COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio is the source of more crime guns in Canada than any U.S. state, according to American and Canadian authorities.
While Canadian border agents seized 548 firearms during the most recent fiscal year, there’s no way to know how many firearms make it past the border. However, many guns seized by Canadian law enforcement agencies once crimes are committed can be traced back to the United States.
Unlike the U.S., which has an extensive, uniform, and centralized firearm tracing program through its Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Canadian firearm trace data is collected mostly on the local or provincial level. Firearm traces also involve many partnerships with U.S. law enforcement.
“The State of Ohio — per the State of Ohio 2019 crime gun stats — was the number-one contributor to firearms that were recovered in the country of Canada,” said a special agent with the ATF’s Columbus office, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the undercover nature of some of her work. “Which was a surprising trend, that we had overtaken Michigan and some of those actual northern border states.”
The agent pointed to a gun trafficking ring she investigated in 2018.
“We had four individuals,” the agent said. “Three of them lived in the Columbus market area, and one was able to purchase firearms.”
According to a federal indictment, the purchaser went to multiple licensed firearm dealers throughout the Columbus area, where she bought no more than four handguns at a time.
“The ATF is able to see when an individual purchases more than two handguns from the same (Federal Firearms Licensee) within five days. We get a report,” the agent said. “So I started to see a trend, that this individual was purchasing repeated make and model, like the same firearm, all across town.”
The indictment lists more than 40 purchased handguns, most of which are 9mm pistols.
Agents learned the guns were being driven into Canada by the fourth member of the group who lived in New York.
According to the indictment, the group trafficked at least 38 guns across the border. Firearm traces revealed at least two of the guns were used to commit crimes in Ottawa.
Inspector Carl Cartright of the Ottawa Police Service remembers that case.
“Ohio was a surprise to me initially at the onset. Why is (it) Ohio?” Cartright said.
“It’s easier to obtain a firearm in some states than others,” said Alicia Jones, the assistant special agent in charge at the ATF’s Columbus office, adding that Ohio is a common source for crime guns in other states as well.
The ATF would not release the exact number of Ohio firearms traced in Canada, citing sensitive law enforcement information as the reason.
Cartright, however, confirmed that Ohio is the top source state for Canadian crime guns according to the most recent data available.
Still, he doesn’t think where the gun comes from is as important as why someone wanted to use that gun in the first place.
“Everybody’s going to tell you as a simple solution solving gun crime–they’re fooling each other,” Cartright said. “There’s a law enforcement component, absolutely. But there’s the other side — the social impact. Some of those resources that need to be spent, that needs to be discussed, or we’re just going to keep having the same conversations year after year.”
According to Cartright, the majority of rifles and long guns used in Canadian crimes are traced to Canadian firearm dealers, while the majority of handguns used in crimes are traced back to the U.S.