stored while searching for people in the flood evacuation zone, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.
"If any firearms were taken, we expect they will be returned to their owners as soon as possible," the statement from Harper's office said. "We believe the RCMP should focus on more important tasks such as protecting lives and private property."
The CBC said RCMP had no comment on the statement from the prime minister's office.
A spokesman for the High River detachment said the Mounties acted in the interest of public safety.
"When RCMP officers were going door-to-door searching each residence for potential victims, we did come across a couple of residences where there were some firearms that were left insecure," Cpl. Darrin Turnbull told the CBC. "In those situations, when they were out in plain view and they were not properly secured and stored, those firearms were taken by the RCMP member and safely secured in the High River detachment."
He said the owners can get their guns back once they are allowed back in their homes.
He said he didn't know exactly how many weapons were seized, but RCMP Inspector Gerrett Woolsey told reporters Friday in High River several hundred guns had been taken over a period of several days.
He said the same thing was done during a 2011 wildfire in Slave Lake.
Garrett said it appeared High River residents had taken their firearms out of storage with the intention of taking them to higher ground, but left them behind as they fled their homes.