The main purpose of the Firearms Act and its supporting regulations is to keep firearms out of the hands of people who are likely to be a danger to themselves or to others. The Criminal Code and its supporting regulations define a firearm for the purposes of the Firearms Act, and set out penalties for the illegal possession and misuse of a firearm.
Businesses and individuals need a valid firearms licence to be able to possess (own, borrow or store) a firearm in Canada. They must keep their licence up to date and renew it before the expiry date if they possess firearms.
Individuals must be at least 18 years old to get a licence that will allow them to own or to acquire a firearm. Minors aged 12 to 17 can get a minors' licence that will allow them to possess a non-restricted rifle or shotgun, but a licensed adult must be responsible for the firearm.
The Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) is the only licence now available to new applicants over 18 years old. An existing Possession-Only Licence can be renewed, but new ones are not being issued.
Applicants for a PAL or a Minors' Licence must meet specific training requirements in the safe use and handling of a firearm.
All licence applicants must pass a public-safety check. A computer link between the Canadian Firearms Information System (CFIS) and the national police database helps to speed up the process and allows for continuous checks of licence holders. As part of the background check, spouses and common-law partners with whom a PAL applicant has lived within the previous two years may be notified of the application to find out if they have any concerns about their own or someone else's safety.
The Government has announced its intention to simplify licence requirements for firearm owners and to remove the requirement to register non-restricted firearms. However, any changes to the Firearms Act must go through a legislative process and pass in Parliament. This will take time. In the meantime, firearm owners and users are required to comply with the current law. An amnesty protects some owners of non-restricted firearms while they acquire licences and registration certificates.
All firearms must have a valid Canadian registration certificate. To be able to register a firearm, an applicant must be at least 18 years old and have a valid firearms licence allowing them to possess that class of firearm.
Owners of restricted and prohibited firearms that were registered in the former Restricted Weapons Registration System (RWRS) were required to re-register their firearms in CFIS by January 1, 2003, to update the information and link it to their licence.
A registration certificate issued under the Firearms Act does not have to be renewed unless the firearm is modified in a way that changes its class. When a firearm changes ownership, it will be registered to the new owner as part of transfer process. When someone borrows a firearm, they must also borrow the registration certificate for that firearm.
Non-residents who wish to bring a firearm to Canada and who are at least 18 years old can meet Canada's licence and registration requirements by filling out the Non-Resident Firearms Declaration and having it confirmed by a customs officer. A confirmed declaration serves as a temporary licence and registration certificate for the firearm being imported. Non-residents also have the option of obtaining a PAL and registering their firearms in Canada.
The regulations supporting the Firearms Act set out specific rules for storing, transporting and displaying firearms safely to deter loss, theft and accidents. Provinces may have additional regulatory requirements.
For more information, contact us.
Revised January 2004