Feds reach limits on gun trace control

Federal agencies are trying to boost efforts to trace the origins of weapons used in crimes, but it appears jurisdictional hurdles may prevent the measures from going as far as some would like.

The federal government says the RCMP has introduced a new mandatory tracing policy, which means that where the Mounties are the police of jurisdiction, seized illegal weapons will automatically be sent to the RCMP’s national firearms tracing center. strength.

The House of Commons public safety committee and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have called on the government to require that all firearms recovered during police investigations across the country, not just the RCMP, be submit for tracking.

The most recent figures indicate that only a small fraction of the tens of thousands of criminal weapons recovered each year are being traced.

In a recently issued response to the public safety committee’s April report on reducing gun and gang violence, the government says tracing is a key tool in determining the sources of illicit firearms.

The RCMP National Tracing Center traces the movement of a gun from its manufacture or import into Canada, through the hands of wholesalers and retailers, to identify the last known legitimate owner or business. The center works with partners, including the Ontario Firearms Testing and Tracing Compliance program.

Tracing can also help determine if a gun was smuggled into Canada or came from a domestic source.

Ottawa has earmarked $15 million over five years, beginning in 2021-22, and $3.3 million ongoing, to increase the RCMP’s ability to track firearms and identify movement patterns, as well as support the development of a new national tracking database.

The federal center traced more than 2,140 firearms in 2020, and the Commons committee was told the new funding could triple tracing capacity.

The money will also go towards persuading police of the strategic benefits of tracking down criminal investigations. The federal response adds that the RCMP will be “actively supporting” police chiefs and partner agencies in furthering the committee’s recommendation that all law enforcement agencies submit seized firearms for tracing.

The feds fall short of mandatory national firearm tracing, citing provincial control. #CDNPoli #GunControl #GunTracing

But the government stops short of committing to making tracing all murder weapons a requirement.

When asked about the government’s intentions, the office of Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino said that while the RCMP has a new mandatory tracing policy, “the issue of weapons seized by other police services (falls) under provincial jurisdiction.

In their July resolution calling for full tracing, police chiefs cited the lack of robust data for regions other than Ontario to help understand the paths firearms take, adding that tracing’s effectiveness as a police intelligence “depends on the quality of the information”. collected” and appropriate follow-up investigations.

RCMP Deputy Commissioner Stephen White told the Commons committee that “we would need to do more monitoring on a larger scale to get a very good idea of ​​patterns and trends.”

Gun control advocacy group PolySeSouvient said there is a general consensus that criminal weapons need to be traced. “Unfortunately, there is no comparable consensus regarding the tools necessary to enable effective tracing.”

While tracing smuggled guns typically starts with U.S. manufacturers, tracing ownership of guns originating in Canada requires sales records and universal registration, said the group, which includes students and graduates from Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal. , where 14 women were shot to death in 1989.

Canada had such measures in place until the Conservative government of Stephen Harper ended the federal registration of long guns and removed mandatory sales records, PolySeSouvient noted.

“While the Liberal government recently reinstated commercial sales registrations, both Conservatives and Liberals oppose bringing back universal registration.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 23, 2022.

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