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Marco Mendicino Says Majority of Illegal Guns in Canada Come From the US

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Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said law enforcement officers seized 11,000 illegal guns at the Canada–U.S. border last year, admitting that the majority of guns used in crime in Canada originate from the United States.

In an interview with Global News’ The West Block on April 30, Mendicino was asked how many crime guns originate in Canada—those that belong to legal gun owners or are stolen from legal gun owners—and how many are coming across the border from the United States.

Mendicino responded, “It’ll depend on who you speak with, but I would agree that the majority do come from the United States.”

“You could take statistics that range anywhere between 50 to 75 percent. There are some who say that that number is even higher,” he said.

Mendicino said the federal government is using new technology and wiretapping to go after ghost guns, such as firearms printed using a 3D printer. Mendicino said the federal government “put in place a national ban on assault style firearms.”

“There are AR-15 style firearms that have been used in shooting tragedies like in Portapique, in Truro,” said Mendicino.

Mercedes Stephenson, host of The West Block, challenged Mendicino on his statement, saying, “Just to be clear, in Portapique, those guns were smuggled in from the United States, though.”

Mendicino responded: “Which is why the first item that we just discussed is another show of our commitment to strengthen our work at the border. But coming back to the buyback program. You can ban them, but you’ve also got to make sure that you remove them from our communities.”

Epoch Times Photo
A gun store employee shows a customer an AR-style weapon at Lawful Defense in Gainesville, Fla., on April 19, 2023. AR stands for the ArmaLite rifle brand and the guns styled like it, and not “assault rifle,” as commonly believed. (Nanette Holt/The Epoch Times)

Portapique Shooting

The public safety minister’s reference to Portapique was the mass shooting in Nova Scotia in April 2020. The shooter, Gabriel Wortman, was not a legal, licensed firearms owner, and killed 22 people with illegal guns.

Wortman was in possession of a semi-automatic rifle called the Colt Law Enforcement M4 Carbine, two handguns—a Glock semi-automatic pistol and a Ruger P89 semi-automatic pistol—and Sturm Ruger Mini-14, which is a semi-automatic rifle with a wooden stock, also known as the “ranch rifle.”

All of the guns were illegally obtained, and three of the guns were smuggled into Canada from the United States. As he was not licensed, he was not entitled to legally possess or own the guns. Wortman also had the government-issued weapon belonging to an RCMP constable he killed during his shooting spree.

The RCMP later said the killer obtained one of the firearms from the estate of a friend who died, and all of the pistols were restricted at the time of the shooting, meaning they were already illegal.

It was later discovered that Wortman crossed the border regularly to the United States to buy over-capacity ammunition boxes, meaning magazines that could hold more than the Canadian legislated limit of bullet rounds.

Federal Gun Ban

The public safety minister said that with the “cooperation of gun business owners,” the federal government was going to “get those first 11,000 assault-style firearms off our streets and out of our communities.”

Mendicino said the Liberal government is “strengthening our borders to stop the illegal flow of gun smuggling into our country.”

“In the last couple of years, the RCMP have increased their capacity to trace illegal guns by 250 percent,” the public safety minister added.

In a July 7, 2022, article by Reuters titled “In fighting gun crime, Canada has an American problem,” the media outlet said Canadian police chiefs complained that the government’s domestic policies to fight gun crime, such as the Liberals’ handgun freeze, was limited by having “the world’s largest civilian gun market on its doorstep.”

Reuters quoted Regina, Saskatchewan Chief of Police Evan Bray, who said, “We really think that restricting lawful handgun ownership doesn’t meaningfully address the real issue, which is illegal handguns obtained from the United States.”

Reuters said it obtained exclusive data for Ontario, Canada’s most highly populated province. When handguns involved in crimes were traced in 2021, they were overwhelmingly—as in 85 percent of the time—found to have come from the United States, Reuters reported.

Epoch Times Photo
“Ghost guns” seized in federal law enforcement actions are displayed at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) field office in Glendale, Calif., on April 18, 2022. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

Gun Tracing

Reuters cited data from the Ontario Police’s Firearms Analysis and Tracing Enforcement (FATE) program, which found that 70 percent of all traced guns used in crimes in Ontario came from the United States. Police can only trace guns if the serial numbers have not been removed.

Mendicino told Reuters last year that the federal government “came to the judgement that a national handgun freeze would be the fastest and most effective way” to reverse a rising firearm homicide rate.

Reuters quoted Toronto Police Detective Sergeant Andrew Steinwall, who said trying to stop gun smuggling into Canada was an “unwinnable fight.”

“We don’t have the resources to seize every gun in this country that’s come in illegally,” he said.

Federal records show that the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) seized over 1,200 firearms at the border in 2021, which is more than double the number seized in 2020. In CBSA’s 2021 “Year In Review” report, the agency said that, between January and November of 2021, it carried out almost 340 gun seizures and confiscated a total of 908 firearms—316 of which were handguns and 125 were semi-automatic pistols.

In a Nov. 10, 2022, Public Safety briefing note, “Efforts to Address Firearms Smuggling and Trafficking,” the federal government said it did not know how many guns are illegally brought into Canada across the border. “The total number of firearms successfully smuggled into Canada is unknown,” said the note.

Confiscated firearms
Firearms confiscated at the Windsor border are displayed at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) point of entry at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario, on June 28, 2022. (Emily Elconin/Reuters)

Organized Crime

In December 2022, Toronto police announced they had completed an eight-month investigation into an armed organized crime group involved in illegal gun trafficking, and laid 260 criminal charges.

Police seized 62 illegal firearms, including five AR-15 semi-automatic carbine-style rifles, three AK-style firearms, one of which was loaded with 61 rounds of 7.62 ammunition, 51 Glock-style semi-automatic handguns, 31 magazines, and assorted ammunition.

“Every one of these guns was destined for our streets; our communities,” said Police Chief James Ramer in a Dec. 5 release.

Of the 62 firearms seized in the investigation dubbed “Project Barbell,” four AR-15-type guns had no serial numbers and were untraceable. Fifty-eight were traced, and of those, 57 were traced to the United States, specifically Arizona and Texas. One firearm was traced back to Ontario and found to be a stolen gun from a break-and-enter crime in 2021.

Superintendent Steve Watts, with the organized crime unit, said at a December 2022 press conference that the arrests and gun seizure speak to “our border integrity and the flow of illegal crime guns coming up from the United States.”

Watts said that none of the guns seized were legally purchased in Canada. They were all illegal guns, smuggled over the border into Canada for profit. Watts said criminals can purchase a Glock handgun in the United States, regardless of model, for less than $1,000. They illegally smuggle it into Canada and sell it for $6,000, he said.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre reacted to the news of the arrests at the time, saying on Twitter that the federal government should “put resources into keeping illegal US guns out, rather than banning rifles used by our hunters.”

In response to opposition from hunters, politicians, indigenous groups, and industry members, the federal government on May 1 announced a revised plan for its gun ban under Bill C-21, which Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said will ban certain types of “AR-15 style” firearms after the legislation comes into effect. The Liberals’ national handgun freeze would remain in place.

At a news conference on Parliament Hill on May 1, Mendicino said the Liberals will “protect families” by banning AR-15 “assault-style” guns and will introduce new amendments to Bill C-21, a gun control act, to “take action against large capacity magazines, which can be fed into a gun and turn it into a mass shooter.”

Mendicino told The West Block that once the government gets “assault style firearms” out of communities, “then after that, we’re going to roll out our program, which will focus on individual gun owners.”

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