Truth is, we don’t know where the guns come from

PressReader - Tke Channel - Truth is, we don’t know where the guns come from
It is now widely ac­cepted as gospel that about half of the so-called “crime guns” used in Canada come from do­mes­tic sources, in other words, are ei­ther stolen from le­gal own­ers in breakins or traf­ficked by them for profit to crim­i­nals.Big-city may­ors and po­lice chiefs cite the wis­dom ca­su­ally, as though the statis­tic was un­touch­able.For in­stance, Toronto Mayor John Tory re­cently wrote in a piece for the Toronto Sun that while at one time, the United States was “the over­whelm­ing source of il­le­gal guns” in the city, “now those numbers have shifted with around 50 per cent of the guns com­ing from right here in Canada.”Fed­eral Pub­lic Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale re­cently told a guns and gangs sum­mit some­thing sim­i­lar and tweeted, “With so many crime guns com­ing from le­git­i­mate do­mes­tic sources, we need ef­fec­tive firearm mea­sures.”And as far back as 2016, Toronto po­lice Chief Mark Saun­ders told a meet­ing of the Toronto Star editorial board, “Most of the firearms are com­ing from Canada, into bad guys’ hands.” About the same time, a Star re­porter also had ob­tained an in­ter­nal po­lice memo be­moan­ing the fact that once some­one has a fed­eral Pos­ses­sion and Ac­qui­si­tion Li­cence (PAL), he or she “can buy as many guns as they want.”Toronto city coun­cil, in the wake of the Dan­forth shoot­ings last month, voted over­whelm­ingly to ban the sale of hand­guns and hand­gun am­mu­ni­tion within the city lim­its; Mon­treal city coun­cil is next week set to de­bate a mo­tion call­ing for a na­tion­wide ban on hand­guns and as­sault weapons.Alas and alack, no one, in­clud­ing the afore­men­tioned pub­lic fig­ures, knows any­thing like this, as Evan Dyer wrote last week for CBC News.Dyer set out to trace the source of the new con­ven­tional wis­dom, track­ing it back to an RCMP in­spec­tor in Van­cou­ver, who had told the Van­cou­ver Sun, also in 2016, that “the ma­jor­ity of gun­re­lated crimes in our com­mu­ni­ties are com­mit­ted with guns that are do­mes­ti­cally sourced.”But when Dyer con­tacted the Cana­dian Firearms Program and asked for the sup­port­ing data, the RCMP replied that no such data ex­ists.In­stead, the force told Dyer in a state­ment that the in­spec­tor would have been us­ing in­for­ma­tion he had at the time. “How­ever, this in­for­ma­tion would not have pro­vided a com­plete, na­tional pic­ture of the sources of crime guns, as no such data ex­ists.”The prob­lem on a na­tional level is a lack of ac­tual data, col­lected in the same man­ner and us­ing the same def­i­ni­tions.What Toronto po­lice and the RCMP know is that where they can de­ter­mine the source of a crime gun, there’s a roughly 50-50 split be­tween guns from the U.S. and guns from within Canada.The dif­fi­culty is that po­lice can usu­ally trace — at best — less than half of crime guns.On av­er­age, Toronto spokes­woman Meaghan Grey told the Na­tional Post in an email Wed­nes­day, “in­ves­ti­ga­tors are able to de­ter­mine the source of about half (46 per cent).”That’s in part be­cause non­reg­u­lated items such as air guns and starter pis­tols, though still con­sid­ered crime guns, can’t be traced, and in part be­cause nei­ther can firearms with no se­rial numbers.Last year, for in­stance, Toronto po­lice seized a to­tal of 726 crime guns, but was able to source only 328 of them. Of those, 180 came from the U.S., and 148 from within Canada.In 2016, of 516 seized crime guns, 99 orig­i­nated in the U.S., 107 in Canada.But that leaves, re­spec­tively for 2017 and 2016, 398 and 310 crime guns un­sourced, ori­gin un­known.As Dennis Young, a for­mer Moun­tie and ad­vo­cate for le­gal gun own­ers, found, the same holds true for the RCMP sta­tis­tics.Last June, a year af­ter he’d made an Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest, he fi­nally got some numbers from the Cana­dian Firearms Program, con­tained in a 2014 an­nual re­port for the four western prov­inces and three ter­ri­to­ries.As­ton­ish­ingly, the re­port also says in the ex­ec­u­tive sum­mary that “con­trary to pop­u­lar per­cep­tion, the ma­jor­ity of crime guns — re­stricted, non-re­stricted and oth­er­wise — were do­mes­ti­cally sourced rather than smug­gled.”And yet, much deeper along in the same re­port, is the telling qual­i­fier: Of the 783 crime gun “trace re­quests” made in those western and north­ern ju­ris­dic­tions in 2014, only 229 “were suc­cess­fully traced.”And yes, of those which were traced, the split was about 50-50 U.S./Cana­dian. But that does not trans­late to half the guns that are used in crimes orig­i­nat­ing from within this coun­try’s bor­ders.As Young told the CBC’s Dyer: “Ac­cu­rate sta­tis­tics should be col­lected by the Cana­dian Firearms Cen­tre and they’re not. And those sta­tis­tics should be ver­i­fied and re­ported by Sta­tis­tics Canada, and they’re not.”Pretty sim­ple. Speak­ing of sim­ple: Twice in re­cent col­umns, I have dis­tin­guished my­self with spec­tac­u­lar er­rors. In one, I de­scribed Marathon, Ont., as be­ing north­east of Toronto; it is mostly north but also west. (I made this goof while look­ing at a map.) In an­other, I de­scribed Ja­panese-Cana­di­ans as hav­ing been “in­terred” dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. In fact, they were in­terned in camps, which was quite bad enough. Mea culpa. I am a well-known id­iot.

The prob­lem on a na­tional level is a lack of ac­tual data on crime gun ori­gins, col­lected in the same man­ner and us­ing the same def­i­ni­tions, Christie Blatchford writes.

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