RCMP ignores data that could flag people selling guns to criminals: Toronto mayor

A man handles a handgun for sale in this file image. Gabriel Bouys/Getty Images/File

The RCMP should use data it already has to flag legal gun owners who may be selling guns to criminals, Toronto’s mayor says.

“What’s particularly troubling to me is cases where certain licensed gun owners are able to amass small arsenals of handguns and that there are no red flags despite these purchases being registered on the Canadian Firearms Registry,” John Tory wrote in a letter to federal public safety minister Ralph Goodale last week.

The letter was made public Monday.

In November, the Toronto Star reported on a memo written by a senior Toronto police official which cited four cases of people with valid gun licences who legally bought as many as 47 handguns and sold them on to criminals.

READ: With shootings on the rise in Toronto and Edmonton, more guns are being seized at the border

All the weapons were registered in an RCMP database, but the RCMP didn’t flag the purchases for local police scrutiny, although the data existed to do it.

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In the memo, Toronto police Supt. Gordon Sneddon faulted the RCMP for naively assuming that only law-abiding gun owners would register firearms.

“No one is thinking ‘dirty’ during the review process,” he warned.

Crime guns in Canada come from two sources: guns smuggled from the United States, and guns that started out as legally owned in Canada.

Some of those guns were stolen from legal owners. Others came from people who got licences to own handguns legally, bought dozens of them, then sold them on to criminals at a higher price.

After years of crime guns being about 70 per cent smuggled, the ratio has swung back to being about 50:50.

Gun theft in parts of Canada has risen sharply in recent years. They have more than doubled in Alberta in just three years between 2012 and 2015, the RCMP reported.

READ: Alberta RCMP report stolen guns on the rise 105%

And stolen guns have been linked to serious crimes. A mass killing in Edmonton in January, 2014 in which eight people were murdered was carried out with a handgun that had once been legally owned in Surrey, B.C.

READ: Gun used in Edmonton mass murder was stolen in BC in 2006 

WATCH: From 2012 to 2015, gun thefts doubled  in Alberta. Kendra Slugoski reports.

Click to play video: 'Criminals target gun owners to build up their stash: police'
Criminals target gun owners to build up their stash: police

Bryce McDonald, a Courtenay, B.C. man, registered 49 restricted firearms, mostly handguns, between 2009 and his arrest in 2013. McDonald bought several identical or nearly identical handguns, including 10 Glock semi-automatic pistols, three of which he bought on the same day.

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McDonald was approved for a restricted firearms licence, which allowed him to buy as many handguns as he liked, despite a criminal conviction for uttering threats and a major head injury which meant that he had no memories from before the age of 19.

READ: RCMP concerned after dozens of guns stolen from central Alberta home

Police raided McDonald’s house after homicide investigators traced a gun abandoned in a bag in Surrey, B.C. back to him. They found only seven of the dozens of restricted guns that were supposed to be in his possession.

Guns registered to McDonald have been found by police investigating five different crimes in B.C. and Alberta, including a violent home invasion in Calgary in which two people were tied up and beaten, court documents say.

In November, he was sentenced to 40 months in prison for firearms storage offences. He was not charged with firearms trafficking, although Baird told the court that “Mr. McDonald knows perfectly well where these guns have gone, but he has refused to tell the truth about it.”

READ: Cochrane man charged after his gun was stolen: RCMP

“Minister Goodale welcomes Mayor Tory’s letter on the shared priority of gun violence and community safety in Toronto,” spokesperson Scott Bardsley wrote in an e-mail. “Collaboration between all levels of government is essential to address these challenges.”

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“We are working with our counterparts to develop a strategy on how the federal government can best support communities and law enforcement in their ongoing efforts to make it harder for criminals to acquire and use firearms and to reduce gang violence.  Further details will be announced next year.”

Gun thieves are picky, and they’re much more interested in some kinds of guns than others. Thirteen years of gun theft data shows a preference for handguns over shotguns and rifles, and for semi-automatic actions in rifles and handguns.

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