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Important Facts for Police/Public Agents

Canadian Firearms Program

Should you be reporting as a public agency?

A "public service agency" means a police force, police academy or a department or agency of a federal, provincial or municipal government.

This can include any agency that possesses firearms:

  • Used for control of or protection from wildlife
  • As exhibits in court matters
  • As part of a permanent collection for training or exhibit purposes

Typically you should have a public agency identification number (PAIN) and report your inventory if you have agents who, as part of their duties, hold or handle either agency or protected firearms.

“Agency firearms” are firearms that are in the possession of a public agency for use by its employees - for example, a police service firearm.

“Protected firearms” are firearms that are not agency firearms, but that are in an agency’s possession - for example, firearms that an agency has found, seized, or is holding for other reasons such as testing or evidence.

Your “initial inventory” (meaning agency and protected firearms in an agency’s possession) were to be reported by October 31st 2009. All firearms acquired after this date are to be reported as “Newly Acquired” inventory.

What can your agency do to be in compliance with these Regulations?

The following are some recommendations:

  • Consult the Public Agents Firearms Regulations to assess their impact on your organization. They are available on the Justice Canada website.
  • Establish an internal policy related to firearms reporting, including areas of authority within your organization for complying with the Regulations.
  • Determine the channel or channels in your organization through which agency and protected firearms will be reported. It is recommended that agency firearms be reported by one centralized unit within the agency and that protected firearms be reported by the unit where the firearms are being stored.
  • Develop internal controls for monitoring compliance with the reporting requirements.
  • Assess your organization’s capacity to identify firearms and familiarize staff that will be reporting firearms with the Firearms Reference Table.
  • Obtain a PAIN or confirm your existing PAIN by using the Public Agency Web Services found on this website.

Getting Started

Every public service agency that possesses firearms must apply for one or more public agency identification numbers (PAIN). This number is used to distinctly identify agencies that report firearms. If more than one section in your agency will be reporting firearms, each section must obtain its own PAIN.

If your agency already has a PAIN to acquire firearms and ammunition your existing agency PAIN may be used for reporting its firearm inventories. Agencies must confirm the existing PAIN to the Registrar using the web service on this site.

To start accessing the web service for requesting or confirming the PAIN agencies require a user ID and password. If you have received a user ID and password, proceed to the web service page.

If you do not have a user ID and password send an e-mail to the Registry requesting access to the PAIN web service. Include your agency name, mailing address, the name of a contact person and telephone number in the e-mail. The user ID and password to access the web service will be e-mailed to you.

Please note that passwords expire three months from the date of issue if there is no activity taken. If your password is expired, please send an e-mail to the Registry.

Your agency may require more than one PAIN. Agency firearms will most likely be reported from one centralized location within the agency. One PAIN would be issued for that purpose. If protected firearms are held at the same location, the same PAIN may be used.

In larger agencies, it is common for protected firearms to be held at many different locations throughout the agency. These inventories can change frequently as firearms are received, returned or destroyed. Therefore, it may be more practical for these firearms to be reported at the location where they are held. In this case, each location would require a separate PAIN.

Once your agency has requested and confirmed your PAIN you must designate one or more employees as Authorized Reporting Agents. Reporting Agents have access to all reporting features on PWS and can add and remove inventory as the regulations allow. To add a reporting agent please send an e-mail to the Registry.

Public Agency Web Service

The primary tool to handle all public agency requirements and transactions is the Public Agency Web Services (PWS) secure site. Agencies must utilize PWS in complying with the reporting requirements.

Agencies are able to use web services to:

  • Apply for a Public Agency Identification Number (PAIN)
  • Confirm an existing PAIN
  • Update contact information and add or remove reporting agents
  • Obtain firearms descriptions from the Firearms Reference Table (FRT)
  • Report changes to firearm inventory such as new acquisitions and firearms moving to other agencies
  • Report destruction of firearms

PWS is continually undergoing improvement based on feedback from the users. Update releases are planned four times a year in addition to any urgent requests to ensure efficient operation of the secure site.

Your Inventory

All reporting agencies need to use our public agency web services to update their inventory.

There are two methods for submitting firearm descriptions. Agencies may submit individual firearm descriptions to build their inventory via data entry in the PWS portal or upload one or more files containing up to 1,000 firearm descriptions at one time.

The data entry feature of PWS interfaces with the FRT, allowing you to search the FRT for a correct firearm description. With one mouse-click the complete firearm description is exported to the data-entry fields for you, ensuring fewer errors.

Using uploaded files, the files must be formatted according to the Canadian Firearms Program’s standard for reporting firearm descriptions. The ability to upload files may be particularly useful to agencies reporting large numbers of firearms or those that already have a system for extracting information. The file format can be found in PWS with the following steps:

  • Select report initial inventory or report newly acquired firearms
  • Click on the file-upload option and open the sample zip document found on the file upload page

The Public Agency Regulations for sale or loan of firearms.

If you have a contract with a trade-up or buy-back clause with a company you buy firearms from the Regulations in s.12.1 state: “a public service agency can only sell, barter, give lend or rent a firearm to another public service agency” and therefore eliminates the possibility of trade-ups or buy-backs.

If you need samples of firearms for research or for a procurement process a registered firearm may be lent to a public service agency as per s.34 of the Firearms Act. The firearm remains registered to the business while on loan to the public service agency and may be returned to them after you are done with them.

If you mistakenly order the wrong firearm and wish to return it to the business from which you acquired it this issue is not covered by the Public Agents Firearms Regulations. You may wish to consult your legal counsel for a solution and contact us in writing with your request.

If a new firearm has a major flaw and will need to be replaced. You can return the firearm to the business from which you acquired it. The return of a defective firearm is provided for in s.12.1 (3) of the Regulations.

If a firearm requires repair but is not “defective” you may have your firearms serviced or repaired by a business and then returned to you. If the firearm is sent for repair and is returned to the agency, the firearm may remain as recorded in the inventory of the agency. There is no requirement to report this transaction. The firearms will need to be sent to a business licensed to repair firearms.

Tasers must be reported. The Criminal Code and Firearm Regulations have defined tasers as prohibited firearms. The Criminal Code section 84(1), under the extensive definition of “prohibited firearm” subsection (d) states: “any firearm that is prescribed to be a prohibited firearm”. The Regulations prescribing prohibited firearms state under Former Prohibited Weapons Order No 3 that; “Any firearm capable of discharging a dart or other object carrying an electrical current or substance including the firearm of the design commonly known as the Taser Public Defender and any variant of modified version of it.”

When to Update your Inventory

What are the reporting deadlines?

  • Agencies are requested to report their existing firearms as soon as possible. All initial inventories were to be reported by October 31, 2009.
  • New acquisitions and sales or loans of agency firearms must be reported without delay.
  • Inventory changes for protected firearms must be reported within 30 days.
  • No report is required if the firearm is in the agency's possession for less than 72 hours. But see ‘Exceptions’ below.

Exceptions:

If the Canada Border Services Agency comes into possession of a firearm other than through abandonment, seizure or forfeiture, and the firearm remains in the possession of the Agency for more than 90 days, the Agency shall ensure that the report is made without delay after the 90 days.

Protected firearms which are recovered and destroyed immediately, are required to be reported. The 72-hour rule applies when the firearm will be returned to the owner within that timeframe. If a firearm is taken into custody and destroyed or transferred, it must be reported regardless of how long it is in the agency's possession. All firearms that have been found, seized or are being held for other reasons by a public service agency must be reported to the Registrar of Firearms using the RCMP Public Agency Web Services (PWS).

What inventory changes must be reported?

The movement of firearms into or out of an agency’s inventory of agency and protected firearms must be reported, including, for example:

  • New acquisitions
  • Sales, gifts or loans of firearms to other agencies
  • Exports to agencies in other countries
  • The return of defective firearms to suppliers
  • The return of protected firearms to their rightful owner
  • Agencies were already required to report firearms that have been lost or stolen from their inventories, but these firearms can be reported online through PWS.

If your agency sells, gives or lends a firearm to another agency the agency that is selling, giving or lending the firearm to another agency will initiate the transfer process, and the agency that is receiving the firearm will confirm the transfer using the online service. The agency that is receiving the firearm is not required to enter the firearm in their inventory except by confirming the transfer. The agency that originally possessed the firearm has already created a record for the firearm and it need not be done again.

If your agency gives or lends a firearm to an agency in another country an agency may give or lend a firearm to a department, agency or police force of a foreign government (national or otherwise) for purposes of evidence in judicial proceedings. They cannot sell a firearm to an agency in another country.

Must agencies report protected firearms that they are holding only temporarily and plan to return to their rightful owners?

  • Agencies are required to report only protected firearms that are in their possession for more than 72 hours. These must be reported within 30 days of acquisition.
  • CBSA is required to report firearms that it plans to return to the owner only if the firearms are in their possession for more than 90 days.
  • If an agency lends a firearm to another agency and will get it back before 180 days, this exchange need not be reported.

Reporting Tools

PWS is a secure portal and thus can offer real-time data from the Canadian Firearm Information System (CFIS).

PWS is a real-time update to CFIS. Any information you add to your inventory is immediately available across the services that rely on the Registry’s database. Transfers to and from your inventory are immediate. Similarly when you update the removal of a firearm from your inventory using the ‘Return to Owner’ feature you will receive real-time status on whether the owner’s licence or registrations are valid; this tool is more accurate than CFRO, which takes a periodic ‘snapshot’ of the CFIS database.

PLEASE NOTE: while PWS provides real time data and updates to CFIS the database is only as good as the information entered. Incomplete or incorrect data can result in transaction delays or failures while the Registry manually examines the transaction. The best way to avoid these delays is using the FRT to enter data.

Information is required to describe firearms in your inventory.

A detailed description of the firearm is required, including the serial number, make, model, type, action, calibre/gauge, shots and barrel length (if shorter than 470 mm). All values must be valid to ensure accurate data. For example:

  • Valid firearm types are: rifle; shotgun; handgun; machine gun; submachine gun; combination gun; commercial version.
  • Valid firearm actions are: single shot; pump action; bolt action; lever action; revolver; multi-barrel; semi-automatic; full automatic; converted automatic; air, spring or gas.

A full list of valid firearms characteristics is available on the PWS portal using the FRT.

The best tool to help describe firearms is the Firearms Reference Table (FRT)

We strongly recommend using the FRT to provide firearm descriptions in PWS.

The Firearms Reference Table (FRT) is a catalogue of all firearm descriptions and using this tool is the best way to describe firearms. This is a world-class tool developed by the RCMP and updated daily to provide up to the minute information.

More accurate and complete descriptions accelerate processing and save you wasted time in the future by preventing failures when you process the guns out of your inventory. The PWS is designed to allow you to export data directly from the FRT into your inventory, saving you data entry time and preventing keyboarding errors.

Following is a sample of the primary FRT screen used at the beginning of a search for a firearm description.

FRT screen

The FRT provides you valid values for reporting firearm descriptions that are used throughout the CFP, giving public agencies the benefit of standardized technical descriptions.

Do you want FRT training provided to your agency employees to assist in providing firearms descriptions? FRT computer-based training is available on the Canadian Police Knowledge Network website.

The Regulations specify that every public service agency shall ensure that each public agent whom it employs or has under its authority receives training appropriate to his or her duties with regards to the storage, handling, transport, possession and use of firearms before he or she is to partake in such actions.

For questions regarding the offering of training courses, please contact us at PWS_SWASP@rcmp-grc.gc.ca and we will redirect your request accordingly.

Verification Services

If you require assistance with firearm verification or if you have questions about the verifier’s network you can contact the Firearms Technical Analysis Section of the Registry at 1-800-731-4000 extension 1090 (English) or 1091 (French)

If an individual needs to verify a firearm currently in protected custody, this issue is not covered by the Public Agents Firearms Regulations. However an individual must hold a valid firearms licence and registration before a Public Agency can return the firearm to owner.

If the individual requires verification on the firearm to hold valid registration then it is up to each public agency to determine a procedure to do so. We recommend the reporting agent contact the Central Processing Site by phone in order to provide the information since they are in physical custody of the firearm.

General Information

What are agencies’ obligations under the Public Agents Firearms Regulations?

The Regulations contain a number of provisions intended to ensure the safe handling and management of firearms in the possession of public service agencies. Provisions pertaining to matters such as safe storage of these firearms and training for agents required to handle firearms came into effect on December 1, 1998.

Provisions which came into force on October 31, 2008 obligate agencies to report firearms in their possession. They also place new restrictions on the selling, giving, lending and destroying of firearms in an agency’s possession.

How does the requirement for agencies to report their firearms benefit agencies and public safety?

It provides a valuable investigative and intelligence tool to combat firearms trafficking. For example, maintaining a centralized database of protected firearms will make it easier for law enforcement officers to identify what types of firearms are being seized nationally and in their jurisdiction, and where those firearms have been coming from.

What is “initial protected inventory?”

Initial protected inventory means protected firearms in an agency’s possession on October 31, 2008 that were not disposed of before October 31, 2009.

Many of our agency firearms were transferred to the agency from a business through the official transfer process after December 1, 1998. Are agencies required to report these firearms as part of their initial inventory or are they already in the system?

Data on firearms purchased from a Canadian source through the transfer process was captured, but it may be outdated. Therefore, to ensure accuracy, agencies must report their entire initial inventory of agency firearms, including those acquired by the agency since December 1, 1998.

Storage

Please note that while the following sections are within the Public Agents Firearms Regulations, these particular regulations came into force on December 1, 1998.

A public agent who comes into possession of an agency or protected firearm shall ensure that when the firearm is not in use it is stored in a container, receptacle, vault, safe or room, controlled by a public service agency, kept securely locked constructed so it cannot be broken open or into easily.

A public agent who stores an agency firearm in a dwelling house shall store the firearm in accordance with the Storage, Display, Transportation and Handling of Firearms by Individuals Regulations. In other words, the rules applied to individuals under the Firearms Act with regards to storage also apply to public agents.

A public agent who stores a controlled item (prohibited device, prohibited weapon, restricted weapon or prohibited ammunition) in a dwelling house shall ensure that it is kept in a container or receptacle that is kept securely locked and that is constructed so that it cannot be broken open or into easily.