'It can be quite deceiving': Police watching for increase in homemade guns
REGINA -- Police say a growing number of homemade guns are showing up on the streets of Saskatchewan.
According to the Regina Police Service, 14 homemade guns have been seized in 2019 so far, a big jump after officers confiscated only one homemade gun in 2018.
Saskatoon police have also made similar arrests where homemade handguns were involved. In Winnipeg, the number of homemade guns skyrocketed from six in 2017 to 60 in 2018.
"Sometimes it can be quite deceiving, and so I think for our officers there needs to be a recognition that these things can be improvise,” Elizabeth Popowich with the Regina Police Service said.
What is a homemade gun?
A homemade firearm, often called a "zip-gun" is a portable gun created with materials often found in a home.
"Often that's for a criminal purpose, because if they had good intentions, they would follow the route of any other law abiding firearms owner,” Popowich said.
They're unlicensed, unregistered and illegal.
"In order to make a firearm you have to be a licensed manufacturer or a licensed gunsmith. And even once after you make the firearm, you have to send it off for registration and classification,” RCMP Cpl. Rob King.
Police officers across the province tend to share what they come across with each other, so they know and recognize what kind of weapons are circulating.
Popowich says officers find them during traffic stops, or raids of a home, or during a regular police call.
"People don't usually turn them in, or report that they have one. So, it's usually incidental with some other investigation,” she said.
Saskatoon police say it's still rare to see homemade weapons in that city, and statistics are not kept, but there is an increase in modified weapons, like sawed-off shotguns.
Some gun modification is allowed
It is legal to modify a weapon, like cutting the barrel, but strict guidelines need to be followed.
"You can change a firearm slightly, but it does change the dynamics of the firearm and how it works, and it can be dangerous,” King said.
Long guns like rifles and shotguns must still be at least 25.9 inches in total length, and the barrel cannot be shorter than 18 inches. Handguns need a barrel longer than 105 millimetres.
“If you're just doing it on your own and you don't quite know what you're doing, you potentially could be making a bomb that's going to be in your hands when you're trying to activate it,” King said.
Police say homemade guns are still a small issue in comparison to how many modified weapons they come across, but prohibited weapons are a growing trend that they're trying to stop.