US, Canada team up on new anti-gun smuggling task force

As firearms violence grabs headlines each year in Canadian cities, the federal government is finally addressing one of the root problems. There’s a new task force set up to tackle firearms smuggling across the US-Canada border. Both countries are contributing to the effort.

US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) are teaming up on the project. We haven’t seen a name for the program. It seems that those two border control agencies are the biggest players, but other agencies will assist, including the RCMP, ATF, Public Safety Canada, US Customs and Border Protection and local police forces.

CBSA’s role is obvious, but why is Homeland Security involved, on the US side? HSI is tied to the US customs service, and as per the American press release,

“HSI is the primary federal law enforcement agency responsible for investigating international smuggling operations and enforcing U.S. export laws. The investigative strategy includes the identification and prosecution of criminal networks and individuals responsible for the acquisition and movement of firearms and other dangerous weapons from the United States, as well as the seizure and forfeiture of money and valuable property derived from or used to facilitate this criminal activity.”

Translation: It’s not just illegal to smuggle guns into Canada, it’s also illegal to smuggle them out of the US. The Americans want to crack down on this criminal activity as well.

How will the partnership actually play out? Again, as per the press release from the US,

“The new task force will ensure that law enforcement partners on both sides of the border benefit from shared intelligence and information so that they can detect and intercept the illegal movement of firearms at the border, while ensuring the legal movement of goods and services remain.”

Sounds like it’s mostly an information-sharing exercise then. It’s helpful, but would certainly have limited usefulness when compared to a more hands-on arrangement. Perhaps that will come along in time, as COVID-19 slows down.

Why the smuggling crackdown now?

Why are we getting a new task force now? This could be an initiative coming out of Bill C-21. Although the proposed legislation from the federal Liberals is deeply flawed, it does talk about changes at the border. However, the proposed increased penalties for gun smuggling surely won’t make much of a dent, if the authorities aren’t catching the criminals in the first place. Hopefully, this US/Canada team-up will do just that. Law-abiding gun owners are constantly blamed for crimes committed by smuggled-in firearms. Better border enforcement would go a long way to solving that problem— this is something that law enforcement leaders and officers are saying across Canada. Whether this new task force will actually improve the situation remains to be seen.