A Kingston man has been charged for importing two replica handguns designed as movie props, highlighting a novel source of illegal firearms.
The arrest comes as the federal government mulls a full handgun ban after an increase in gun crime in several big cities in Canada in recent years. A similar measure in the United Kingdom correlated with an increase in replica handguns showing up at the country’s crime scenes.
The RCMP allege the two 9-milimetre replica pistols – classified as prohibited weapons in Canada – can be converted to fire live ammunition. Neither the RCMP nor the Canada Border Services Agency would divulge where the guns originated.
On Oct. 18, border officials working at the International Mail Processing Centre in Toronto discovered the guns being shipped by Canada Post Corp.
A subsequent RCMP-CBSA investigation found the eventual recipient was under a weapons ban for previous charges.
Five days after border guards discovered the firearms, police arrested 26-year-old Kevin Lyons-Fougere and allegedly found suspected cocaine, methamphetamine, diverted prescription opioids and drug trafficking paraphernalia in his home. He faces six charges, including possession of an authorized firearm and importing an unauthorized firearm. Mr. Lyons-Fougere is scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 14.
“This investigation demonstrates how partnerships are essential to help keep illicit drugs and firearms from hitting our streets,” RCMP Superintendent Ivan Verdurmen said in a statement.
A photo of one of the guns supplied by the RCMP shows a black gas-powered handgun called a Zoraki 914. Manufactured in Turkey, the pistols have been prohibited in Canada since 2011. Several online videos purport to show viewers how to convert the model to fire live rounds.
Internet sites sell the 914 for around $120. The price, along with the virtually untraceable nature of the rounds, make converted replica guns such as the 914 appealing to criminals.
While converted replica guns have been on the RCMP’s radar for years, they are considered more of a European scourge. The firearms began turning up in the United Kingdom in the mid-90s, right around the time the government banned handguns for civilian use, according to a 2015 report by Small Arms Survey, a Swiss non-governmental research group. The researchers also found converted replicas are used in between 20 and 40 per cent of all shootings in Sweden.
Such guns are rarer in the United States, where there is ready access to real handguns.
A police press conference on Tuesday underscored the gravity of the gun violence problem in Toronto. The mother of a man who was shot and killed earlier in the month lamented the ease with which guns cross the border.
“If I went to Buffalo and bought a pair of shoes, I’m stopped at the border. I want to know how do these [guns] keep getting in?” Sandra Cooke said. “Every day somebody is shot. Every single day in this city. Where are the guns coming from? ... I know they are coming and they’ve taken my son.”