Lax U.S. gun laws help es­tab­lish pipe­line to Hamil­ton

Ohio, Michi­gan touted as source of guns used in crimes

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - SUSAN CLAIRMONT

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. sclair­mont@thes­ 905-526-3539 | @su­san­clair­mont

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