The number of guns seized at the Canada-U.S. border have increased steadily over the last four years, statistics provided by the Canada Border Services Agency show.
The count of total firearms seized and the number of total seizures (which can involve multiple firearms) all rose between 2011 and 2016.
Total seizures were up 42 per cent over the four-year period, and seizures of individual guns up 18 per cent.
Over the same period, Toronto has seen an alarming rise in gun crime – in 2016 to date Toronto has had about twice as many shooting incidents, and about twice as many gunshot victims, as at this point in 2013.
Recent shootings have killed or wounded innocent bystanders. Late Friday night, a 10-year-old boy in the city’s east end was shot and wounded in his sleep. He is expected to make a full recovery.
WATCH: Sat, Jun 4: A 10-year-old boy was taken to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries after a shooting at an east-end Toronto townhouse complex.
A drive-by shooting in Edmonton on May 27 was that city’s 23rd homicide of the year; at this time last year, there had been nine homicides in Edmonton.
Toronto police estimate that about two-thirds of the city’s crime guns were smuggled from the United States (the rest were legally owned in Canada and stolen).
“There’s a significant markup for firearms, particularly handguns,” explains University of Toronto professor Jooyoung Lee, an expert on gun violence. “Like any kind of illicit underground economy, people are in it to make money.”
“Handguns are transportable, they’re concealable, they’re predominantly the weapon of choice for folks who live in these neighbourhoods where gang violence is a daily threat.”
Over the four-year period, the largest number of firearms seized were at British Columbia crossings, followed by southern Ontario.
Gun smugglers can fit a number of different profiles, Lee says:
“Some of them are independent entrepreneurs, some of them are affiliates of gangs and criminal groups that are seeking guns, others are just kind of independently contracted folks who kind of specialize in this particular good.”
The statistics cover both criminal gun smugglers and otherwise blameless Americans who tried to bring their guns across the border and had them confiscated.
“If we find an undeclared firearm, it will result in a seizure action,” says CBSA spokesperson Esme Bailey. “They could be denied entry, or they could face criminal charges.”