Canadian residents pose a greater risk of bringing guns meant for criminal use to Canada than Americans do, despite the fact that over 91 per cent of firearm seizures at the border are made from U.S. residents, according to a border agency document obtained by Global News.
The intelligence brief, circulated to Canada Border Service Agency officers in February 2016, says that about one in every seven and a half seizures of undeclared firearms from Canadian residents at the border uncovers firearms that were illegally held, used in a crime, suspected of being used in a crime or had their serial number destroyed — all of which mean they can be categorized as prima facie crime guns (PFGCs), a metric used by CBSA to track firearms related to illicit activity.
Compared to U.S. residents crossing the border into Canada, Canadians returning home pose a “significant risk” that is greater by every assessment: one in three seizures from Canadian residents who spent less than 24 hours outside the country found crime guns associated with illicit use, while only one in 44 seizures from U.S. residents who said they were visiting for less than 24 hours in Canada did the same; one in twelve seizures from Canadian residents who spent less than a week but more than 24 hours outside the country found crime guns associated with illicit use, while only one in 41 seizures from U.S. residents who said they were spending less than a week in Canada did the same.
“The vast majority (91%) of firearms seizures are rendered against U.S. residents who are opting to travel to Canada during favourable highway conditions and most are very likely travelling with firearms for the purpose of self-protection,” reads the document.
“The remaining U.S. residents are highly likely to be removing their firearms from one U.S. location to another by transiting through Canada.” CBSA determined that the majority of U.S. residents who don’t declare firearms do because they are likely “risk managing their decision” despite the potential for fines, seizure or criminal charges.
Last year, CBSA began a firearms awareness campaign aimed at U.S. travelers to Canada, reminding them of stricter laws and declarations obligations, and indicated that the problems listed in the intelligence brief are ongoing.
“It is strongly recommended that you not carry your firearm when travelling to Canada and/or transiting through Canada to reach another U.S. destination,” said an August 2016 news release from the agency. “However, should you choose to travel with your firearms, you must declare all firearms in your possession at the first Canadian designated port of entry.”
The document, issued by CBSA’s Intelligence Operations and Analysis Division and obtained through an access to information request, says that border agents made 106 seizures of 158 crime guns from April 2013 to the time of its issuance in February 2016. However, 71 of those seizures, covering 93 crime guns, occurred as a result of a marijuana seizure (though the presence of marijuana does not significantly factor into determining any illicit use of firearms seized at the same time, according to CBSA).
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during the 2015 election campaign that his government would bring forward changes to firearms legislation, including measures designed to make it more difficult for criminals to obtain handguns and assault weapons. Meanwhile, according to the annual report of the RCMP’s commissioner of firearms, the number of prohibited firearms in Canada climbed 0.5 per cent last year to 183,333.