B.C. to create dedicated unit to tackle firearms trafficking
Published Monday, November 27, 2017 3:12PM PST
Last Updated Monday, November 27, 2017 7:33PM PST
The B.C. government says it will create an "intelligence-led firearms trafficking team" after a report found that thousands of illegal guns are circulating in the province.
In a statement issued Monday, the government said the new team will fall under the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU-BC), the province’s anti-gang agency, and conduct investigations into domestic and international firearms trafficking in a bid to cut off B.C.'s illegal gun supply at its source.
"The removal of crime guns from our streets is a priority for the CFSEU-BC,” assistant commissioner Kevin Hackett said in the release.
“Not only do these weapons, in the hands of gang members and organized crime groups, put the public and our communities at risk, but they are used to further support the criminal activity that these individuals are involved in on a daily basis.”
The gun control strategy is among 37 recommendations made by the B.C. Illegal Firearms Task Force (IFTF), four of which the province said it will "immediately begin work on."
In a report released Monday, the task force also suggested the province press the federal government to deliver B.C.'s share of a $326.7 million national fund to fight guns and gangs.
The province will also work to establish a firearms intelligence hub to "compile and analyze data that builds a comprehensive intelligence picture related to illegal firearms."
"Ongoing threats to public safety in British Columbia caused by the use of illegal firearms, from targeted gang shootings in public places to people using vehicles for shootouts on our city streets, have made citizens in our communities feel unsafe,” Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said in the statement.
“This report zeroes in on some useful strategies to help us combat these crimes and make B.C. communities safer.”
The IFTF was established in 2016 by the province's previous Liberal government amid growing concern over public shootings, primarily in the Lower Mainland.
In 2015 alone, authorities seized more than 3,000 firearms during about 2,000 incidents involving guns.
That year, B.C. saw its highest number of gun-related deaths since 2008. Canadian border guards seized 214 guns from the U.S. border, 84 more than in 2014.
According to the study, more than 60 per cent of illegal guns seized by B.C. law enforcement over the past three years were stolen, traded or bought within Canada, challenging the commonly held belief that a majority of these weapons come from abroad.
In order to mitigate the threat posed by these weapons, the IFTF suggested the province start seizing driver's licences and vehicles linked to organized crime and illegal guns.
“The task force members met with key stakeholders and subject-matter experts, held community roundtables, and examined provincial and federal firearms legislation and current prevention and enforcement strategies,” said Wayne Rideout, task-force lead and recently retired RCMP assistant commissioner.
The task force is also pushing for the expansion of community education and safety programs as well as Bar Watch, an initiative designed to identify bar and club patrons with violent or criminal tendencies.
The report also calls for age restrictions on the purchase of imitation weapons that often spark security concerns in schools and other public places.
Provincial and federals governments should work together to include aftermarket gun components used to build untraceable weapons in the Criminal Code's definition of a firearm, the authors wrote.
With files from The Canadian Press