Police seize illegal ‘ghost guns’ in first bust of its kind in Winnipeg

By | June 9, 2020

Winnipeg police say two recent firearms investigations have led to a series of weapons trafficking charges, as well as what police say is the city’s first major “ghost gun” bust.

Ghost guns are weapons manufactured without serial numbers and other identifying markings that would allow it to be tracked by its maker, seller or the original owner, Winnipeg Police Service Insp. Max Waddell says.

“I can only think of one reason why anyone would manufacture a firearm that cannot be registered or detected, and that is to circumvent the laws that are in place to protect us all,” he said.

“For police, obviously, [it’s] very concerning that people can go undetected.”

On May 14, the Winnipeg Police Service’s firearms investigation enforcement unit was told that a Winnipeg man had bought a prohibited part for an AR-15 rifle from a firearms reseller in the city, Const. Rob Carver said in a press conference on Tuesday.

Under a ban on a range of weapons that came in to effect on May 1, once restricted rifles like the AR-15 are now prohibited.

The next week, police went to a home on West Avenue, in Winnipeg’s Westwood neighbourhood, and found 28 guns, including 10 registered restricted handguns, one registered prohibited firearm and 17 other various long guns.

They also found gun parts being made using a 3D printer.

Police say 28 guns, including 10 registered restricted handguns, one registered prohibited firearm and 17 other various long guns, were found at a home in Westwood. (John Einarson/CBC)

Police say a 31-year-old man was arrested and is in custody. He faces charges including weapons trafficking, possession of an unauthorized firearm and not reporting a lost firearm or weapon.

Waddell says there’s no gang connection with this operation.

He also said that accessing the tools to make ghost guns, including the know-how, has become relatively easy online.

Gun trafficking investigation

Police also announced a number of arrests in a separate firearms investigation Tuesday, after guns were allegedly trafficked between four men.

On April 21, police with a search warrant went to a home on Downing Street, between Yarwood and Wellington avenues in Winnipeg’s West End.

Carver said police founded a loaded 45-calibre semi-automatic handgun there, and then started an investigation into its origins.

Two days later, officers went to a home on Maple Street, near Higgins Avenue. They found 17 guns registered to the man who lived there, four of which were illegal. In addition, two of the handguns weren’t stored safely, Carver said. 

The gun owner said he had other weapons in a storage locker, but when police investigated, they learned the contents of the locker, including the guns, had been sold at an auction more than a year before.

Police arrested the man, 53, and charged him with possessing a firearm at an unauthorized place, storing a firearm or restricted weapon contrary to regulations, and not reporting a lost firearm.

Police say these guns were seized during a weapons trafficking investigation in Winnipeg and St. Andrews, Man. (John Einarson/CBC)

On April 23, police found the man who bought the storage locker contents. He had since sold the guns from the locker to an acquaintance, and was charged with firearms trafficking.

The same day, police found the person who bought the guns, at 56-year-old man, at his home on Parkdale Road in St. Andrews, Man. He had also sold some of them to another acquaintance, and police believe he split the money with the man who had purchased the storage locker.

Police seized six long guns and two restricted handguns that weren’t yet sold, and charged the 56-year-old St. Andrews man with firearms trafficking.

The investigation then led officers to a house on Rebecca Lane in St. Andrews on May 6, where they took a 44-year-old man into custody for firearms trafficking.

Investigators think he and another acquaintance bought restricted handguns from the 56-year-old St. Andrews man.

The next week, oficers from the guns and gangs unit went to a home on Alexander Avenue in Winnipeg, near Princess Street. No firearms were recovered there, but they arrested a 42-year-old for weapons trafficking. He was also charged with possession of methamphetamine and oxycodone.

Waddell says there are still eight guns that haven’t been accounted for.

“If you’re not responsible with your firearms they end up in the hands of criminals, and then we see all the violence we continue to see on our streets and across the country.”

Carver says this gun trafficking ring isn’t connected to the ghost gun manufacturing operation.

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