These are the firearms seized by Victoria police in 2020
When it comes to firearms, the City of Victoria isn’t what it used to be.
“The Victoria that we’re living in right now is not the Victoria of five years ago or even 10 years ago,” said Const. Ron Kirkwood, firearms coordinator for the Victoria Police Department.
“We weren’t seeing too many firearms. It was just a handful, really.”
VicPD seized 61 firearms in 2020, according to a list of seizures released to CTV News Vancouver Island through a freedom of information request.
Of the guns seized, 28 are rifles, 22 are handguns and 11 are shotguns. The full list of seizures is at the bottom of this story.
“There are firearms here that would’ve been owned by cowboys in the 19th Century,” said Doug Bancroft, Victoria Fish and Game Protective Association president.
The guns range from an 1840 musket to common hunting rifles to a fully automatic Glock. The Glock and six other firearms seized last year are prohibited, meaning Canadians aren’t allowed to own them.
“I’ve been watching with alarm some of the things I’ve seen on individual cases being seized by the police,” Bancroft said. “I don’t recall this when I was a youth growing up in Victoria.”
WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?
Historically, firearms are smuggled across the Windsor-Detroit border, Kirkwood said. Many guns are sourced within Canada — stolen and resold or traded on the black market, he said.
Oftentimes, people get creative, making firearms out of flare guns, starter pistols or pipe from a hardware store.
This improvised firearm, known as a zip gun, was seized by Victoria police on March 30, 2020. Police say it was found with drugs, knives and a baton in a stolen vehicle. (VicPD)
Kirkwood noted an uptick in the presence of “80-per-cent-complete kits” — would-be firearms that aren’t fully built. Ghost guns aren’t sold in Canada, but can be purchased in the U.S.
“There’s no ability for us to trace this. These are sold as non-firearms with no serialized number on them,” he said.
“Using some very rudimentary tools and a YouTube video, really anybody can manufacture this firearm.”
Kirkwood, a court-certified firearms expert, has yet to see any 3D-printed firearms come across his desk.
GUNS MOST OFTEN LINKED TO THE DRUG TRADE
Many of the firearms that came into VicPD’s possession in 2020 are not crime guns, Kirkwood said. Some legal gun owners age out of the hobby, while others who no longer want their firearms turn them in.
Meanwhile, crime guns are seized on a variety of calls, from domestic incidents to traffic stops, Kirkwood said.
“We’ve taken firearms off young females; we’ve taken them off elderly males,” he said.
“(The) link that you’ll almost always see is that, somehow, the subject is involved in the world of drugs.”
A 2020 investigation by Victoria police led to the seizure of this semi-automatic handgun, along with cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamine and counterfeit oxycodone. The investigation identified high-level drug and weapons traffickers operating in the Victoria area. (VicPD)
Kirkwood attributes much of the presence of firearms in Victoria to spillover from the Lower Mainland gang conflict.
“There are several drug lines on the island," he said. "And there’s violence associated with all of those lines."
Not included in the list of seizures are replica airsoft guns. They’re nearly identical to regular firearms and can be purchased without a license. That’s why they’re so common among drug dealers, Kirkwood said.
“They want to have that intimidation factor to try and scare away someone who’s either going to conduct a home invasion on them and try to take their money or product, or if they’re out doing debt collection,” he said.
GUN VIOLENCE STILL LOW
The list of the 61 firearms seized in 2020 doesn’t fully reflect what’s out there. The Greater Victoria area is fractured by 13 municipal lines, all of which have their own gun calls to deal with.
“There are no actual, physical boundaries, so some of the files that maybe were cross jurisdictional are now encroaching into Saanich,” said Saanich Police Department Const. Markus Anastasiades.
“(But,) we haven’t seen a huge increase in the number of calls regarding firearms here in Saanich.”
Gun violence in Victoria is also low, compared to the Lower Mainland, Kirkwood said.
While seizing 61 firearms in a year is significant for VicPD, it’s a drop in the bucket for larger municipalities, from Saskatoon to Toronto. Still, Kirkwood is concerned.
"Proactive policing for something like this is becoming quite a bit more challenging,” he said. "The department is literally struggling to just respond to calls for service.”
Victoria police have been sharing that same message on repeat, regularly sending out news releases about staffing shortages and an uptick in random acts of violence. It’s part of a campaign for more money to put more officers on the ground.
The Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board is asking for six new officers in its proposed 2022 budget. The Victoria and Esquimalt municipal councils are expected to decide on the budget in the new year.
These are the firearms seized by Victoria police from Jan. 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020: