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8/15/2005

"Statistics belie flood of guns from U.S."

PUBLICATION: GLOBE AND MAIL
DATE: 2005.08.15
PAGE: A1 (ILLUS)
BYLINE: COLIN FREEZE
SECTION: National News
EDITION: Metro
WORD COUNT: 857

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Statistics belie flood of guns from U.S.

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As Canadian politicians express alarm about a rising tide of guns smuggled from the United States, statistics obtained by The Globe and Mail show that federal border guards are seizing fewer firearms and Toronto police are pulling no more guns off the streets than they ordinarily do.

The Canada Border Services Agency says it has intercepted 318 guns so far in 2005, below the more than 1,000 seized guns that border guards have averaged annually during the past five years, and far fewer than the 1,500 seized annually in the 1990s.

And while Toronto Police Service Chief Bill Blair was widely quoted last week as saying his officers have seized more than 2,000 guns so far in 2005, civilians in his statistics department say the chief inadvertently "misspoke." Their official tally is only 1,151, consistent with the pace of seizures in recent years.

During the past three weeks, eight people have been killed by guns and 25 injured in Toronto. One man was killed and two others injured in two separate incidents Saturday night, the latest in the city.

As the gun violence appears to be rising, officials are left seeking answers. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and other politicians have started lobbying U.S officials, asking them to help curtail the cross-border gun flow.

But if a glut of guns exists on Canadians streets, the weapons have not materialized overnight. The border agency says its lower seizure numbers stem from anti-smuggling efforts. . . .

No one really knows how many guns are crossing the border, but experts say plenty of problems lie in Canada's backyard and the Americans are not about to solve them.

"Guns from the U.S. are an issue, but a small part of the bigger picture," said Paul Culver, a senior Toronto Crown Attorney. . . .

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