2014 Commissioner of Firearms Report
Message from the Commissioner
It is my privilege and duty to release the 2014 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Firearms.
The CFP is a national program that assists law enforcement, promotes firearms safety, and administers firearms licensing and regulations. More broadly, it supports the strategic priorities of the RCMP by assisting with the dismantling of organized criminal groups who traffic firearms and working with partners and communities to minimize criminal activity and enhance national security.
This report outlines the Program’s activities in 2014. Key highlights include the evolution of the licence renewal process by offering online services to individual licence holders, as well as co-hosting an interactive International Firearms Trafficking School training session for the international policing community. The CFP’s public safety efforts make it a significant contributor to the RCMP’s commitment to safe homes and safe communities for all Canadians.
Commissioner Bob Paulson
Commissioner of Firearms
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Purpose of the Report
The 2014 Commissioner of Firearms Report summarizes the Canadian Firearms Program’s (CFP) public-safety efforts and contributions to Canadians over the course of the year, including its more than 1.9 million clients. As required by the Firearms Act, the report is submitted annually to the Minister of Public Safety for tabling in Parliament.
Canadian Firearms Program
The Canadian Firearms Centre was established to oversee the Firearms Act and the Program under the Department of Justice in 1996. In 2003, it became an independent agency under the Department of the Solicitor General. In 2006, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) became responsible for managing the CFP. The Program currently reports to the Commissioner of Firearms, who is responsible for the administration of the Firearms Act. The Commissioner of Firearms is also the Commissioner of the RCMP.
Mission and Values
The CFP’s mission is to enhance public safety by helping to reduce the risk of harm from misuse of firearms. It screens individual owners to confirm their eligibility to possess firearms, and promotes responsible ownership, storage and use of firearms. The Program also provides Canadian and international law enforcement agencies with specialized services vital to the prevention and investigation of firearms crime and misuse.
In pursuit of its mission, the CFP:
- supports the lawful ownership and use of firearms in Canada, and serves firearms clients with quality service, fair treatment and protection of confidential information;
- recognizes that the involvement of firearm owners and users, firearms businesses, law enforcement agencies, the provinces, the territories, federal agencies, Aboriginal peoples, safety instructors and firearms verifiers is essential for effective program delivery;
- commits to ongoing improvement and innovation to achieve the highest levels of service;
- engages its clients and stakeholders in reviewing and developing policies, and in communicating critical information on Program requirements and results;
- manages its resources efficiently to provide good value for money;
- provides clear and accurate reporting of Program performance and resource management; and,
- upholds the values and ethical standards of the Public Service of Canada by committing to fair staffing, supporting employee development, and fostering a work environment that encourages staff involvement and initiative.
The CFP works with a variety of partners including Canadian and international law enforcement agencies, other federal government departments and agencies, as well as the provinces and territories. The Program works with law enforcement agencies to provide information on potential public safety risks, assist with or execute search warrants, and provide firearms tracing, identification and disposal services. In addition, the Program works with Public Safety Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, the Department of Justice, and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. Chief Firearms Officers (CFOs) manage firearms licensing and authorizations for each province and territory. These partnerships assist the CFP in providing CFOs and the Registrar with timely and relevant information to support regulatory operations.
Chief Firearms Officers (CFOs) are responsible for the issuance of firearms licences, Authorizations to Transport and Authorizations to Carry, transfers of firearms and ensuring regular firearms site inspections are completed.
The Registrar of Firearms (the Registrar) is responsible for maintaining the Canadian Firearms Registry, which includes the issuance of registration certificates for restricted and prohibited firearms.
Support to National and International Law Enforcement Agencies
The CFP seeks to make Canada safer by strengthening the ability of law enforcement and criminal justice partners to combat the illegal smuggling, trafficking, distribution and use of illicit firearms. The National Weapons Enforcement Support Team assists national and international law enforcement agencies with all aspects of firearms investigations and prosecutions. The Firearms Operations and Enforcement Support unit receives, analyzes and reports information on illicit firearms trends and patterns in Canada. This information is shared with law enforcement agencies during investigations to help combat the trafficking of firearms, and mitigate the impact these firearms have on public and police officer safety. The Program also delivers firearms safety training to public agents and provides expert testimony on firearms identification and classification. In addition, Internet services are provided directly to law enforcement agencies in support of ongoing criminal investigations. For example, in 2014, the CFP received 141 requests from law enforcement agencies.
Firearms identification services
The Firearms Reference Table (FRT) is a computer database managed by the Program that provides national and international law enforcement officers with a tool for identifying and describing firearms. Containing 157,624 firearms records and 44,376 images, the FRT improves accuracy in import-export control cases and facilitates information sharing. The FRT also assists in firearms tracing, record keeping and determining the class of a firearm as outlined under the applicable Criminal Code definitions. In 2014, the Program received 95 firearms for inspection.
Firearms tracing services
The Canadian National Firearms Tracing Centre processes tracing requests to assist national and international law enforcement agencies with their investigations. Firearms tracing determines the origin and history of a firearm. Since the firearm itself is a critical piece of physical evidence in a gun-related crime, tracing the firearm to an individual or criminal organization provides key information in criminal cases. In 2014, the Program received 2,804 firearms tracing requests.
Fostering information sharing
Police agencies can request statistical reports on firearms in their jurisdiction. Firearms information can help police in addressing and countering gun violence, combating the illegal movement of firearms in their jurisdiction, and focusing and planning investigative efforts. Information about licensing and registration is additionally available to law enforcement officers through the Canadian Firearms Registry Online (CFRO), which is accessed through the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database. CPIC assists officers with the tracing of recovered firearms or to anticipate the potential presence of firearms at a location prior to attendance. For example, if a firearms licence is revoked and the police must recover the firearm(s), an officer can query the database to determine the number of registered (restricted or prohibited, as well as non-restricted in Quebec only) firearms associated with the individual, their descriptions and their serial numbers. In 2014, Canadian law enforcement agencies queried the CFP database an average of 16,122 times per day (Chart 1).
|Year||Number of queries|
Public Agents Firearms Regulations
The Public Agents Firearms Regulations, in full effect since 2008, require public service agencies and public agents, including police forces, to report all agency-owned and protected (seized, turned in or found by police) firearms in their possession. In 2014, there were 1,728 public service agencies that had firearms in their possession (Table 1), with 27,989 firearms seized among them (Tables 2 and 3).
|Police agency or detachments||1,044|
|Province or territory||Seizures|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||293|
|Prince Edward Island||12|
The Program is committed to communicating with the public and distributing firearms safety information through a variety of channels. When seeking firearms-related information or assistance, the public can contact the CFP call centre by using the toll-free number 1-800-731-4000 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The CFP encourages the general public to report any public safety concerns by phone. In 2014, the CFP call centre received 1,019,461 telephone calls and approximately 10,500 email inquiries.
The CFP website (a sub-site of the RCMP website) is regularly updated to provide information regarding firearms safety, policies and client-service initiatives to its clients. It offers a variety of information to all CFP clients, including individuals, businesses and police officers, about licensing and registration requirements, firearms safety training and special bulletins to certain audiences. In 2014, the CFP website received 5,166,062 unique page views.
A variety of communication materials are provided to inform the public, businesses, front-line police and other law enforcement agencies about the CFP and firearms requirements in Canada. In 2014, CFP representatives attended hunting, outdoor and gun shows across the country, distributing firearms-safety products and responding to requests for firearms information. Additionally, the Program maintained its partnerships with various Canadian law enforcement agencies by distributing firearms-related information in bulletin, brochure, card and fact-sheet formats.
The CFP continued to provide firearms services to Aboriginal peoples in 2014. For example, CFP representatives presented to communities and government officials in Nunavut on firearms safety and licensing requirements. An interdepartmental agreement was also implemented between the RCMP’s Nunavut Division and the CFP to provide resources to support a full-time Firearms Officer.
The CFP also sponsored safety training in northern Ontario Aboriginal communities: 38 firearms safety courses in 17 communities, whereby 300 people successfully completed firearms safety training certification. The goal of these efforts was to enhance public safety in Aboriginal communities by increasing safety awareness and encouraging safe firearms practices among those who have access to firearms.
2014 Program Highlights
Online Licence Renewal for Individuals
The CFP introduced an online licence renewal initiative for individual licence holders in the fall of 2014. The online licence renewal for individuals is a component of the CFP Web Transformation Project, which provides additional online services or enhancements to existing services for all firearms clients. This initiative enhanced client service delivery by allowing individual clients to submit firearms licence renewal applications through the Individual Web Services online portal. Program processes were updated to support the receipt of the online submissions, in addition to the ongoing paper applications. Close to 16,600 licence renewal applications were received online by the end of the year.
2014 International Firearms Enforcement and Trafficking School
The CFP and the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) co-hosted in September 2014 a unique and comprehensive firearms training session for the international policing community in Ottawa. The ATF is the primary international partner of the RCMP in combating the illicit use and trafficking of firearms across our shared border. The focus of the trafficking school was on firearms investigations and training, with a goal of providing new skills and knowledge to law enforcement agents involved with firearms investigations. Topics included firearms identification, classification, importation and trafficking, as well as investigative procedures. The school is part of a federal government requirement under the Investment to Combat the Criminal Use of Firearms Initiative, whereby the RCMP must provide international firearms training. This requirement involves working with other countries to educate and assist them with their own challenges with the illegal movement and use of firearms. CFP subject matter experts provided high-quality training and leadership to each partner and stakeholder via this firearms trafficking school.
Firearms Cases of Interest
In the summer of 2014, a number of firearms-related charges were laid against a man in British Columbia following a joint CFP, Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia (CFSEU-BC) and ATF investigation into his alleged criminal activities. The individual was suspected of selling auto sears and switches (gun parts) via the Internet, which can be used to convert pistols into fully automatic firearms, and produce silencers. After a couple months of being under surveillance, he was caught mailing packages with these gun parts to addresses in Canada, the United States and Australia. The officers also observed the man visiting a residence suspected of being a workshop for making silencers and gun parts. The individual was charged with 44 counts of firearms-related offences after officers found numerous firearms and firearms-related prohibited devices in his possession.
The CFP was contacted in June 2014 by an RCMP Detachment in Manitoba following a call regarding a domestic assault at a cottage. A female victim had escaped from the cottage through a window and went to a neighbour's residence to call the police and inform them about a male offender. Details from the victim indicated criminal firearm storage offences and highlighted the offender's hatred of police and his fantasies of getting into a shoot-out with police. The CFP worked with regional police services to search the offender’s residence, vehicle, trailer, detached buildings and garage. The search revealed an illegal gun range in the basement and 13 different hide locations throughout the house, where 22 illegally stored firearms were located (eight non-restricted firearms, 13 restricted firearms and one prohibited firearm). During court proceedings, the CFP assisted the Crown's Office by identifying firearms from photos.
The CFP was asked to provide assistance regarding multiple firearms and weapons seized during an investigation led by the Sûreté du Québec in the fall of 2014. Two suspects were in possession of 45 firearms, including multiple stolen and prohibited firearms (sawed off shotguns and rifles), as well as prohibited devices, such as high-capacity magazines. The CFP provided identification services for each weapon, which resulted in the recommendation of over 154 criminal charges between the two suspects.
In another case, an RCMP Detachment in Quebec conducted a search warrant at a residence and the CFP was asked to assist in the winter of 2014. A workshop in the garage was found on the premises, where homemade firearms were being manufactured. Five homemade .22 calibre single shot firearms (restricted firearms), 48 homemade .22 calibre Pen Guns (prohibited firearms) and six flashlights in the process of being modified to shoot .22 calibre rounds were seized during the search. A total of 207 criminal charges were recommended to the Crown.
In the fall of 2014, the CFP identified two men as being high-volume gun buyers. An Internet investigation determined that the two men were not previously involved in criminal activities; however, they had over 54 restricted firearms registered between them. Later in the year, a joint inspection by the RCMP and the regional police service was conducted at the residence of the two men, which resulted in the discovery of numerous loaded and unsecured restricted firearms. In total, 62 firearms (29 handguns, 27 rifles and six shot guns) and a large quantity of ammunition were seized. Of those seized firearms, 23 were loaded, unsecure and within plain view in the residence. A total of 121 charges were recommended to the Crown.
Keeping Canada Safe
Individuals who possess or use firearms must be licensed, unless an individual is using a firearm under the direct and immediate supervision of a licensed holder. Similarly, all individuals who acquire firearms or ammunition must be licensed. There are three types of firearms licences available to individuals in Canada:
- Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL), which is the only licence available to new applicants 18 and older.
- Possession Only Licence (POL), which does not allow for the acquisition of more firearms, only the possession of firearms owned on or before December 1, 1998.
- Minor’s Licence, which allows individuals between the ages of 12 and 17 to use, but not acquire, a firearm.
In 2014, there were 411,435 licences issued, including new licences and renewals (Table 4). There were 1,989,181 firearms licence holders in Canada as of December 31, 2014 (Table 5).
|Licence type||Licence count|
|Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL)||302,539|
|Possession Only Licence (POL)||104,138|
|Province or territory||PAL||POL||Minor’s Licence||Total|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||50,943||22,078||295||73,316|
|Prince Edward Island||3,729||2,414||19||6,162|
Firearms licence application refusals
Under the Firearms Act, CFOs are authorized to refuse an application for a licence based on their assessment of an individual’s potential risk to public safety. In 2014, there were 805 firearms licence applications refused for various public safety reasons (Tables 6 and 7).
|Potential risk to others||211|
|Potential risk to self||335|
|Provided false information||52|
|Unsafe firearm use and storage||17|
Firearms licence renewals
As stated in the Firearms Act, firearms licence holders are responsible for renewing their licences prior to expiry. The CFP facilitates this process by sending partially completed renewal notice to licensees approximately 90 days prior to the expiry of the current licence. As a condition of their licence, licensees are legally required to advise the CFP of any address changes, which helps ensure they receive the renewal notice. A total of 355,787 individual POL and PAL licences expired in 2014 (Chart 2).
|Year||Renewed||Did not renew|
|Year||Renewed||Did not renew|
Continuous eligibility screening of firearms licence holders
The Canadian Firearms Information System (CFIS) contains current and historical firearms licence holder data. If a licence holder is involved in an event involving violence (or other offences specified in Section 5 of the Firearms Act) it is reported via CPIC and a Firearms Interest Police (FIP) report is automatically generated and sent to the relevant CFO for review. There were 16,533 FIP events in 2014 that were matched to a person with a firearms licence (Table 8). Licence holders are regularly screened to assess their continuous eligibility to remain licensed. In 2014, for instance, the CFP screened 1,012 restricted firearms licence applicants for mental health concerns. In addition, 1,856 applications were randomly audited for a total of 2,868 screenings, whereby 49 applications were identified as potential risks to public safety.
|Newfoundland and Labrador||321|
|Prince Edward Island||91|
|Manitoba and Nunavut||795|
|Alberta and Northwest Territories||1,400|
|British Columbia and Yukon||3,306|
Firearms licence revocations
Under the Firearms Act, CFOs are authorized to revoke a firearms licence based on their assessment of the licence holder’s risk to public safety. In 2014, there were 2,354 firearms licence revocations (Tables 9 and 10).
|Potential risk to others||390|
|Potential risk to self||406|
|Provided false information||32|
|Unsafe firearm use and storage||29|
Firearm prohibition orders for individuals
Courts must notify CFOs of all firearms prohibition orders in their jurisdiction. Firearms licence applicant screening includes checking if an applicant is subject to a prohibition order. A prohibition order prevents an individual from legally possessing a firearm for a specified period of time and results in the refusal of a firearms licence application, unless a court specifically orders one to be issued for certain purposes, such as sustenance hunting.
Prohibition orders are recorded in the CPIC and form part of the background and continuous-eligibility checks for firearms licences. Information from municipal, provincial and federal courts also contributes to the assessment of an individual’s potential threat to public safety. A match against a court order may result in the CFO conducting an investigation that could lead to a revocation or a change in licence conditions. In 2014, there were 387,168 individuals prohibited from possessing firearms (Chart 4).
|Year||Number of prohibitions|
Organizations and businesses that manufacture, sell, possess, handle, display or store firearms or ammunition must have a firearms business licence. Employees who handle firearms for these businesses must also have firearms licences, and all restricted and prohibited firearms in a business inventory must be registered. CFOs perform periodic business inspections to confirm safe and lawful business practices and firearms storage. The CFP offers businesses the option of performing firearms registrations and transfers through the Program's Business Web Services online portal.
Shooting clubs and ranges
CFOs are responsible for approving and performing inspections of shooting clubs and ranges within their jurisdictions to ensure safe operation and compliance with the Firearms Act. Standards set out in the Firearms Act and the Shooting Clubs and Shooting Ranges Regulations are intended to ensure the safety of members, visitors and the general public in relation to shooting clubs and ranges. The Program develops and implements range safety measures and reviews range safety inspection reports to improve guidelines, procedures and forms used by Firearms Officers for shooting range inspections. It also reviews range applications, conducts quality control checks, provides feedback on inspection reports and requests or conducts follow-up inspections as required. CFOs work with municipalities and stakeholders to provide awareness on roles and responsibilities around firearm safety. There were an estimated 1,407 shooting ranges in Canada in 2014.
All firearms can be categorized into one of three classes:
- Non-restricted firearms, typically shotguns and rifles
- Restricted firearms, predominantly handguns
- Prohibited firearms, mostly certain handguns and fully automatic firearms
All restricted and prohibited firearms in Canada must be registered. The Ending the Long-gun Registry Act came into effect in 2012 and removed the requirement to register non-restricted firearms; however, due to ongoing litigation, Quebec residents were still registering their non-restricted firearms with the CFP in 2014.
Before a firearm can be registered for the first time, it must be verified. Verification is the process of confirming the identification and class of a firearm by a certified verifier. The Program coordinates the National Verifiers Network, which authorizes new certified verifiers and responds to all inquiries about becoming a certified verifier.
Registration applicants must have a firearms licence allowing them to possess a certain class of firearm. There is no fee for registering a firearm and registration certificates have no expiry date. When a registered firearm is transferred to a new owner, the Registrar will issue a new registration certificate assuming the new owner is eligible to possess that type of firearm. The record must be changed to reflect both the cancellation of registration from the original owner and the new registration to the new owner.
The registration certificate number links a firearm to its licensed owner in the CFIS database. As with firearms licences, a subset of this information can then be accessed by law enforcement agencies via CPIC.
In 2014, there were a total of 912,498 restricted or prohibited firearms registered to individuals or businesses in Canada (Tables 11 and 12).
|Province or territory||Restricted||Prohibited||Total|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||5,982||1,490||7,472|
|Prince Edward Island||2,189||752||2,941|
Firearms registration application refusals and certificate revocations
The Registrar has the authority to revoke registration certificates and refuse firearms registration applications. In 2014, there were 105 firearm registration applications refused and 58,609 firearm registration certificates revoked (Table 13).
|Year||Applications Refused||Certificates Revoked||Total|
As outlined in the Firearms Act, to be licensed to acquire firearms in Canada, individuals must demonstrate awareness of the principles relating to the safe handling and use of firearms. To be eligible for a non-restricted firearms licence, an individual must successfully complete the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC). In order to be eligible for a restricted firearms licence, an individual must successfully complete both the CFSC and the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC). The CFSC and the CRFSC are fundamental firearms-education and safety-training components of the CFP. The CFP is responsible for the continued development, implementation, evaluation and revision of national firearms-safety standards, the CFSC and the CRFSC.
Developed in partnership with the provinces and territories, as well as organizations with an ongoing interest in hunter education and firearms safety, these courses provide instruction on the safe handling, use, transportation and storage of both restricted and non-restricted firearms.
The CFP, Canada’s centre for firearms expertise, is committed to firearms safety and combating firearms crime. Through safety training, licence applicant screening and continuous licence eligibility checks, the CFP promotes the safe use and possession of firearms.
The CFP also provides a comprehensive suite of specialized firearms services to law enforcement partners across Canada to help prevent and investigate firearm-related crimes. When investigators need help tracing or identifying a firearm, preparing or executing a search warrant involving firearms or organizing firearm exhibits for courts, they can rely on the knowledge and experience of CFP firearm experts.
In 2015, the CFP will seek to improve licensing and registration web services, and provide quality operational and technical support to law enforcement agencies. The Program will also continue to work with provincial and territorial partners, as well as Aboriginal communities, to promote firearm safety awareness. In addition, improvements will be made to the CFSC and CRFSC training materials to ensure that new safety practices are included.
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