Firearm offences

According to the latest Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s (RCMP) annual Firearms Report, more than 2.2 million Canadians have a gun license. Of those licensed, over a million have registered prohibited or restricted firearms with the Canadian Firearms program. This begs the question of how many Canadians have unauthorized possession of a gun, whether they know it or not.

Firearm laws in Canada are stringent and vigorously enforced by the police, Crown prosecutors, and courts. Convictions for unlawful gun possession offences carry severe penalties that can lead to up to 14 years in prison. Due to the severe penalties and complexity of the laws, anyone facing gun possession charges in Canada should always seek legal help from a highly competent firearms lawyer. Read on to learn how our legal system addresses domestic assault and what to expect if you’re arrested for the offence.

Canada’s Firearms Act Regulates the Legal Possession of Firearms

Anyone possessing a firearm in Canada must hold a valid Possession and Acquisition License (PAL) or Restricted Possession and Acquisition License (RPAL). Under the purview of the RCMP, Canada’s Firearms Act regulates the process and requirements for acquiring these licenses. The Act includes other measures that regulate gun registration, transportation, safe storage, and usage.

The Act categorizes firearms under three different classes:

  • Non-restricted
  • Restricted
  • Prohibited

Non-restricted firearms include any rifles and shotguns — commonly called “long guns” — that are not restricted or prohibited. Most long guns in Canada are non-restricted, though most semi-automatic models and guns with folding stocks and other modifications are excluded from this designation.

The question of can you own a handgun in Canada is answered by the RPAL and restricted class of guns, which includes handguns. The restricted class also includes some semi-automatic long guns and other firearms that are not listed as prohibited.

Prohibited firearms include:

  • Automatic, semi-automatic, and modified long guns.
  • Short-barrelled and specific calibres of handguns.
  • Other modified guns and any gun models listed in the government’s schedule of prohibited firearms.

The legal ownership of prohibited guns is allowed under the Firearm Act’s grandfather provision that lets people keep registered models they owned before they were deemed prohibited.

Along with holding a valid RPAL, legally possessing a restricted or prohibited firearm requires the owner to register the gun with the RCMP. Non-restricted firearms do not have to be registered.

Requirements for Securing a PAL or RPAL

Anyone wanting to acquire and own a firearm legally must secure a PAL or RPAL from the RCMP. Those seeking a PAL must complete an RCMP-approved gun safety course, pass a gun safety test, undergo a background check, and meet eligibility criteria. RPAL applicants must also complete an RCMP-approved restricted gun safety course and pass the restricted gun safety test. The RCMP can reject PAL and RPAL applications for the following reasons:

  • Criminal convictions for numerous offences that involve violence, firearms, drugs, domestic violence, and threats.
  • Court-issued no-contact orders and weapons prohibitions.
  • Mental health issues.
  • Any other reason that “poses a risk of harm to any person.”

Once issued, gun license holders must comply with stringent storage, transportation, and usage requirements. Noncompliance can result in the arrest and prosecution for numerous offences detailed under the Criminal Code’s Firearms and Other Weapons section. A firearms license is valid for five years, and failing to renew it could subject a gun owner to arrest for unauthorized possession, which carries a five-year maximum prison sentence.

Criminal Code Penalties for Unlawful Gun Possession

The Criminal Code lists 11 gun possession offences under sections 88 (1)-98 (1) of the Criminal Code:

  • Possession of a weapon for dangerous purposes.
  • Carrying a weapon while attending a public meeting.
  • Carrying concealed weapons.
  • Unauthorized possession of a firearm.
  • Unauthorized possession of prohibited weapons or restricted weapons.
  • Possession of a weapon knowing its possession is unauthorized.
  • Possession of prohibited weapon, device or ammunition knowing its possession is unauthorized.
  • Possession at an unauthorized place.
  • Unauthorized possession in a motor vehicle.
  • Possession of prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition.
  • Possession of a weapon obtained by the commission of an offence.

Ten of these offences are hybrid, with a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment when charged as a summary conviction offence. The maximum sentence when charged as an indictable offence ranges from five to 14 years, depending on the offence. Carrying a weapon while attending a public meeting is solely a summary conviction offence, with a maximum two-year prison sentence.

Excepting firearm usage in the commission of other crimes, gun usage, transportation, and storage offences are listed under Section 86 of the Code. The maximum penalty for a first-time conviction on these charges is two years imprisonment as either an indictable or summary conviction offence.

Other Firearm Ownership Considerations

The Criminal Code and Firearms Act do not put any restrictions on how many guns can you own in Canada. However, the RCMP closely monitors gun ownership, and excessive accumulation might raise concerns about an individual’s threat to public safety and compliance with licensing requirements.

Lawful gun ownership requirements are complex and vigorously enforced by the police and courts. As such, police charge numerous otherwise law-abiding Canadians annually for firearm offences caused by carelessness or errors in judgment.

If the police have charged you with gun or weapons offences, secure experienced legal representation from the Vilkhov Law defence lawyers in Brampton, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, and the Greater Toronto Area. For expert defence strategies that secure favourable results for those charged with firearm possession crimes, contact us for a free, confidential consultation.

By |2024-05-01T13:51:49+00:00May 2nd, 2024|Criminal Defence, Uncategorized|

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Criminal Lawyers Association
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Criminal Lawyers Association
Toronnto Lawyers Association
Law Society of Ontario
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