It’s a myth that most guns used to commit crimes in B.C. are smuggled across the border from the United States, a new report shows.
A provincial task force on illegal firearms says the majority of guns used in criminal acts come from Canada, and it’s calling for new laws to better track gun sales in this country.
The task force cites data from the national weapons enforcement support team that shows that, over the past three years in B.C., 60 per cent of crime guns came from Canada.
The trend is attributed to gun laws in states such as Washington and Oregon that require sellers to keep records of gun purchases — something that doesn’t exist in Canada.
“Unlike many American states, sellers need not keep any records of sales of non-restricted firearms,” the task force says in its report.
“Purchasers can resell, trade or give away a firearm without keeping records. Without sales records, crime investigators often cannot trace the ownership of crime guns, even when gun registration numbers allow them to trace their manufacture and shipping to an individual retailer.”
In some cases, a person without a criminal record buys a gun legally and then passes it to someone who is unable to obtain a firearm acquisition licence. The task force says such “straw purchasers” will then falsely report the weapon stolen if it becomes the target of an investigation.
“The national weapons enforcement support team reports an increase in the number of legally purchased firearms that were diverted to the illicit market,” the task force says. “Many have been recovered in criminal investigations.”
The task force calls on the B.C. government to push for federal legislation, or adopt its own, to require businesses and dealers to keep point-of-sale records of people purchasing non-restricted firearms. The records could be made available to police on a case-by-case basis.
“Point-of-sale record keeping would help link straw purchasers and illegal firearms traffickers to crime guns,” the report says.
“It would also close an intelligence gap and assist investigations by creating opportunities to trace firearms, identify illegal traffickers and focus strategic intelligence.”
The B.C. government said it’s examining all the recommendations in the 130-page report from the task force, led by retired RCMP assistant commissioner Wayne Rideout.
Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said the report will form part of the government’s multi-pronged strategy to tackle gun and gang violence.
He said the province will immediately act on the recommendation to establish an illegal firearms trafficking team and create a centralized office to compile and analyze information on illegal firearms.