The B.C. government is calling for better tracking of legal gun sales and a ban on selling imitation firearms to people aged 18 or younger.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth released a task force report on illegal gun use Monday at the B.C. legislature. It warns of “straw purchasers” of guns from legitimate retailers who then sell them to criminal gangs for use in the drug trade and other crimes.
Jim Gresham, the RCMP’s assistant commissioner and gang expert for B.C., said imitation handguns are a bigger problem than the usual incidents reported by media, when a young person shows a gun and police have to respond as if it is real. Criminals released from jail are prohibited from owning weapons, so they buy a realistic imitation to stick in their belt for effect when making a drug deal, Gresham said.
Farnworth said he prefers a national approach to restricting sale of imitation guns, but action is needed.
“Right now it’s legal to take one to school,” Farnworth said.
He noted that while many steal illegal firearms are smuggled in from the U.S., many more are stolen or purchased and then resold.
In 2015, there were more than 2,000 incidents involving the criminal use of firearms in B.C., and more than 3,000 guns were seized by police that year alone. Crimes included homicide, attempted homicide, robbery assault, uttering threats, break and enter and careless use of firearms.
The task force was set up as part of the previous government’s “Guns and Gangs Strategy,” with $35 million in funding confirmed by Premier John Horgan in his speech to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in September.