Firearms regulation in Canada

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Gun legislation in Canada is largely about licensing and registration of firearms (including air guns and with a muzzle velocity of more than 500 ft/s or 150 m/s and muzzle energy greater than 4.2 ft⋅lb or 5.7 J[1]). Handgun registration became law in 1934, and automatic firearms registration was added in 1951. In 1969, laws classified firearms as "non-restricted", "restricted" and "prohibited". Starting in 1979, people who wished to acquire firearms were required to obtain a firearms acquisition certificate (FAC) from their local police agency. From 1995 to 2012, all firearms owners were required to possess a firearms licence (either a PAL, POL, FAC or a minors licence) and all firearms were required to be registered. In April 2012, the requirement to register non-restricted firearms was dropped in every province and territory, except for Quebec, with the Ending the Long-gun Registry Act coming into force. The legislation also required the destruction of all records related to the registration of non-restricted firearms. The requirement for all firearms owners to possess a valid firearms licence remains law.[2] In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against Quebec, entirely eliminating non-restricted registry records. However, the government of Quebec received a partial copy of the deleted federal firearms registry, and created a Quebec firearms registry.[3] Residents had until January 2019 to register all non-restricted firearms within Quebec.

History of firearm laws in Canada[edit]

Controls on civilian use of firearms date from the early days of Confederation, when justices of the peace could impose penalties for carrying a handgun without reasonable cause.[4] Amendments to the Criminal Code between the 1890s and the 1970s introduced a series of minor controls on firearms. In the late 1970s, controls of intermediate strength were introduced. In the mid-1990s, significant increases in controls occurred. A 1996 study showed that Canada was in the mid-range of firearm ownership when compared with eight other western nations. Nearly 22% of Canadian households had at least one firearm, including 2.3% of households possessing a handgun.[5] As of September 2010, the Canadian Firearms Program recorded a total of 1,831,327 valid firearm licences, which is roughly 5.4% of the Canadian population. The four most licensed provinces are Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.[6] In 2005 almost 3% of households in Canada possessed handguns, compared to 18% of U.S. households that possessed handguns.[7] In 2005 almost 16% of households in Canada possessed firearms of some kind.[7]

The following is a summary of the history of gun control laws in Canada:[8][9]

  • The federal Parliament instituted a system of gun control in the North-West Territories in 1885 to hinder the Northwest Rebellion. Permission in writing from the territorial government was needed to possess any firearm (other than a smooth-bore shotgun), and also ammunition. Possession of a firearm or ammunition without the necessary permit was an offence, and could lead to the forfeiture of the firearm and ammunition.[10] These gun control provisions applied to all of what is now Alberta, Saskatchewan, parts of Manitoba, the current Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Nunavut.
  • The Criminal Code, enacted in 1892, required individuals to have a permit to carry a pistol unless the owner had cause to fear assault or injury. Not until 1935 was it considered an offence to sell a pistol to anyone under 16. Vendors who sold handguns had to keep records, including purchaser's name, the date of sale and a description of the gun.
  • In the 1920s, permits became necessary for all firearms newly acquired by foreigners.
  • Legislation in 1934 required the registration of handguns with records identifying the owner, the owner's address and the firearm. Registration certificates were issued and records kept by the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) or by other police forces designated by provincial attorneys general.
  • In 1947, the offence of "constructive murder" was added to the Criminal Code for offences resulting in death, when the offender carried a firearm. This offence was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada in a 1987 case called R. v. Vaillancourt.
  • Automatic firearms were added to the category of firearms that had to be registered in 1951. The registry system was centralized under the Commissioner of the RCMP.
  • In 1969, Bill C-150 created categories of "non-restricted", "restricted" and "prohibited" firearms. Police were also given preventive powers of search and seizure by judicial warrant if they had grounds to believe that firearms that belonged to an individual endangered the safety of society.
  • In 1977, Bill C-51 required firearms acquisition certificates (FACs) to purchase any firearm, and introduced controls on the selling of ammunition. Applicants were required to pass a basic criminal record check before receiving the FAC.
  • In 1991, Bill C-17 was introduced, coming into force between 1992 and 1994. It required FAC applicants to pass a safety course in addition to a thorough background check, and to wait a minimum of 28 days after applying before an FAC could be issued. It also created new Criminal Code offences, new definitions for prohibited and restricted weapons, and new regulations for firearms dealers. It increased penalties for firearm-related crimes. It clearly outlined regulations for firearms storage, handling and transportation.[11]

A major focus of C-17 was the control of military and paramilitary firearms. It created orders prohibiting or restricting most paramilitary rifles and some types of non-sporting ammunition. It prohibited firearms that had been converted to avoid a 1978 prohibition (exempting existing owners), and it prohibited high-capacity magazines for automatic and semi-automatic firearms.[11] (It limited handguns to ten rounds and most semi-automatic centre-fire rifles to five rounds.)[12]

  • In 1995, the Criminal Code was amended to include Bill C-68, the Firearms Act. It implemented a new central licensing system to replace the FAC system. It also required registration of all firearms and firearm licence holders; banned short-barrelled and small-calibre handguns ("grandfathering" in previous owners); and required a licence to buy ammunition. Most of the bill's provisions came into force in 1998, and the registration of long guns became mandatory in 2003.[13]

Legislation was upheld by the Supreme Court in Reference re Firearms Act (2000). The FAC system was replaced with possession-only licences (POLs) and possession and acquisition licences (PALs). Referring to Bill C-68, John Dixon, a former advisor to Deputy Minister of Justice John C. Tait, stated that the Firearms Act was part of a policy exercise by the Liberal Party of Canada so as to appear to be "tougher" on guns than Prime Minister Kim Campbell, and thus defeat her in the 1993 election.[14]

  • In 2001, the registration portion of Bill C-68 was implemented. The government asked for all firearms, including long guns (rifles and shotguns), to be registered.
  • In 2003, the registration of long guns became mandatory. Failure to register a firearm now results in criminal charges.
  • In 2006, although legislation was still in place, the government no longer asked long gun owners for a registration fee and an amnesty (until May 16, 2011) temporarily protected licensed owners of non-restricted firearms (or those whose licences had expired since January 1, 2004) from prosecution for the possession of unregistered long guns.[15]
  • In November 2009, Bill C-391 passed second reading in the House of Commons by a vote of 164 to 137. If passed through the entire parliamentary process by the House and Senate, the bill would have abolished the requirement to register non-restricted long guns. While the proposed legislation was a private member's bill, it had the support of the Conservative government. The bill was referred to the House of Commons Committee on Public Safety for further action. However, after several months of hearings, the Opposition majority on the committee recommended that no further action be taken to advance the bill. In September 2010 Bill C-391 failed to pass a third reading.
  • On October 25, 2011, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews introduced a bill to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, to abolish the long gun registry and destroy all records.
  • On February 15, 2012, Bill C-19 passed third reading in the House of Commons; the motion to abolish the long gun registry passed 159 to 130 and Bill C-19 became law.[16][17]
  • In October 2014, Public Safety Minister Stephen Blaney and the Conservatives introduced another bill, Bill C-42, also known as the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act. This legislation reduced required paperwork for the transportation of restricted firearms, held by licensed firearms owners, for certain lawful activities (such as transportation to a shooting range and to gunsmiths or gun shows).[18] It lifted the ban on the Swiss Arms Classic Green Carbine, introduced a six-month "grace period" for firearms licence renewals before an individual might otherwise face criminal charges and abolished the possession-only licence, permitting holders of such licences to enjoy the same full acquisition privileges as a PAL holders. The legislation also implemented mandatory training for all first-time firearms licence applicants. This legislation was passed and enacted in 2015,[19][20][21][22] but the new Liberal government, formed in November 2015, pledged to reverse some of its provisions.[23]

Licensing of firearms owners[edit]

A sample of possession-only licence

All licensing and registration is managed by the RCMP's Canadian Firearms Program (CFP), under the Deputy Commissioner Policing Support Services (PSS). In the Canadian system, there are three classes of firearms and firearm licences: non-restricted, restricted and prohibited. Prohibited firearms are not forbidden outright, as the name might imply, but their legal possession and acquisition are dependent upon their registration history and an individual's firearm licence.[24] As of December 1, 1998, the prohibited clause must be grandfathered to acquire or possess prohibited firearms. New prohibited licences are available only at the discretion of the Chief Firearms Officer of the province or the RCMP[citation needed]. See Classification of firearms below for complete details on prohibited, restricted and non-restricted firearms.

Individuals who wish to possess or acquire firearms in Canada must have a valid possession-acquisition, or possession-only, licence (PAL/POL); either of these licences allows the licensee to purchase ammunition. The PAL is distributed exclusively by the RCMP and is generally obtained in the following three steps:

  1. Safety training: To be eligible to receive a PAL, all applicants must successfully complete the Canadian Firearms Safety Course[25] (CFSC) for a non-restricted licence, and the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course[26] (CRFSC) for a restricted licence; the non-restricted class is a prerequisite to the restricted licence. Each province/territory's chief firearms officer publishes information on the locations and availability of these courses.[27]
  2. Applying for a licence: Currently only one type of licence is available to new applicants, the possession-acquisition licence (PAL). People can request a PAL by filling out Form CAFC 921.[28]
  3. Security screening: Background checks and reference interviews are performed. All applicants are screened, and a mandatory 28-day waiting period is imposed on first-time applicants, but final approval time may be longer.[29]

Licences are typically valid for five years and must be renewed prior to expiry to maintain all classes. Once licensed, an individual can apply for a firearm transfer;[30] and an authorization to transport (ATT) for restricted firearms.[31] People may hunt with firearms in Canada only with non-restricted firearms, and this requires an additional "Hunting with Firearms" course.

Businesses, museums and organizations must have a valid firearms business licence to possess, manufacture or sell firearms, restricted or prohibited firearms, prohibited devices, or prohibited ammunition. A licence is not required to possess regular ammunition, but is required to manufacture or sell ammunition. A separate licence is required for each location where the business operates, and each business licence is valid only for the activities specified on the licence.

Registering firearms. In order to be legally owned, a restricted or prohibited firearm must be registered in the Canadian Firearms Registry, which stores all data regarding firearms in Canada. To register a firearm into the system, a firearm must first be verified; its identification and classification being confirmed by an authorized verifier working with the RCMP. One must submit a registration application, which can be done online. If the firearm is being transferred from one owner to another the process can be done by telephone. Firearm registration certificates do not expire and do not need to be renewed. The Canadian Firearms Registry Online (CFRO) is accessible to police through CPIC.

Public Agents Firearms Regulations, which took effect on October 31, 2008, require public service agencies to report all firearms in their possession. Agency firearms are those used by employees (i.e. service firearms) while protected firearms are those that have been found or seized or are otherwise being held. The timely reporting and sharing of information about protected firearms is particularly important for police as it will have a significant impact on investigators' efforts to monitor the locations, movement and distribution of illicit firearms in Canada.

Canadian Firearms Program[edit]

There are four major areas within the Canadian Firearms Program, which are managed by the Deputy Commissioner Policing Support Services (PSS):

  • Firearms Administration Centre (for licensing, registration, customer service and operations);
  • Firearms Investigative and Enforcement Services Directorate (who assist police in countering illegal movement and criminal use of firearms);
  • Strategic Integration and Program Management Services (program support policy, research and planning, business management);
  • Partnership and Outreach (communications, client/partner and stakeholder relationship)

The CFP offers a wide variety of investigational support services to police:

  • Firearms Reference Table (FRT) is a comprehensive firearms database with over 130,000 entries which establishes a systematic, standard method of identifying, describing and classifying firearms.
  • Firearms Identification, for questionable firearms
  • Firearms Analysis, for potential evidence in crimes
  • Tracing of illicit firearms, the Canadian National Firearm Tracing Centre (CNFTC) assists police in tracing illegal firearms
  • Investigational support and assistance helps police in preparing, obtaining and executing search warrants, location search and seizure, exhibit identification and organisation and court preparation
  • Expert firearms advice and witness provides firearm-related guidance for testimony and court preparation and acts as liaison with partner agencies that can provide these services
  • Firearm Case Law Database, firearm-related cases can be researched, and are distributed to investigators
  • Crown Attorney Program, working with crown attorney offices, a network that specializes in firearms investigations
  • Firearms Operations and Enforcement Support (FOES), intelligence support to firearm investigators and research that identifies trends and patterns in the criminal use of firearms in Canada.
  • Pricing of illicit firearms, a record of firearm "street prices" is maintained and the information is made available to investigators
  • Access to specialized firearms information databases, Canadian Firearm Information System (CFIS), Canadian Integrated Ballistic Identification Network (CIBIN) and the Suspect Gun Database
  • Training, lectures, conferences, outreach and learning material available across Canada are available on a broad range of topics involving firearms
  • Firearms registration information, querying records contained within the Canadian Firearms Registry Online (CFRO)
  • Public Agent Firearms Reporting assistance, helping public agents use the Public Agency Web Services (PWS) to report agency and protected firearms and assisting Public Agents understand their obligations under the Public Agents Firearms Regulations

Laws and regulations[edit]

Prohibited devices[edit]

  • Replica firearms (i.e.: "any device that is designed or intended to exactly resemble, or to resemble with near precision, a firearm, and that itself is not a firearm, but does not include any such device that is designed or intended to exactly resemble, or to resemble with near precision, an antique firearm")
  • Suppressors (i.e.: "a device or contrivance designed or intended to muffle or stop the sound or report of a firearm")
  • Handgun barrels that are 105 millimetres (4.1 in) and under (excluding barrels of pistols used in international sporting competitions governed by the rules of the International Shooting Union)
  • Electrical or mechanical devices designed or adapted to render the trigger mechanism of a semi-automatic firearm to discharge in a fully automatic fashion
  • "Any rifle, shotgun or carbine stock of the type known as the "bull-pup" design, being a stock that, when combined with a firearm, reduces the overall length of the firearm such that a substantial part of the reloading action or the magazine-well is located behind the trigger of the firearm when it is held in the normal firing position."[32] (i.e.: only removable stocks are prohibited by this regulation, fixed-stock firearms such as the FN P90 and IWI Tavor are excluded)

Prohibited ammunition[edit]

Magazine capacity[edit]

Common AR-15 30 round magazines that have been pinned to 5 rounds

Some magazines are prohibited regardless of the class of firearm to which the magazines are attached. As a general rule, under the Criminal Code, the maximum magazine capacity is five rounds for most magazines designed for rifles that shoot centre-fire in a semi-automatic fashion, or ten rounds for most handgun magazines.

Magazines designed to contain centre-fire cartridges and designed or manufactured for use in a semiautomatic handgun are limited to 10 cartridges. The capacity is measured by the kind of cartridge the magazine was designed to contain. In some cases the magazine will be capable of containing more than 10 rounds of a different calibre; however, that is not relevant in the determination of the maximum permitted capacity.[33]

The maximum permitted capacity of a magazine is determined by the kind of firearm it is designed or manufactured for and not the kind of firearm that might actually use it. As a consequence, the maximum permitted capacity remains the same regardless of which firearm it might be used in. Example: The Marlin Camp Carbine chambered for .45 ACP uses magazines designed and manufactured for the M1911 pistol, therefore the seven- and eight-round capacities are permitted. A similar example is the 10-round capacity magazine for the Rock River Arms LAR-15 pistol, regardless of the kind of firearm it is actually used in.[33]

Many common magazines are manufactured to hold more rounds than law allows in Canada. These magazines must be permanently altered so they no longer hold more than the number of rounds allowed by law. Acceptable ways to alter a magazine are set out in the Criminal Code Regulations.[32]

With the exception of the Ruger BX-25 25 round magazine, there is no limit to the magazine capacity for semi-automatic rim-fire rifles or manually-operated rifles or shotguns (i.e., lever-action, pump-action, or bolt-action).

Additionally, there are a few exclusions on magazine regulations for certain specific firearms.

  • Magazines designed or manufactured for use in U.S. Rifle M1 (Garand), including Springfield Armory, Breda and Beretta M1 Garands
  • Magazines designed or manufactured for use in Charlton rifle, Farquhar-Hill rifle and Huot Automatic Rifle that are not reproductions
  • Drum-type magazines for .303 Lewis Mk1, Mk2, Mk3, Mk4, Lewis SS and .30 Savage-Lewis; .303 Vickers Mk1, Mk2, Mk3, Mk4, Mk4B, Mk5, Mk6, Mk7, as well as Bren Light MG including Mk1, Mk2, Mk3, Mk4, and any variant or modified versions of them that are not reproductions
  • Stripper magazines for Hotchkiss Model 1895, 1897, 1900, 1909, 1914, 1917 machine-guns, including Hotchkiss (Enfield) No. 2, Mk1 machine-guns and any variant or modified versions of them that are not reproductions
  • Double drum–type magazines designed or manufactured for use in MG-13, MG-15, MG-17, MG-34, T6-200, T6-220 machine-guns and any variant or modified versions of them that are not reproductions
  • Ammunition belts (metallic or fabric) that are "not a reproduction and was originally designed or manufactured for the purpose of feeding rounds into an automatic firearm of a type that was in existence before 1945".
  • Semi-automatic handgun magazines that were manufactured before 1910
  • "Snail-drum" type magazines that were originally designed or manufactured for use in the "Parabellum-Pistol or Luger", Borchardt-Luger, Model 1900, 1902, 1904 (Marine), 1904/06 (Marine), 1904/08 (Marine), 1906, 1908, 1908 (Artillery) and any variant or modified version of them
  • Magazines that were originally designed or manufactured as an integral part of the Mauser C96, including Model 1895, 1896, 1902, 1905, 1912, 1915, 1930, 1931, M711 and M712 and any variant or modified version of them
  • Magazines that were originally designed or manufactured for use in the semi-automatic Webley&Scott, Model 1912 and 1915[citation needed]


Non-restricted firearms must be unloaded and either:

  • Made inoperable with a secure locking device (such as a trigger lock); or
  • Have bolts or bolt-carriers removed; or
  • Securely locked in a sturdy container, cabinet or room that cannot be easily broken into
  • Except if: (1) in areas where it is legal to fire a gun, non-restricted firearms needed for predator control can temporarily be left unlocked and operable, but they must be kept unloaded and all ammunition must be stored separately, and (2) in wilderness areas, non-restricted firearms can be left unlocked and/or operable, but must be left unloaded (ammunition may be kept nearby).

Restricted firearms must be unloaded and either:

  • Made inoperable with a secure locking device (such as a trigger lock) and securely locked in a sturdy container, cabinet or room that cannot be easily broken into; or
  • Locked in a vault, safe or room that was built or adapted for storing these types of firearms
  • For automatic firearms, the bolt(s) or bolt-carrier(s) must be removed, if removable, and stored in a separate locked room that cannot be easily broken into


  • Having ammunition kept in a location where it is not available for loading the firearm, unless both the firearm and its ammunition are securely locked up is recommended, however is not required.


  • Non-restricted firearms left unattended in a car must be locked in the trunk or in a similar lockable compartment. If the vehicle does not have a trunk or compartment, the firearm must be placed out of sight inside the vehicle and the vehicle must be locked (same rules apply for transport of replica firearms)
  • Non-restricted firearms must be: transported unloaded (with the exception of muzzle-loading rifles, which can be transported loaded between hunting sites so long as the firing cap or flint is removed).
  • Restricted and prohibited firearms must be: unloaded, made inoperable with a secure locking device, and locked in a sturdy container. Prohibited firearms must also have their bolts or bolt-carriers removed, if removable.


Non-restricted firearms must be unloaded and either:

  • Made inoperable with a secure locking device (such as a trigger lock); or
  • Locked in a sturdy container, cabinet or room that cannot be easily broken into.

Restricted and prohibited firearms must be unloaded and:

  • Made inoperable with a secure locking device (such as a trigger lock); and
  • Securely attached to something that cannot be moved.
  • The bolts or bolt-carriers must be removed, if removable, and stored in a separate locked room that cannot be easily broken into


  • Must not be displayed with a firearm that can discharge it

Public agents firearms regulations[edit]

When not in use, agency firearms and other controlled items must be:

  • Stored in a container, receptacle, vault, safe or room
  • That is controlled by the public agency and kept securely locked; or
  • In a dwelling place if authorized by the public agency

Other controlled items being stored in a dwelling place must be securely locked in a container or receptacle that cannot be easily broken into, unless the agency has provided other instructions in writing.

By law, a potential customer must be 18 years of age or older to purchase a firearm or legally maintain possession of one. People under the age of 18 but over the age of 12 may procure a minor’s licence, which does not allow them to purchase a firearm but allows them to borrow a firearm unsupervised and purchase ammunition. Children under the age of 12 that are found to need a firearm to hunt or trap may also be awarded the minor's licence. This is generally reserved for children in remote locations, primarily aboriginal communities that engage in subsistence hunting.[34]


Long gun registration is no longer required after Bill C-19 was passed and made into law. However, it was still required in Quebec until March 27, 2015, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the destruction of long-gun registry records was within the constitutional power of Parliament to make criminal law, denying the Quebec government's legal challenge and allowing for those records to be destroyed.

The history of the long gun registry: On January 1, 2001, all firearms in Canada did have to be registered with the Canadian Firearms Registry. In early 2006, the Conservative Party of Canada became the largest party in the 39th Canadian Parliament, and the new government announced an amnesty period of one year (later extended by a further year) in which licensed or previously licensed long gun owners would not be punished for not registering their long guns. The legal requirement to register as set forth by law has not been revoked; legislation to revoke the requirement to register long guns was introduced by the government during the 39th Parliament but was not brought to a vote. It was opposed by the Opposition parties who together had a majority of seats in the House of Commons. Similar legislation was again brought forward in the form of private member's bill C-391 during the 40th Parliament but was narrowly defeated on September 22, 2010.[35] During the 41st Parliament the newly formed Conservative majority government again introduced legislation to repeal the requirement to register non-restricted firearms and to destroy the registry database. Bill C-19 passed both the House and Senate and received royal assent on April 5, 2012.[36] The repeal of the long gun registry had been a long-standing campaign promise of the Conservative Party.[37]

Restricted firearms[edit]

To purchase a handgun or other restricted firearm, a person must have a restricted possession and acquisition licence (RPAL) for restricted firearms.

Canada's federal laws severely restrict the ability of civilians to transport restricted or prohibited (grandfathered) firearms in public. Section 17 of the Firearms Act makes it an offence to possess prohibited or restricted firearms other than at a dwelling-house or authorized location, but there are two exceptions to this prohibition found in sections 19 and 20 of the act. Section 19 allows for persons to be issued an authorization to transport, or ATT, authorizing the transport of a firearm outside the home for certain purposes, such as for its transfer to a new owner, going to and from a range, a training course, repair shop or gun show, or when the owner wishes to change the address where the firearm is stored. Such firearms must be transported unloaded, equipped with a trigger lock and stored in secure, locked containers. In rarer cases, section 20 of the act allows individuals to receive an authorization to carry, or ATC, granting permission to carry loaded restricted firearms or (section 12(6)) prohibited handguns on their persons for certain reasons specified in the act. These reasons are as follows: if the person is a licensed trapper and carries the firearm while trapping, if the person is in a remote wilderness area and needs the firearm for protection against wildlife, if the person's work involves guarding or handling money or other items of substantial value, or if the person's life is in imminent danger and police protection is inadequate to protect the person.[38] The authorities almost never issue an ATC on the basis that a person's life is in imminent danger and police protection is inadequate. The vast majority of ATC's issued are to employees of armoured car companies to allow carry of a company owned firearm only while working.[39]

Legality of self-defence[edit]

The issue of the legality of self-defence with a firearm in Canada has been the subject of controversy. While self-defence is legal, it is very restricted. The Criminal Code recognizes self-defence with a firearm. The Firearms Act provides a legal framework wherein an individual may acquire, possess and carry a restricted or (a specific class of) prohibited firearm for protection from other individuals when police protection is deemed insufficient.[40] This situation is extremely rare: the (publicly available version of the) RCMP authorization to carry application[41] refers only to protection of life during employment that involves handling of valuable goods or dangerous wildlife.[42]

While self-defence is rarely considered a legal reason for attaining a PAL, the use of force with a firearm is legal as long as the accused can prove that his or her life was in danger. Sections 34 and 35 of the Criminal Code provide the legal framework of the use of force against intruders.[43]

Classification of firearms[edit]

According to licences, firearms are classified into prohibited, restricted and non-restricted categories, as defined by Part III of Criminal Code (R.S., 1985, c. C-46)[44] Note: The word "prohibited" is a classification and does not indicate that such firearms are "prohibited" as per the normal use of the word.

Prohibited firearms include:

  • Handguns
  • with a barrel length less than to 105 millimetres (4.1 in), or;
  • that are designed to discharge .25 or .32 calibre ammunition;
  • exceptions are stated in the Regulations Prescribing Exclusions from Certain Definitions of the Criminal Code International Sporting Competition Handguns[45]
  • Rifles and shotguns that have been altered by sawing, cutting or any other means, so that:
  • the barrel length is inferior to 457 millimetres (18.0 in) (regardless of overall length), or;
  • the overall length is inferior to 660 millimetres (26 in)
  • Firearms which have fully automatic fire capability, or "converted automatics" (i.e.: firearms which were originally fully automatic, but have been modified to discharge ammunition in a semi-automatic fashion)
  • Firearms prescribed as prohibited by the Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited or Restricted (SOR/98-462):.[32] This includes all versions (even semi-automatic) of certain military weapons such as the AK-47 and the FN-FAL.
  • Firearm capable of discharging dart or other object carrying electric current or substance, including Taser Public Defender and any variant or modified version of it
  • Firearm known as SSS-1 Stinger and any similar firearm designed or of a size to fit in the palm of the hand
  • Hundreds of other firearms listed by name, including any variants or modified versions. The list includes shotguns, carbines, rifles, pistols, and submachine guns.[32]

Restricted firearms are:[46]

  • Any handgun that is not prohibited (note: handguns are prohibited if the barrel length is inferior to 105 millimetres (4.1 in); handguns cannot be non-restricted)
  • Any firearm that is:
  • not prohibited
  • that has a barrel length inferior to 470 millimetres (18.5 in), and
  • is capable of discharging centre-fire ammunition in a semi-automatic manner[47]
  • Any firearm that can be fired when the overall length has been reduced by folding, telescoping, or other means to less than 660 millimetres (26 in)
  • Firearms prescribed as restricted by the Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited or Restricted (SOR/98-462):[32]
  • The firearms of the designs commonly known as the High Standard Model 10, Series A shotgun and the High Standard Model 10, Series B shotgun, and any variants or modified versions of them.
  • The firearm of the design commonly known as the M-16 rifle, and any variant or modified version of it, including the
    • Colt AR-15; Colt AR-15 SPI/Sporter/Collapsible Stock Model/A2/A2 Carbine/A2 Government Model Rifle/A2 Government Model Target Rifle/A2 Government Model Carbine/A2 Sporter II/A2 H-BAR/A2 Delta H-BAR/A2 Delta H-BAR Match/9mm Carbine; Armalite AR-15; AAI M15; AP74; EAC J-15; PWA Commando; SGW XM15A; SGW CAR-AR; SWD AR-15; and
    • any 22-calibre rimfire variant, including the
      • Mitchell M-16A-1/22, Mitchell M-16/22, Mitchell CAR-15/22, and AP74 Auto Rifle.

(Note: legally, restricted firearms can only be discharged at shooting ranges; so while one can use them in competitions, one cannot use them for hunting)

Non-restricted firearms are:

  • any other rifle or shotgun, other than those referred to above.

Firearms registry[edit]

Violent crime, suicide, and accidents in Canada[edit]

Gun control laws are often enacted to control injury and death with target areas broadly classified as violent crime, suicide, and accidental injury. Statistics are often used to demonstrate the need for new legislation, or highlight the successes and failures of existing legislation.

In the year following the introduction of firearms licensing in Canada (1977), the already ongoing decline in murder involving firearms continued, relative to other mechanisms.[48] From 1977 to 2003 Canada firearm homicide has declined from 1.15 to 0.5 per 100,000, while other mechanisms declined slightly less (1.85 to 1.23 per 100,000).[48][49]

A comprehensive review of firearm control legislation found that studies on the effects of the 1977 bill C-51 and bill C-68 from 1995 on firearm homicide rates came to differing conclusions, but generally found that bill C-17 from 1991 was not associated with all of firearm homicides.[50]

Currently, shooting and stabbing represent the two most common mechanisms for homicide in Canada, each accounting for approximately 30% of murders.[51]

Overall suicide in Canada peaked in 1978 at 14.5 per 100,000,[52] declining by 22% (11.3 per 100,000) in 2004.[53] Several studies have found that the 1977 bill C-51 was linked to lower suicide and firearm suicide rates in Canada.[50] Several studies examining the effect of bill C-17 (mostly using data from Quebec) found that it was associated with a decline in firearm suicides, but that the rate of overall suicides did not change, largely because of a rise in suicides due to hanging suggesting a substitution of suicide methods.[50]

Accidental death, of any kind, is rare, claiming 27.9 people per 100,000 in 2000. Of these, firearms accidents account for 0.3% (0.1 per 100,000), ranking below the 37% for transportation (10.2 per 100,000), 28% for unspecified (7.7 per 100,000), 18% for falls (5.1 per 100,000), and 11% for poisoning (3.1 per 100,000).[54] Two studies by Leenaars and Lester using national data from 1969 to 1985 find that bill C-51 was associated with a reduced accidental death rate from firearms.[50]


Although firearms laws are officially controlled by the federal government, which should create identical conditions across the country, the role of provincial governments in implementing those laws complicates this matter. As prescribed in the constitution, provinces are free to opt out[55] and administer any federal program provincially. Currently half of the provinces allow the federal government to administer the Firearms Act, and the other half choose to administer it provincially (see CFP for more information).

Charges under the Criminal Code can be prosecuted only by a provincial attorney general. With the exception of offences in the three federal territories and certain national security offences, the federal attorney general does not prosecute offences under the Criminal Code.[55] However, the federal attorney general can prosecute offences under other federal statutes, such as the Firearms Act. Since both the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act contain offences relating to firearms, the nature of the charge will determine which attorney general is responsible for prosecuting the offence. For reasons of cost or public opinion, nine provinces except Quebec, have refused to prosecute people for social regulation charges, such as many under the Firearms Act, page 43[vague].[56][57][58] Also, since CFOs are responsible for issuing authorization to transport and authorization to carry, firearms' regulation procedures differ between provinces.

Some provinces allow municipalities to regulate the use of firearms within their boundaries. For example, in British Columbia, under section 8(5) of the Community Charter, municipal councils can "regulate and prohibit in relation to the discharge of firearms". Similar laws are also in effect in Alberta and Nova Scotia (Municipal Government Act), Ontario and Manitoba (Municipal Act), New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island (Municipalities Act), Newfoundland and Labrador (City of St. John's Act, R.S.N. 1990 c. C-17) and Quebec (Municipal Code of Québec) but not in Saskatchewan. In Saskatchewan, discharge of firearms is typically considered within the provincial wildlife statutes.[59]

There has been significant criticism levelled at Canadian gun laws, particularly regarding safe storage requirements. While the Firearms Act has simple language, jurisprudence of what meets that standard causes ambiguity. Generally, vaults, safes, secured rooms, and solid front locking cabinets are all technically acceptable storage containers.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Gregg Lee Carter (2012). Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture, and the Law, 2nd Edition [3 volumes]: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture, and the Law. ABC-CLIO. pp. 250–. ISBN 978-0-313-38671-8.
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  5. ^ In a study of gun ownership in selected nations, Canada's level of gun ownership (21.8%) was similar to France's (23.8%) and Sweden's (16.6%). Of the eight countries compared, firearm ownership was highest in the United States (48.6%) and lowest in the Netherlands (2%)."Firearms in Canada and Eight Other Western Countries: Selected Findings of the 1996 International Crime (Victim) Survey", Canada Firearms Centre. Accessed: 2014-06-11.
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External links[edit]