The Feds are giving up on tracking criminal firearms nationally, citing state control RS News

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RS News

OTTAWA – Government agencies are trying to step up efforts to trace the origins of firearms used in crime, but it appears federal obstacles may prevent the efforts from going the way some would like.

The federal government says the RCMP has introduced a new mandatory tracking policy, meaning that in areas where the mountains are state police, illegal firearms seized will automatically be sent to the force’s national firearms tracking center.

The House of Commons committee on public safety and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have called on the government to make it a requirement that all crime firearms found during investigations by police across the country – not just the RCMP – be submitted for prosecution.

Recent statistics show only a small fraction of the tens of thousands of criminal firearms recovered each year are tracked.

In a recently released response to the public safety committee’s April report on reducing gun and gang violence, the government says trace tracking is an important tool in finding the sources of illegal firearms.

The RCMP’s national tracking center tracks the movement of a firearm from its manufacture or import into Canada, through the hands of wholesalers and retailers, to the last known legal owner or business. The agency works with partners including the Firearms Analysis and Verification Program in Ontario.

Traceability can help determine whether a firearm was smuggled into Canada or came from a domestic source.

Ottawa committed $15 million over five years, starting 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 government agency tracked more than 2,140 firearms in 2020, and a Commons committee was told new funding could triple the volume of tracking.

The money will also focus on persuading the police about the strategic benefits of pursuing criminal investigations. The federal response added that the RCMP will “continue to support” police chiefs and their partner agencies to pursue the committee’s recommendation that all police agencies submit seized firearms for enforcement.

But the government is backtracking on a pledge to make searches for all crime-ridden guns mandatory.

Asked about the government’s intentions, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino’s office said that while the RCMP has a new tracking policy, “the issue of firearms seized by other police services (falls) under the jurisdiction of the province.”

In its July decision calling for full tracking, police chiefs cited a lack of robust regional data outside of Ontario to help understand the paths taken by firearms crime, adding the effectiveness of tracking as a police intelligence tool “depends on the quality of the information. collected” and appropriate follow-up investigations.

RCMP Deputy Commissioner Stephen White told the Commons committee “we will need more large-scale tracking to get a better understanding of the patterns and mechanisms.”

The gun control group PolySeSouvient said there is a consensus to follow the trail of crime guns. “Unfortunately, there is no comparable consensus on the tools needed to enable effective tracking.”

While tracking smuggled firearms often starts with American manufacturers, tracking the ownership of weapons originating in Canada requires sales and registration records across the board, said the group, which includes students and graduates of Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique, where 14 women were shot in 1989.

Canada had those measures in place until Stephen Harper’s Conservative government ended the registration of long guns and removed mandatory sales records, notes PolySeSouvient.

“Although the Liberal government has recently restored commercial sales records, the Conservatives and Liberals are opposed to restoring universal registration.”

This Canadian Press report was originally published on September 23, 2022.

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