Possession and acquisition licence
All of the following require a licence in Canada
- Possession of a firearm (including long-guns)
- Acquisition of a firearm (including long-guns)
- Possession or acquisition of ammunition for a firearm
- Borrowing any of the above (technically possession/acquisition, but can be licensed separately).
Non-residents may wish to note "A non-resident firearms declaration that has been confirmed by a customs officer is deemed to be a temporary licence for up to 60 days". [For that firearm. It is effectively a POL, not a PAL - see below]. (A "non-resident firearms declaration" is a specific form that should be reviewed in advance of travel, not an oral statement at the border).
The possession and acquisition licence (PAL) is the primary licence for possession of a firearm and acquisition of ammunition, and it is both required and the only permissible document for a person to acquire or permanently import a firearm. Applicants must be 18 years of age. There is no requirement of citizenship or residency (although different forms, and slightly different requirements apply).
Other firearms licences
Other firearm licences for individuals include:
- Minors licence (under 18) permits borrowing a firearm. Usually applicant must be at least 12, although exceptions can be made if one can demonstrate "need". (Requirements, including courses, are substantially the same as PAL.)
- Possession-only licences (POL). Grandfathered licence. Permits possession of firearms and acquisition of ammunition, but not acquisition of firearms. A POL can be associated with both non-restricted, or restricted firearms, and in some cases grandfathered firearms which are otherwise virtually unlicensable, and hence illegal. If the POL expires, it effectively ungrandfathers the firearm, which cannot be undone, even under the temporary "amnesty" provisions for renewing an expired POL.
- Non-resident temporary borrowing licence for non-restricted firearms
- Non-resident temporary possession licence for minors
NOTE: While issued licences read either "Possession • Acquisition" or "Possession Only", the Firearms Act and regulations refer to either "possession and acquisition licence" or "possession licence", without the word only.
All licensing of firearms in Canada is managed by the RCMP's Canadian Firearms Program (CFP). In the Canadian system, there are three classes of firearms and firearm licences: non-restricted, restricted and prohibited. See § Classification of firearms below for complete details on prohibited, restricted and non-restricted firearms.
A possession and acquisition licence is a licence that allows individuals in Canada to possess and acquire firearms as well as ammunition. 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; and an authorization to transport (ATT) for restricted and prohibited firearms. If an individual possessing a PAL is convicted of certain offences, a PAL can be revoked. If an individual does not renew their PAL prior to its expiration date or if they have their PAL revoked, they must legally dispose of any firearms in their possession. A licence for prohibited firearms can be issued to qualifying businesses, and very rarely to individuals (firearms they own, as the gun laws changed over time.) Previous convictions for serious violent, drug or weapons offences almost invariably result in the denial of the application.
A PAL is generally obtained in the following three steps:
- Safety training
- All PAL applicants are recommended to successfully complete the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC) for a Non-restricted licence, and the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC) for a restricted licence. In many provinces, however, applicants are also able to challenge the non-restricted and restricted licence examinations without completing the respective safety courses. In most cases, the non-restricted class is a prerequisite to obtain the restricted licence, but both examinations can be challenged at the same time. The examinations contain both a written and practical component. Information on the locations and availability of these courses can be found at the RCMP website.
- Formal application
- Submit completed application (with supporting documents)
- Security screening
- Background checks and investigations are performed. All applicants are screened and a mandatory 28-day waiting period is imposed on first-time applicants.
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; and an authorization to transport (ATT) for restricted firearms.
Classification of firearms
Like 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)
Prohibited firearms include:
- Handguns with a barrel that is 105 millimetres (4.1 in) or less in length
- Handguns that are designed to discharge .25 or .32 calibre ammunition (unless stated in the Regulations Prescribing Exclusions from Certain Definitions of the Criminal Code International Sporting Competition Handguns)
- Rifles and shotguns that have been altered by sawing, cutting or any other means, so that their barrel length be less than 457 millimetres (18.0 in) or their overall length less than 660 millimetres (26 in)
- Automatic firearms, whether or not they have been altered to discharge only one projectile with one pressure of the trigger
- 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):
- Firearm capable of discharging dart or other object carrying electrical 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.
Restricted firearms are:
- Handguns that are not prohibited
- Semi-automatic firearms with a barrel shorter than 470mm (18.5 in)
- Rifles and shotguns that can be fired when their 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), and any variant or modified version of them:
- High Standard Model 10 Series A & Series B
- M16 rifle, including Colt AR-15, 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 and CAR-AR, SWD AR-15, as well as any .22 calibre rimfire variant of it including Mitchell M16A1/22, M16/22, CAR-15/22, AP74 Auto Rifle
Non-restricted firearms are:
- ordinary rifles and shotguns, other than those referred to above.
PALs were introduced in Canada in 1995 as part of Bill C-68 as a replacement for the FAC (firearms acquisition certificate) system. Whereas the FAC was only required to acquire a firearm, a PAL is required to both acquire and possess firearms and to acquire ammunition. A PAL for non-restricted firearms allows its holders to acquire and possess any non-restricted firearm, while a PAL for restricted firearms (which also covers prohibited firearms to those eligible) allows the holder to acquire and possess restricted firearms.
When first implemented, the PAL also allowed the holder to acquire a cross-bow, although no licence was required to possess one. There is no longer a licensing requirement for purchasing cross-bows.
Transportation of firearms
The transportation regulations are broken down into two divisions: those for non-restricted firearms and those for restricted or prohibited firearms. These rules are laid out in the Storage, Display, Transportation and Handling of Firearms by Individuals Regulations. A non restricted firearm may be transported so long as it is unloaded. Such a firearm does not need to be encased or trigger locked.
A restricted firearm must be disabled by use of a trigger, cable, or other locking device and locked in an opaque case. An unattended non-restricted firearm left in a vehicle must be locked in the trunk or other compartment, if one is available. In order to transport restricted or prohibited firearms, an individual must obtain an authorization to transport. An ATT is generally approved only for individuals to transport a restricted or prohibited firearm to a shooting range for target practice, gun show for sale, to a gunsmith or gun shop or for a competition (e.g.: IPSC).
An authorization to carry (ATC) allows a person to carry a restricted firearm or prohibited handgun concealed (if specified as a condition of carry) and loaded. An ATC for open carry is usually only issued to employees of armoured car companies or for other limited employment reasons. In very rare situations, an ATC may be issued for protection of life, which would allow the holder to have a loaded handgun with them, or at home, without violating safe storage rules that usually require an unloaded firearm to be trigger locked and secured.
- Program, Government of Canada, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canadian Firearms. "Licensing".
- Program, Government of Canada, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canadian Firearms. "Safety Courses".
- Program, Government of Canada, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canadian Firearms. "CFSC and CRFSC Contact Information".
- Program, Government of Canada, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canadian Firearms. "Forms".
- "Criminal Code". Laws.justice.gc.ca. Retrieved 2011-03-13.
- "Regulations Prescribing Exclusions from Certain Definitions of the Criminal Code (International Sporting Competition Handguns)". Laws.justice.gc.ca. Retrieved 2011-03-13.
- "Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited or Restricted". Laws.justice.gc.ca. Retrieved 2011-03-13.
- Storage, Display, Transportation and Handling of Firearms by Individuals Regulations