Federal gun strategy will not work without border suppression, experts say


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised Thursday to enact a gun ban in the coming days – but experts say the plan must be combined with aggressive border action if the government is to have any hope of slowing the flow of illegal firearms in this country.

The government’s ban on firearms should include a buyout program to compensate legal owners. The money spent on this program will be several million dollars more than the amount the government has set aside for border improvements to intercept firearms.

The RCMP have confirmed that the Nova Scotia shooter used firearms obtained illegally in Canada and from American sources to commit his crimes.

Eyewitnesses said he used a number of weapons during his murderous outburst, including a kind of long-barreled rifle and a handgun.

Illegal smuggling over the Canada-United States border is the source of countless thousands of firearms floating across the country. The United States is the source of 70 to 99 percent of the firearms – mostly handguns – used here to commit crimes, depending on the municipality where the crimes are committed.

The number of domestic firearms has increased in recent years, but experts agree that closing the US pipeline is vital.

For years, politicians have promised to better monitor the porous border for weapons – but the number of intercepted firearms remains low compared to the number believed to exist in Canada.

It is estimated that 8-11 million private firearms are in circulation. Border guards intercept a small fraction of this amount each year.

According to data provided to the CBC, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) seized 647 firearms of all makes and models last year. This number has decreased over the past three years.

Meanwhile, border guards confiscated some 13,000 “prohibited weapons” in 2019 – items like knife blades, brass knuckles, nunchucks, and pepper spray.

The number of firearms seized at the border is even lower in Atlantic Canada. In this region, only 20 firearms were taken from border travelers in 2019, a small increase from the 17 that were confiscated in 2018.

It is impossible to know how many firearms illegally cross the border each year, which escapes CBSA guards.

Some of the firearms that the CBSA has seized are brought here by unsuspecting Americans who do not know the protocol for bringing a firearm to Canada. Canadians must be licensed and foreigners must have the necessary documents before they can bring a shotgun, for example.

Solomon Friedman, a Ottawa criminal defense lawyer and a Firearms Act expert, said the number of handguns entering the country is “considerably higher” than the number that CBSA intercepts.

He said it was easier to catch an armed American on the way to a hunting lodge than a sophisticated smuggler.

“How many people who have smuggled handguns into Canada have been captured?” Not a lot. These are very difficult investigations, “Friedman told CBC News.

Smugglers have become creative in avoiding interception – by hiding handguns in gas tanks, for example, or (in a bizarre case) using a public library that straddles the Quebec-Vermont border with contraband guns .

I always say that effective gun control is important, but the theater of gun control is worthless.– Solomon Friedman

Friedman said other legislative or regulatory changes are unlikely to deter smugglers or buyers like the Nova Scotia shooter. What is needed, he says, is more border action.

“I always say that effective gun control is important, but the theater of gun control has no value. If we don’t really target the sources of these guns or the causes of these offenses, this is a pretty futile exercise, “said Friedman.

“The evidence is clear – criminals are not deterred by new offenses or tougher sentences. In the most recent tragedy, he is ready to commit the most serious offense in our penal code – which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison – so how could additional regulation deter or prevent this behavior ? He said, speaking of the 22 murders committed by the Nova Scotia shooter in a 12-hour period.

“Instead, we need to increase our resources at the borders. This is what the CBSA should do. “

Gary Mauser is Professor Emeritus at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and an advocate for firearms rights. He has long argued for new gun control measures, which he calls futile.

He says gang-related crimes, perpetrated by American guns, are the source of most gun violence in Canada – but stopping the flow could be difficult.

“Smuggling is almost impossible to stop because the Canada-US border is one of the busiest in the world,” said Mauser. “The CBSA cannot verify the many millions of shipments that cross the border every day.

“As long as the drug crime is profitable, criminals will actively bring in illegal firearms. Obviously, legislation controlling the actions of law-abiding people cannot affect this. “

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says more information on gun control legislation to ban military-style assault rifles is expected in the coming days. 1:03

The government’s proposed ban on “military-style” assault rifles will include some sort of buy-back program to compensate owners of these firearms when they are finally banned.

The cost of this program was set at $ 250 million, but Friedman said he suspected it would be several times that amount, given that there were tens of thousands of what you might call “assault-type” firearms in circulation.

Meanwhile, the federal Liberal government has committed only $ 87 million over five years for detection dogs, X-ray technology, ballistic tests and other measures to quell the rise in gun violence.

The federal Liberal government says this work is an “absolute priority”.

“The funds allocated to the CBSA are used to develop programs that help prevent the illegal smuggling of firearms into our country,” said a spokesperson for Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair.

Friedman said it’s not just about “throwing money at the problem.”

He said Canada should enter into joint agreements with the United States to better control purchases of “straw” in border states – the bulk purchase of firearms with the intent to resell – and d ” Improve information sharing between the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). and the RCMP.

“Some of these things could be pretty cheap. They just demand that we do things differently than we have done in the past, ”said Solomon.

The Conservatives in Parliament have supported this kind of enforcement plan. Outgoing party leader Andrew Scheer presented a special CBSA task force during the last election campaign, as opposed to a gun ban.

Pierre Paul-Hus, the public safety critic for the Conservative Party, said the government was using “the immediate emotion of this tragedy” to implement major policy changes.

“Conservatives want to see plan that includes support for police anti-gang and firearms units, a CBSA firearms trafficking task force and increased access to mental health treatment and addiction fighting, “said Paul-Hus.


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