The gunman who killed 22 people in Nova Scotia in April was armed with a “Colt Law Enforcement Carbine,” a Sturm Ruger Mini-14 and two handguns, which were all illegally obtained and in three cases smuggled into Canada from the U.S.
The new details of the firearms were included in a briefing note to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the days following one of Canada’s worst mass killings. The note was obtained through access to information legislation and first reported by the National Post.
The note confirms that Gabriel Wortman – who did not have a firearms licence or acquisition certificate – had a “Colt Law Enforcement Carbine,” a semi-automatic rifle, a Glock GmbH semi-automatic pistol and a Ruger P89 semi-automatic pistol. He was also found with the service weapon of RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson, who he murdered during the rampage.
“The RCMP has confirmed the suspect did not have a firearms acquisition certificate (FAC). Efforts to determine the origins of weapons used by Mr. Wortman, as well as the number of people who died from gunshots, remains ongoing,” the note said.
The Colt carbine, which is similar to rifles used by law enforcement, was sourced to a California gun shop and was illegally smuggled into Canada., while the two pistols were smuggled from Maine, according to the note.
The Ruger Mini-14, a semi-automatic rifle infamously used during the École Polytechnique massacre, was sourced to a Canadian gun shop and legally imported.
The RCMP has previously said the gunman didn’t have any kind of firearms licence, but search warrant documents show he acquired one of his firearms in Canada from the estate of a friend who died.
A.J. Somerset, a former gunnery instructor with the Canadian Forces and gun policy expert, said the Colt carbine and the two pistols were restricted firearms at the time of the shooting, while the Ruger Mini-14 was a non-restricted firearm, meaning it could be purchased with a regular possession acquisition licence.
Both the Colt carbine and Ruger Mini-14 were included in a ban on assault-style weapons the Trudeau government implemented in May.
“The Mini-14 is interesting, because it was not registered, he was able to, as executor of (a deceased acquaintance’s) estate, transfer that to himself,” Somerset said. “The executor of an estate is allowed to possess firearms temporarily while they deal with the estate. There is no violation.”
Somerset said the ban enacted by the Liberals in May will do little to stop people who are already engaged in trafficking firearms and will only target the domestic supply of firearms.
“Before May 1, owning a (Colt carbine) without restricted firearms licence was already illegal,” he said.
“From the standpoint of someone smuggling firearms in and out of the country, the regulation makes no difference.”
The briefing note also indicates gunman was armed with “over capacity ammunition boxes,” sourced outside of Canada. Under Canadian law, handguns have a limit of 10 bullets, while rifles are legally limited to five.
“The standard capacity for an AR-15 is a round magazine. Obviously a big difference,” Somerset said.
Any RCMP officers who encountered the shooter would have been “badly outgunned,” according to Somerset, as Wortman had access to extended magazines and more powerful firearms.
“The average RCMP officer, if he doesn’t have the patrol carbine in his car, is only armed with a handgun, which has limited range and firepower,” he said. “When they are facing a rifle bullet, it’s much more powerful, it’s moving a lot faster, and has a lot more energy and does more damage.”
“This certainly points to the problem that if you have these kinds of rifles available to the public and not well controlled, you’re going to see incidents like Moncton or Nova Scotia, and the police, in order to respond effectively, need to be increasingly armed,” he said. “This puts us down a kind of civil arms race between the police and the public.”
The deadly rampage, which began on the night of April 18 in Portapique and lasted for 13 hours, ended when the gunman was shot and killed by an RCMP officer at a gas station in Enfield, N.S.
How the gunman obtained the weapons has been part of an ongoing RCMP investigation.
An RCMP application for a general warrant, released Monday, offered new insight into the gunman’s state of mind prior to the killings and details on his previous travel history to Maine.
Emails from the gunman sent on March 19 – one month before the shootings – sent to an unnamed individual talked about how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic “was huge and people have not dealt with something as big as it was,” according to the RCMP document. Search warrant documents released in May also showed the gunman was “paranoid” about COVID-19 and witnesses who’d said they had seen guns at the shooter’s denture clinic in Dartmouth, N.S., and his property in Portapique, N.S.
“(The gunman) said that he wasn’t optimistic and once the money runs out people will become desperate and people will need guns,” the document said.
“Thank God we are well-armed,” the gunman is quoted as saying.
Several media organizations, including Global News, have been fighting for months to obtain the evidence police used to obtain search warrants related to the April 18 and 19 mass shootings.
An unidentified witness told an RCMP investigator that the gunman had previously done “a lot of shooting” in the Hainsville, Maine, area and had attended gun shows.
“(Redacted) said that he and Gabriel Worman went to a bunch of gun shows and that he would see Gabriel several times a year but it was very casual,” the documents said.
On April 25, 2019, roughly one year before carrying out the mass killings, Wortman entered Maine, via the border crossing in Woodstock, N.B. Two days later he crossed back into Canada at 2:33 p.m. before returning to Maine at 2:46 – less than 15 minutes later.
Somerset said that although it’s easier to purchase firearms at gun shows in the U.S., the person buying the weapons needs to be a resident of the state where they are making the purchase.
“He wouldn’t be able to buy, legally, any firearms in the States,” he said. “But people can very easily at a gun show or anywhere on the secondary market buy a firearm if they are an American and can transfer that firearm to whomever they want.”
According to who’d encountered Gabriel Wortman either recalled him talking about owning guns or had seen guns at locations including his clinic in Dartmouth, N.S., and his property in Portapique, N.S., dubbed “the warehouse.”
The RCMP has previously declined to answer any other questions or interviews citing the ongoing public inquiry into the April shootings.
“With the public inquiry now ongoing, the most appropriate and unbiased opportunity to do so is with our full participation in the inquiry,” Cpl. Lisa Croteau said in an email. “The inquiry is underway and RCMP is fully cooperating. The RCMP will respectfully refrain from further commenting on these matters outside of the inquiry.”
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