BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – With both Columbus Day and Canadian Thanksgiving being observed Monday, highways across Western New York were crowded for much of the day. Those traveling toward the Peace Bridge on I-190 were greeted with a warning from New York State Police.
That’s where a message reading, “Handguns are banned at border crossing” flashed on an electronic sign. The sign has been there for about a week.
“That’s out there as a public service, like a last minute warning for them,” said state police Captain David Denz.
Statistics indicate the number of weapons being taken across the U.S.-Canadian Border is on the rise. Based on those numbers provided by Canadian border officials in September, they are on pace to seize 346 firearms at Southern Ontario border crossings this year. In 2018, they seized 305. In 2017, the number was 235.
Back in the United States, Denz says state police are noticing the spike as well.
“I don’t know if it’s because of technology and people’s GPS,” Denz said. “But there has been what would appear to be an increase in people having a handgun in their vehicles as they are trying to cross into Canada.”
Denz says when that happens, often times that gun is sent back into the U.S. and police here are notified. It’s then up to them to determine which charges, if any, should be filed. Denz noted many of the perpetrators are from out of the area, and are simply using Western New York on their way to or through Southern Ontario.
Still, those people are subject to the laws of New York State, Denz said. So if they are illegally in possession of a weapon in New York, charges will be filed as appropriate. New York State Police work closely with federal Customs and Border Protection officials on this issue.
“They have a lot of equipment that we might not necessarily have access to,” Denz said. “So we work jointly with them whether they need our help or we need their help.”