Recent incidents involving people purchasing large amounts of firearms and then transferring them to criminals, have Canadian citizens worried. The firearms often end up in the hands of criminals and are often found at crimescenes. This loophole in the law is something that needs to be fixed, claim many advocates.
Under the Firearms Act, a citizen carrying a restricted firearms license is allowed to purchase an unlimited amount of handguns without setting off any kind of alarm to police. If they have a clear record and can confirm the reason for the purchase, it is legal. The law also states, among other conditions, that a firearm can only be transferred if the transferee has a license to possess the firearm, if they have no reason to believe that the transferee is not authorized to possess the item, if the transferor informs the Register of the transfer, or if the transferor informs a chief firearms officer of the transfer and obtains authorization.
In November 2012, Andrew Winchester was arrested for dozens of gun trafficking charges and was sentenced to eight years in prison. Winchester, a 25-year-old father of two from Toronto, legally purchased 47 handguns over the course of five months from two stores. He illegally transferred 43 of them to an acquaintance who acted as a middleman for other people. Of those handguns, seven ended up in different locations such asa domestic assault and other crime scenes. Thirty guns have not been recovered. Winchester was able to purchase the weapons with his restricted firearms license he obtained by working from Garda Security.
The 47 handguns that were purchased were Glocks, Walthers, and Berettas. He also purchased 48 boxes of ammunition. He spent $30,000 on the purchases and received $14,000 from the friend in exchange for his services in the cash-for-guns agreement. Winchester claimed to purchase the guns out of loyalty to the acquaintance from high school. The firearms were registered with the RCMP’s Canadian Firearms Program. While long-gun registry has been abolished, it is still required to register handguns. Winchester was caught when some of the serial numbers of the handguns, although partially removed, were traced back to him.
Prosecutors sought a 15-year prison sentence for Winchester to send a strong message to other traffickers, noting that he put guns on the street simply out of greed. Because Winchester had committed no other previous crimes, he was able to purchase the guns without easy detection.
While no immediate change in legislation has been enacted, lawmakers are aware of the issue. In response to this gun trafficking problem, police are taking advantage of a clause in the firearms legislation that allows them to inspect collections of 10 or more guns. The police are required to give a notice for the inspection.
However, Wendy Cukier of the Coalition for Gun Control, claims that provisions and restrictions of the law are rarely used. Cukier says legislation and enforcement have eroded over the years.