(Update Sept. 16, 13:50 Toronto time: Adds screenshots of police data obtained by Dennis Young.)
TheGunBlog.ca — More than a third of the so-called “crime guns” seized by Toronto police last year weren’t firearms, and many were never used in a crime, according to an analysis of police data obtained by Dennis Young, fuelling new concern about the reliability of statistics.
The data show 469, or 65 percent, of the 726 “crime guns” seized by Toronto police in 2017 were counted among the three classes of firearms in the Firearms Act: “Non-restricted,” “Restricted” or “Prohibited.” That leaves 35 percent that weren’t firearms regulated by the Firearms Act.
See the interactive charts below.
Young, a researcher and gun-rights advocate, obtained the information from the Toronto Police Service through a special request to access internal reports. He published it Aug. 30 on his website.
Police use their best judgment when investigating and reporting on complex crimes with imperfect information. But counting non-firearms and non-crimes as “crime guns” makes the data unreliable and undermines trust in police records.
It also risks misleading politicians, policymakers and the public if they mistakenly believe “crime guns” are firearms used in crime.
Compounding the imprecise terminology is when statistics are deliberately twisted.
Last month TheGunBlog.ca reviewed a smaller data series provided by the police. The analysis found the percentage of Toronto “crime guns” traced to Canada fell for a second straight year in 2017 to the lowest level in at least four years, contrasting with claims that outlaws are getting more of their firearms from domestic sources.
Matt Gurney of Global News last week used the police data from Young to destroy the “domestically sourced crime gun” conspiracy. Gary Mauser, a professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University, raised other concerns with his own analysis.
More than 2 million Canadian men and women have a firearm licence, exceeding the number who play hockey. Millions of others of all ages also enjoy hunting and sport shooting to develop skills, build relationships and provide food. They pump billions of dollars each year into the economy.
A separate and small group of individuals and gangs use firearms for bad. Statistics Canada has said that “gun crime” represents less than 0.5 percent of all crime. Those stats are also boosted by including non-firearms and non-crimes.
The documents obtained by Young show how the police define “crime gun”:
- Any firearm that has been used or suspected to have been used in a criminal offence
- Any firearm that is obtained, possessed, or intended to be used to facilitate criminal activity
- Any firearm that has had a serial number removed, altered or obliterated
- Any weapon that has been adapted for use as a firearm.
Some of the non-Firearms Act objects that police might count as “crime guns” include air guns, antique firearms, flare guns, homemade firearms, nail guns, paintball guns, replica guns, starter pistols, stun guns, tasers, toy guns, zip guns, and anything gun-like but deemed a non-firearm.
Not only do the police count non-firearms as guns, they also count non-crime as crime.
Example of Non-Firearms Counted as ‘Crime Guns’
- A pellet gun or toy gun is used to rob a bank.
Example of Non-Crime Firearms Counted as ‘Crime Guns’
- Police raid a drug dealer and seize firearms that were never used or intended to be used in a crime.
“Toronto Police inflate ‘crime gun’ stats,” Rick Hemmingson, a lawyer in Alberta, said Sept. 1 on Facebook. “This includes firearms that were never, ever used in a crime.”
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The police held a press conference on Aug. 2 showing some of the 25 firearms seized in an investigation of illegal drug sellers. One firearm was on top of a pile of drugs at one location, but more than a dozen others were stored legally. Watch the video.
Reporter: Do you have any reason to believe that any of the firearms here were used in a crime?
Officer in Charge: I don’t have any reason to believe that. I don’t have any information on that.
- Toronto ‘Crime Guns’ Traced to Canada Fell to New Low in 2017
- CBC News: Canada Can’t Say Where Its Crime Guns Are Coming From
- National Post (Opinion by Gary Mauser and Vincent Harinam): The Liberals Are Playing Dishonest Games With Stats to Crack Down on Legal Gun Owners
- Dennis Young: What the RCMP Doesn’t Know About the Firearms They Trace
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