Federal government backs away from mandatory firearms tracing

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The federal government waives mandatory firearms tracing

Ottawa is proposing to impose a freeze on handguns in Canada.

Federal agencies are trying to step up efforts to trace the origin of firearms used in crimes, but it appears jurisdictional hurdles could prevent action to go as far as some would like.

The federal government says the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has adopted a new mandatory tracing policy, which means that in places where the RCMP is the police of jurisdiction, seized illegal firearms will automatically be sent to the national centre. firearms tracing service of the police force.

The House of Commons National and Public Safety Committee and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have called on the government to require all firearms recovered from police investigations across the country. countries – and not just those of the RCMP – are submitted for tracing.

The most recent figures indicate that only a small portion of the tens of thousands of firearms recovered each year is traced.

In a recent response to the committee, the government says tracing is a key tool in determining the sources of illicit firearms.< /p>

The RCMP's National Tracing Center tracks the movement of a firearm from its manufacture or importation into Canada, through wholesalers and retailers, to identify the last known legitimate owner or business.

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Tracing can also help determine if a firearm was smuggled into Canada or originated from a domestic source.

Ottawa has set aside $15 million over five years, starting in 2021-22, and $3.3 million ongoing, to increase the RCMP's ability to trace firearms and identify movement patterns, as well as to support the development of a new national tracing database.

The federal center traced more than 2,140 firearms in 2020 , and the Commons committee has been told the new funding could triple tracing capacity.

The money will also be used to convince the police of the strategic benefits of tracing to criminal investigations. The federal response adds that the RCMP will actively support police chiefs and partner agencies to advance the committee's recommendation that all police departments should submit seized firearms for tracing.

But the government is giving up on making the tracing of all firearms a requirement.

Asked about the government's intentions, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino's office said that while the RCMP has a new mandatory tracing policy, the issue of firearms seized by other law enforcement agencies police fall under provincial jurisdiction.

In their July resolution calling for full tracing, police chiefs cited the lack of strong data for regions outside of Ontario to help understand the pathways taken by guns, adding that the effectiveness of tracing as a police intelligence tool depends on the quality of the information gathered and proper follow-up investigations.

The sub- RCMP Commissioner Stephen White told the House of Commons committee: We would need to do more research on a larger scale to really get a very good overview of patterns and trends.

Gun control campaign group PolySeSouvient believes there is a consensus that guns should be traced. Unfortunately, there is no comparable consensus regarding the tools needed to enable effective tracing.

While tracing contraband weapons typically begins with US manufacturers, tracing ownership of guns from Canada requires sales records and universal registration, points out the group, which includes students and graduates of Polytechnique Montreal, where 14 women were shot dead in 1989.

< p class="e-p">Canada had these measures until Stephen Harper's Conservative government ended the federal long-gun registry and eliminated mandatory sales records, PolySeSouvient noted.< /p>

While the Liberal government has just restored commercial sales records, both Conservatives and Liberals oppose restoring universal registration, the group.

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