Advocates for gun rights and tougher gun controls say the police, federal government and border services could take steps to help prevent massacres like the mass shooting in New -Scotland do breed.
The Mass Casualty Commission, which led the public inquiry into the April 2020 mass shooting, in which 22 people were killed by a gunman driving a mock RCMP cruiser across the province, has Heard submissions for final recommendations from people on both sides of the gun control issue last month.
Blair Hagen of the Canadian Firearms Association said the commission should not tighten or introduce more Canadian gun regulations because current laws have done nothing to stop shooter Gabriel Wortman. He did not have a firearms license and illegally smuggled most of the firearms used in the shooting from the United States.
“The perpetrator planned this incredible act of violence for a very long time, carefully hoarding the tools and paraphernalia he needed – illegally if need be – in total disregard and disregard of any law or regulation,” Hagen said. .
Hagen said a better question would be why the shooter met “little to no resistance” early in his rampage which began in Portapique, Nova Scotia.
Rod Giltaca of the Canadian Coalition for Gun Rights said the “only regulation” that could have influenced the shooting was about search warrants.
Giltaca pointed to the section of the Criminal Code that allows a peace officer to apply to a judge for a search warrant – or, in some cases, a search without a warrant – with the intention of seizing weapons for the benefit of public safety.
The opportunity to use this section of the code arose repeatedly in the years leading up to the shooting, Giltaca said, including reports from 2010 and 2011 that the shooter made threats against family or police. and possessed several firearms.
Giltaca said it also became clear through the investigation that the shooter’s concerning behavior, including the illegal possession of firearms he would show in Portapique, was “an open secret” in the community.
There appears to be a “high degree” of frontline police discretion when these searches are made or requested, Giltaca said, and asked that the inquest look into why this did not happen.
“These regulatory measures … are well understood by frontline police officers, so again, this is a very serious issue,” Giltaca said.
1 Canadian firearm was from the estate
But Joanna Birenbaum of the Canadian Coalition for Gun Control told the commission that there are many areas where gun regulations should be strengthened or created, including a tool that could have prevented the least a weapon from falling into the hands of the shooter.
One of five firearms found in Wortman’s possession after he was killed by police – a Ruger Mini 14 – came from the estate of his New Brunswick friend Tom Evans after his death, which he received “no questions asked,” Birenbaum said.
There is also “little or no follow-up” by authorities when a person’s firearms licenses expire or a license holder dies, Birenbaum said, so the onus is on family or attorneys. to alert the police that there is a firearm that must be removed or destroyed.
Instead, she said there should be “immediate” administrative and legal changes to prevent the illegal transfer of firearms from estates and to track the status of any firearms belonging to owners whose license has expired.
Evans’ Ruger and an RCMP issued service pistol stolen from Const. Heidi Stevenson after killing her in the mass shooting were the only traced gun investigators in Canada.
The other three were from the United States, and court records suggest that Wortman’s friend Sean Conlogue of Houlton, Maine once owned two – a Ruger P89 9mm semi-automatic handgun and a semi-automatic pistol. -automatic Glock 23 .40. .
Police also believe the shooter arranged to buy a Colt Law Enforcement 5.56mm semi-automatic rifle from another man, after admiring it at a gun show in Houlton .
Evidence to the commission showed that Wortman was able to smuggle the guns across the border, often rolled up in the tonneau cover of his truck.
Birenbaum said the federal government must reach an agreement with U.S. border officials to better prevent gun smuggling, including a commitment to fully investigate, prosecute or extradite U.S. residents and businesses who sell or transfer guns. when they should have known the gun was going to a Canadian who did not have a licence.
“It does not appear that any steps have been taken to hold the perpetrator’s friend, Sean Conlogue, criminally responsible,” Birenbaum said.
A retired U.S. federal prosecutor told CBC that technical firearms offenses rarely end up in court unless the accused is deemed a risk to the community.
Birenbaum said the cross-border agreement should also address front-man purchases like Wortman — where someone buys a gun for another person who is prohibited from obtaining one — and strengthen enforcement. and inspecting arms dealers near the Canadian border.
The coalition also called for the creation of a national firearms hotline where citizens could report illegal gun concerns to the RCMP commissioner’s staff, not their local police force. which, according to Birenbaum, could have made a difference for Brenda Forbes.
Forbes has repeatedly said that she reported Wortman’s abuse of her partner Lisa Banfield and his guns to the RCMP, but nothing was done. The RCMP officer who responded to Forbes’ testimony said his complaint had nothing to do with domestic violence or firearms.
The final report of the investigation is expected by the end of March 2023.