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Police arrest 45, seize 440 weapons in Canada-wide ghost gun raids

Search warrants executed in 8 provinces targeting 3D-printed guns bound for crime
Some of the 3D printed ghost guns seized in Operation Centaure are displayed during a news conference in Montreal, Wednesday, June 21, 2023. The multi force operation seized 440 guns including 71 3D printed ghost guns across Canada.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Police said Wednesday they arrested 45 people and seized 440 weapons in simultaneous raids across eight provinces, targeting manufacturers of 3D-printed or “ghost” guns, which are increasingly showing up at crime scenes in Canada.

Authorities held a news conference in Montreal to announce the results of Tuesday’s operation, dubbed Reproduction, led by the Quebec provincial police and involving about 20 other forces, including the RCMP and the Ontario Provincial Police.

“I don’t know if out of this investigation that we’ve seen specifics on where these firearms are headed; however, we know that they’re crime guns,” said OPP chief superintendent Paul McKay, adding that there is a growing concern across Canada about untraceable “ghost guns,” which are 3D-printed without serial numbers or assembled at home from parts collected from various sources.

“We know that they’re created for a specific purpose — and you know they’re not intended for sport shooters or anything like that — it’s a criminal intent and they’re made for a specific purpose to be put in the hands of criminal organizations.”

Tuesday’s cross-country raids were co-ordinated by a Quebec police unit — L’Équipe intégrée de lutte au trafic d’armes — that was formed in 2021 to fight gun crime, and includes officers from the provincial police, Montreal police, the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency.

Quebec provincial police Chief Insp. Benoit Dubé called the operation one of the largest he’s taken part in involving weapons seizures. On Tuesday, police executed 64 search warrants across Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. They seized 440 guns, including 3D-printed handguns, long guns and silencers, as well as other guns and 3D printers.

Dubé said ghost guns are becoming increasingly prevalent during weapons seizures, accounting for up to 25 per cent of guns seized during police operations so far this year. He said those arrested Tuesday ranged in age from 16 to 77 years old with some having links to organized crime networks.

The investigation began with a Canada Border Services Agency probe triggered in April 2021 after intelligence officers followed up on the importation of a set of weapon rails — brackets used to mount accessories on guns. These rails were allegedly made for 3D-printed weapons that came in from a U.S.-based exporter previously identified by the agency, Adriano Giannini, a CBSA official, told reporters Wednesday.

In September 2021, the importer was identified as a resident of the Montreal area who authorities said had a criminal record and was subject to a weapons prohibition order. Quebec provincial police got involved in November 2022, their main target being a Montreal man who was sending gun parts across Canada that were procured from Asia.

“And when we saw that our main target was sending those rails all over Canada, we got into contact with … our community of police officers,” Dubé said.

Those arrested could face charges of production, possession and distribution of firearms.

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