Lax U.S. gun laws help establish pipeline to Hamilton
Ohio, Michigan touted as source of guns used in crimes
Ohio and Michigan have historically been sources for crime guns used in Hamilton, but it’s too early to know if the firearms used in a recent spate of shootings follow that trend.
Following up on comments he made at Thursday’s meeting of the police services board, Chief Eric Girt says he can’t talk specifically about the 10 shootings that have played out here in the last month because the investigations are ongoing and because he can’t reveal “intelligence information.”
But he says “in previous years,” Ohio and Michigan have been starting points for guns that have wound up seized by police in Hamilton.
Girt told the board most of the illegal guns here are handguns and Hamilton police have traced them to learn where they came from.
He mentioned Ohio to the board, but in an interview Friday, told The Spectator that Michigan is also a hot spot.
We’ve had 13 shootings in Hamilton so far this year, with 10 taking place in the past month. Most have been targeted home invasions that police say are nearly all drug related.
Another, likely in a league of its own, was the fatal daylight “hit” on mobster Angelo Musitano in the driveway of his Waterdown house on May 2.
A 2013 Toronto Star investigation into gun running listed Michigan as the top source state for Ontario crime guns, with 69 coming from there in 2011. Third on the list was Ohio with 41. Florida was second with 56. Those states, where gun shows are prolific, have lax firearms laws making it easy and quick to purchase handguns. And all three provide a fast route to Canada along the I-75 through to Windsor.
By contrast, gun laws are much tighter in New York State, making it difficult for Canadians to illegally import firearms from there.
Some of the American guns that do wind up here may be purchased legally in the United States and smuggled over the border to be sold illegally for profit. Handguns smuggled into Ontario can fetch up to 10 times their original price, the Toronto Star reported. Or guns may make their way north of the border after being purchased through private sales with no background checks or paperwork involved.
“The problem in Ohio is the second-hand gun shows where you can procure guns without showing identification,” says Christian Leuprecht, a Queen’s University and Royal Military College of Canada political science professor who studies gun smuggling.
He says there is a “long track record” of Ohio being a major provider of guns to Canada. When the so-called “Toronto 18” were arrested for plotting terrorism attacks in southern Ontario, two of the accused had firearms from Ohio.
Most of the crime guns found in Hamilton via the U.S. are stolen from legitimate gun owners during break-ins, Supt. Ryan Diodati told reporters after this week’s police board meeting.
Smuggling guns from the U.S. to Canada need not be a sophisticated effort. In 2014, Leuprecht wrote in a study he co-authored with Andrew Aulthouse of Queen’s University that: “Since guns, in contrast to drugs, are available legally in the United States … we expect to find a proliferation of relatively simple networks.”
News stories have described guns being found hidden behind side panels and inside stereos of cars crossing the border into Canada.
The study points out that “drugs and guns often go hand in hand … The competitive nature of the drug trade fuels violence between criminal groups, which drives up demand for firearms.” It’s an observation that seems to mesh with Hamilton police linking many of the local shootings to drugs.
The problem in Ohio is the second-hand gun shows where you can procure guns without showing identification. CHRISTIAN LEUPRECHT POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR WHO STUDIES GUN SMUGGLING
— with files from Nicole O’Reilly Susan Clairmont’s commentary appears regularly in The Spectator. email@example.com 905-526-3539 | @susanclairmont