On March 21, 2018, the Liberals introduced Bill C-71 to improve Canada’s existing gun control legislation. This legislation includes measures to broaden background checks for gun owners, toughen rules around the transportation of handguns, and tighten record keeping requirements for the sale of firearms. Bill C-71 proposes to make changes to the Firearms Act, the Criminal Code and repeals changes made by the previous Conservative Government.
In Canada, crimes involving firearms have increased by 30% between 2013 and 2016, with 2,465 offences occurring in 2016. Homicides involving guns have increased by two thirds between 2013 and 2016, with 223 homicides occurring in 2016.
The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, stated:
While Canada is one of the safest countries in the world, increased gun crime has caused too much violence and taken too many lives in communities of all kinds. … With this legislation and our other measures, we are taking concrete steps to make our country less vulnerable to the scourge of gun violence, while being fair to responsible, law-abiding firearms owners and businesses.
GUN CONTROL LAWS IN CANADA
Gun control in Canada is governed by the Canadian Firearms Act and the Canadian Criminal Code. This legislation defines different types of weapons and set out rules regarding which weapons are legal in Canada and under what circumstances.
Canadian law classifies firearms as follows:
- Prohibited: .32 or .25 caliber handguns or those with a barrel length of 105 mm or less, automatic firearms, short-barrelled long guns;
- Restricted: handguns that are not classified as prohibited, semi-automatic long guns with a barrel less than 470 mm;
- Non-Restricted: those not regulated as either restricted or prohibited.
A Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) is required to possess firearms. The eligibility for a PAL includes a background check to determine whether the applicant has been convicted of any of the designated offences, treated for any mental illness associated with actual or threatened violence, or has a history of behaviour that includes violence, or threatened or attempted violence within the previous five years.
Following a background check, an individual must undergo the “Canadian Firearms Safety Course” and pass the corresponding exam. The individual must also fill our forms and provide character references.
PROPOSALS FOR GUN CONTROL
Enhanced Background Checks
Bill C-71 proposes to expand background checks for those who want to buy a firearm. As described above, the current background check looks back on the last five years. It has been proposed that the RCMP examine any relevant information throughout the individual’s lifetime for prospective gun owners and those who have to renew their gun licences. The RCMP will complete an extensive background check looking into criminal, mental health, addiction and domestic violence records before authorizing an individual a licence to possess a firearm.
Once a licence has been issued, background checks will be ongoing to see if a licence holder has become a public safety risk.
Gun Shop Owner Obligations
Bill C-71 proposes changes to the responsibilities placed on gun vendors in Canada.
Under the new legislation, commercial gun shop retailers will be required to keep information about sales and inventory for at least 20 years, including the firearm’s serial number, the licence number of the transferee, the reference number and the day the reference number was issued. This requirement will not apply to private sellers.
Also, anyone selling or gifting a non-restricted firearm will be required to verify that the person they are providing the firearm to holds a valid firearm licence through the Canadian Firearms Program.
Police investigating a firearms crime can trace the owner of a gun through the licence number, but they are required to get a warrant in order to access the records held by gun shop retailers.
Bill C-71 proposes that owners of restricted or prohibited firearms will need to obtain Authorization to Transport (ATT) documents every time they wish to take their guns anywhere other than a shooting club or gun range. Therefore, taking a firearm for servicing by a gunsmith or to a gun show would require separate authorizations to transport the firearm. However, authorizations to transport will not be required for non-restricted firearms.
If you have been charged with a firearm/gun offence or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced Oshawa defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.