2016 Commissioner of Firearms report

Commissioner of Firearms 2016 Report

Table of contents

Contact information

RCMP Canadian Firearms Program
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0R2

1 800 731 4000 (toll free)
1 613 825 0315 (fax)

Website: www.rcmp.gc.ca/cfp
Email: cfp-pcaf@rcmp-grc.gc.ca

Media Relations:
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
1 613 843 5999

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2017

This publication may be reproduced for internal use only without permission provided the source is fully acknowledged. However, multiple copy reproductions of this publication in whole or in part for purposes of resale or redistribution require prior written permission from the:

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0R2

Catalogue No: PS96E-PDF
ISSN: 1927-6923

Message from the Commissioner of Firearms

Image of Commissioner Bob Paulson

It is my privilege to present the 2016 Commissioner of Firearms Report, which offers a glimpse into how the Canadian Firearms Program (CFP) consistently reinforces the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's (RCMP) commitment to safe communities for all Canadians.

The CFP is a national program within the RCMP. It administers the Firearms Act and regulations, provides support to law enforcement, and promotes firearms safety. The work of the Program is closely tied to the RCMP's strategic priorities and includes collaborating with partners at home and abroad to address firearms trafficking, minimize criminal activity, and enhance national security.

Our key achievements this year include supporting gun amnesty programs across Canada, facilitating funding agreements for firearms safety outreach with Aboriginal communities, and marking the CFP's 10th anniversary with the RCMP. The Program continues to deliver vital assistance to law enforcement as part of numerous criminal investigations, and provides timely service to more than two million Canadians and business firearms clients.

Commissioner Bob Paulson
Commissioner of Firearms
Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Purpose of the report

The 2016 Commissioner of Firearms Report summarizes the CFP's operational activities and support to its more than two million clients over the course of the year. As required by the Firearms Act, the report is submitted annually to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness for tabling in Parliament.

Canadian Firearms Program

History

The Canada Firearms Centre was established as a stand-alone agency to oversee the Firearms Act under the Department of Justice in 1996. In 2003, it became an independent agency under the Department of the Solicitor General and a Commissioner of Firearms was first appointed. In 2006, the Program became a part of the RCMP and it continues to report to the Commissioner of Firearms, who is also the Commissioner of the RCMP.

Mission and values

The CFP's mission is to enhance public safety by reducing 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 by regulating firearms licensing and registration, and serves firearms clients with quality service, fair treatment and protection of confidential information;
  • recognizes that the involvement of firearms owners and users, firearms businesses, law enforcement agencies, the provinces, the territories, federal agencies, Aboriginal communities, 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 employee involvement and initiative.

Partners

Through the offices of Chief Firearms Officers (CFOs), the CFP works with provinces, territories and municipalities to manage firearms licensing, authorizations to carry or transport, and the continuous eligibility of licensees for each province or territory.

The Program's federal partners include:

  • Public Safety Canada: Consults the CFP on firearms-related policy and technical information to share with the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
  • Canada Border Services Agency: Assesses and confirms firearms declarations being imported, and inspects firearm shipments to confirm admissibility.
  • Global Affairs Canada: Ensures Canada's international commitments regarding firearms reflect the country's priorities and issues the permits required to export and import firearms.
  • Department of Justice: Develops criminal law related to firearms.
  • Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada: Advises on firearms legislation and related issues.

Support to national and international law enforcement agencies

The CFP cooperates with law enforcement and criminal justice partners to combat the illegal smuggling, trafficking, distribution and use of illicit firearms. Its National Weapons Enforcement Support Team (NWEST) assists national and international law enforcement agencies with all aspects of firearms investigations and prosecutions. For example, NWEST employees in British Columbia and Alberta lead and participate regularly in Integrated Firearms Trafficking Working Groups to share intelligence, trends and develop strategies for countering gun crime. The Program supports provincial/territorial and municipal Guns and Gangs units with investigations leading to successful prosecution of criminals involved in the smuggling, trafficking and criminal use of firearms.

Similarly, NWEST members in British Columbia and Manitoba participate in Cross Border Intelligence Working Groups, which include both Canadian and American partners that play a role in combatting firearms cross-border trafficking and smuggling. The Program also delivers firearms safety training to public agents and provides expert testimony on firearms identification and classification.

Furthermore, the CFP collaborates with law enforcement agencies from the United States, other countries and Interpol to prevent the illegal movement of firearms across borders. For instance, the CFP provides an electronic exchange of firearms trace information with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Information sharing

Firearms information can help police in addressing and countering gun violence, combatting the illegal movement of firearms in their jurisdiction, and focusing and planning investigative efforts. Information about licensing and registration is available to law enforcement officers through the Canadian Firearms Registry Online (CFRO), which is accessed through the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database. CPIC allows officers to trace 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) from an individual or location, an officer can query the database to determine whether the person owns restricted or prohibited firearms and, if it is the case, retrieve their descriptions and serial numbers. Canadian law enforcement agencies queried the CFP database an average of 16,966 times per day in 2016 (Chart 1).

Chart 1: CFP queries from law enforcement agencies, 2012 to 2016

Description of graph in tabular format follows.

Chart 1: CFP queries from law enforcement agencies, 2012 to 2016 - Tabular format
Chart 1: CFP queries from law enforcement agencies, 2012 to 2016
Year Number of queries
2012 6,623,225
2013 6,353,650
2014 5,884,502
2015 6,471,994
2016 6,192,687

Firearms identification services

The Firearms Reference Table (FRT) is a computer database managed by Specialized Firearms Support Services that provides national and international law enforcement officers with a tool for identifying and describing firearms. Containing 164,362 firearms records and 49,077 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 2016, the Program received 234 firearms and related devices for inspection. This significant increase from 55 inspections in 2015 is a result of assisting in two large criminal investigations.

Firearms tracing services

The Canadian National Firearms Tracing Centre processes tracing requests to assist national and international law enforcement agencies with their investigations by determining the origin and history of a firearm, and possibly assisting with linking it to a crime. A firearm is a critical piece of physical evidence in a gun-related crime and tracing it to an individual or criminal organization provides key information in criminal cases. In 2016, the Program received 3,289 firearms tracing requests.

Internet screening services

The CFP has an open-source unit that assists in screening firearms licence applicants and identifies potential criminal firearms activities for investigations. Internet screening services are provided directly to law enforcement agencies in support of ongoing criminal investigations. In 2016, the CFP received 86 requests from law enforcement agencies for Internet screening services, screened 2,293 licence applications, and conducted 138 Internet investigations to assist the CFOs with applicant eligibility.

Public Agents Firearms Regulations

The Public Agents Firearms Regulations have been in effect since 2008 and 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 2016, there were 1,805 public service agencies that declared an inventory of firearms (Table 1), with 25,123 firearms seized among them (Tables 2 and 3).

Table 1: Canadian public service agencies reporting possession of firearms, 2016Footnote 1
Agency type Number
Court 135
Federal agency 275
Municipal agency 52
Police academy 5
Police agency or detachments 1,078
Provincial agency 260
Total 1,805
Table 2: Firearms seized, by public service agencies, by province or territory, 2016
Province or territory Seizures
Newfoundland and Labrador 280
Prince Edward Island 180
Nova Scotia 950
New Brunswick 933
Quebec 6,856
Ontario 6,413
Manitoba 858
Saskatchewan 870
Alberta 3,262
British Columbia 4,484
Yukon 16
Northwest Territories 17
Nunavut 4
Total 25,123
Table 3: Firearms seized, by public service agencies, by class, 2016
Class Seized
Non-restricted 19,948
Restricted 3,415
Prohibited 1,760
Total 25,123

Outreach

Contact centre

The public can reach the CFP contact centre for firearms-related information or assistance by using the toll-free number 1-800-731-4000 or by email at cfp-pcaf@rcmp-grc.gc.ca. In 2016, the CFP contact centre received 777,473 telephone calls and more than 15,000 email inquiries. The CFP encourages the general public to report any public safety concerns by phone. Reported safety concerns are taken seriously by the Program and play an important role in applicant screening and continuous eligibility screening of licensees.

Website

The CFP website provides information about firearms safety, policies and client-service initiatives. It offers information to individuals, businesses and law enforcement about licensing and registration requirements, as well as firearms safety. In 2016, the CFP website received 6,342,583 unique page views.

Communication products

A variety of communication materials are used to inform the public, businesses, front-line police and other law enforcement agencies about the CFP and firearms requirements in Canada. In 2016, CFP employees attended hunting, outdoor and gun shows across the country, distributing firearms-safety information in brochure, card and fact sheet formats to clients and partners.

Social media campaigns

Tweet distributed during January 2016 online licence renewal campaign

With the goal of enhancing awareness about CFP services, the CFP continued its outreach efforts across the country in 2016. Throughout January and September 2016, the CFP engaged in a social media campaign via the RCMP's national Twitter and Facebook accounts. The goal of each campaign was to promote online firearms licence renewal for individuals and to increase online submissions. A range of photos were selected to generate interest from the followers of both RCMP's Twitter and Facebook accounts. The social media campaigns resulted in greater visibility to the online portal and an increase in submissions.

Outreach events

Employees from CFO offices across Canada participated in gun shows and outreach events for youth, Aboriginals and senior citizens. For example, a Firearms Agent from the CFO office of Newfoundland and Labrador represented the CFP at the annual St. John's Rod and Gun Club Youth Day in July. The Agent interacted with close to 40 youth and their parents to inform them about firearms licensing for minors. A brief presentation was delivered to explain the process of obtaining a Minor's Licence. The youth were made aware of what the Minor's Licence enables them to do, the requirement to complete the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC), and were advised of the differences between a Minor's Licence and a Possession Acquisition Licence (PAL). The event was a valuable opportunity to answer questions about firearms licensing for minors and promote the services offered by the CFP.

The CFP had a booth at the 111th annual conference of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which was held in August in Ottawa. This outreach opportunity allowed the CFP to inform participants of the support it offers to police and law enforcement agencies. A handout for the attendees was developed specifically for this event. The handout outlined important information for police agencies and public agents, including definitions of agency versus protected firearms, how to ensure compliance with the Public Agents Firearms Regulations, and contact information for the Public/Police Agencies Support team within the CFP.

2016 program highlights

10th anniversary with the RCMP

May 17, 2016, marked the tenth anniversary of when the CFP became part of the RCMP. Over the last ten years, the Program has realized significant accomplishments, all while supporting the strategic objectives of the RCMP. The anniversary was an opportunity to highlight and reflect on the CFP's success and evolution over the last decade. Celebrating this milestone reinforced how the Program has enhanced public safety, improved client service, and administered the Firearms Act and its Regulations.

Funding agreements with Aboriginal communities

The CFP has a dedicated funding program to assist Aboriginal groups and organizations in:

  • improving levels of safety certification and licensing,
  • educating the public about the Firearms Act and its safety objectives and requirements,
  • developing and maintaining key partnerships and relationships with Aboriginal communities and provincial firearms safety organizations, and
  • contributing to the further development of public safety and the well-being of youth.

In 2016, the CFP established funding agreements in support of firearms safety training projects within remote and northern Aboriginal communities in Ontario, Quebec and Labrador. The objectives of the four projects conducted between April 2016 and March 2017 were to train and certify 26 community-based firearms safety instructors; deliver over 60 Canadian Firearms Safety Courses to, and safety certify, more than 1,000 individuals residing in 52 communities; and, provide firearms services that enhance broader community awareness of the CFP.

Safe cities and safe communities

Throughout 2016, NWEST assisted Canadian law enforcement agencies in the delivery of various gun amnesty programs, called Safe Cities and Safe Communities. These programs are community outreach initiatives that promote firearms registration (for restricted and prohibited firearms) and licensing compliance. NWEST, along with provincial/territorial CFOs and the Registrar of Firearms, plays a significant supporting role throughout the planning and implementation of these initiatives by providing expertise and advice to public safety partners, law enforcement agencies and clients, as well as assistance with the classification of all firearms that are presented to police.

For some of these initiatives, home visits by law enforcement officers were the preferred method of contacting the public because they allowed police officers to clearly explain: the requirements to register restricted and prohibited firearms with the CFP; the steps a firearms owner can follow to safely store, transport and dispose of firearms; and, available firearms safety training, such as the CFSC. In other locales, different methods of informing the public were employed, including media relations campaigns and, in some cases, province-wide Safe Communities initiatives.

Firearms disposed of during Safe Cities project in Surrey

From April 4 to 22, 2016, RCMP in Surrey, British Columbia, with assistance from NWEST and the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU), completed a Safe Cities initiative. This initiative identified individuals in possession of unregistered restricted and/or prohibited firearms who were in contravention of the Firearms Act. The goal was to ensure that unregistered firearms were properly registered and that individuals were compliant with legislation. The Safe Cities initiative continued in Chilliwack for a week in early July. Due to the success of these initiatives in British Columbia earlier in 2016, a month-long province wide amnesty was held in October to retrieve restricted or prohibited firearms registered to individuals without a valid firearms licence.

Similarly, NWEST provided assistance with a province-wide initiative in Nova Scotia. More specifically, this included a successful amnesty campaign held in Halifax called "Fares for Firearms Gun Amnesty Campaign" from September 12 to 23, 2016. NWEST assisted in this initiative by identifying firearms and providing outreach support.

2016 firearms cases of interest

Throughout 2016, NWEST contributed to firearms investigations across Canada by assisting local law enforcement agencies and other provincial partners. The following examples describe firearms-related cases whereby NWEST played a supporting role:

Firearms trafficking

During the summer of 2016, NWEST and the CFO Alberta and Northwest Territories identified a potential firearms trafficker in Edmonton. The intelligence from this Joint Forces Operation with CFSEU and the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams led to the discovery of a second firearms trafficker in the fall of 2016 and an inventory of over 70 restricted firearms that had been trafficked to criminals.

Project Shred

In June, NWEST assisted the Regina Police Service with their two-month investigation called Project Shred, which looked at gang activity in Regina. The project focused on violent offences committed by individuals allegedly participating in drug trafficking. The investigation resulted in a number of firearms being recovered and created additional projects for NWEST related to examining guns and gangs activity.

Project Revolution

NWEST assisted the City of Toronto with its efforts in combatting violence in high-risk communities in the northwest part of the city. Multiple city partners, including the Toronto Transit Unit, as well as police officers from various law enforcement agencies, were involved. In June, NWEST supported this project by participating in training sessions on a variety of law enforcement topics along with the Crown Attorney. Lectures by the Crown Attorney discussed arrest case laws and judicial issues, and provided instruction on how to ensure that apprehensions of individuals are lawfully made, while NWEST delivered presentations on available resources related to firearms investigations, testing and trafficking, and behavioural characteristics of suspected criminals. This project further led to a supplementary operational project targeting a number of offenders in many Toronto districts.

Project Sizzle

Firearms retrieved during Project Sizzle

The CFP assisted the Toronto Police Service with a two-year special project called Project Sizzle, which targeted a gang based in Toronto called "Heart of a King" (originally known as "North Preston's Finest" from Halifax). The project led to police raids in the Greater Toronto Area and Montreal in June. More than 600 police officers executed 43 search warrants, which resulted in 53 arrests and 285 charges for weapons, drugs, money and human trafficking offences. Throughout this project, NWEST was consulted on several occasions. NWEST offered its knowledge and expertise, and provided advice during the various phases of the investigation. Analysts from NWEST's Toronto and Halifax offices provided analytical services for the investigation. The magnitude of Project Sizzle illustrates how effective partnerships between NWEST and Guns and Gangs units can be when resources are pulled together.

Project Obusier

In September, NWEST participated in Project Obusier. This project involved the investigation of online purchases of firearms that were delivered by Canada Post. It resulted in the arrest of three individuals in Montreal. The police conducted five searches of homes and vehicles in the Montreal and Laval area. They found a multitude of handcrafted firearms, silencers, weapons production equipment, several hundred ammunition of various calibres and nearly $8,000.

Keeping Canada safe

The CFP administers the Firearms Act and its related Regulations, and targets firearms use that is unsafe or criminal in nature. In order to enhance public safety, the CFP regulates firearms licensing and registration, and administers the firearms safety courses.

Licensing

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 two types of firearms licences available to individuals in Canada:

  1. The Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) is the only licence available to new applicants 18 and older.
  2. The Minor's Licence allows individuals between the ages of 12 and 17 to use, but not acquire, a firearm.

There were 2,076,840 individual licence holders in Canada as of December 31, 2016 (Table 4). More specifically, the CFP issued 406,592 individual licences, including new licences and renewals, in 2016 (Table 5).

Table 4: Individual firearms licences, by type and province or territory, 2016
Province or Territory PAL Minor's Licence Total
Newfoundland and Labrador 75,027 347 75,374
Prince Edward Island 6,115 14 6,129
Nova Scotia 73,048 1,220 74,268
New Brunswick 67,787 202 67,989
Quebec 493,180 50 493,230
Ontario 577,103 4,305 581,408
Manitoba 86,468 516 86,984
Saskatchewan 103,189 208 103,397
Alberta 290,416 2,108 292,524
British Columbia 278,245 815 279,060
Yukon 7,164 58 7,222
Northwest Territories 5,550 32 5,582
Nunavut 3,669 4 3,673
Total 2,066,961 9,879 2,076,840
Table 5: Number of individual licences issued (including new and renewals), 2016
Licence type Licence count
Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) 402,138
Minor's Licence 4,454
Total 406,592

Firearms licence application refusals

Under the Firearms Act, CFOs are authorized to refuse an application for a firearms licence based on their assessment of an individual's potential risk to public safety. In 2016, there were 771 firearms licence applications refused for various public safety reasons (Tables 6 and 7). Some of these refusals may have been referred to or overturned by the courts since the initial refusal.

Table 6: Number of firearms licence application refusals, 2012 to 2016
Year Refusals
2012 670
2013 886
2014 805
2015 688
2016 771
Total 3,820
Table 7: Reasons for firearms licence application refusals, 2016Footnote 2
Reason Refusals
Court-ordered prohibition/probation 264
Domestic violence 36
Drug offences 13
Mental health 139
Potential risk to others 142
Potential risk to self 135
Provided false information 159
Unsafe firearm use and storage 17
Violent behaviour 55

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 renewal notices 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 241,052 individual PAL licences expired in 2016 (Chart 2). Moreover, there were 30,857 expired licences with a restricted or prohibited firearm registered to them at the time of expiration. Of those, 27,205 licence holders renewed; however, 3,652 licence holders did not renew (Chart 3). Of the licences that were renewed in 2016, 50 percent of firearms licence holders used the CFP's online licence renewal tool through the Program's web portal.

Chart 2: Firearms licence renewalsFootnote 3, 2012 to 2016

Description of graph in tabular format follows.

Chart 2: Firearms licence renewalsFootnote 3, 2012 to 2016 - Tabular format
Chart 2: Firearms licence renewalsFootnote 3, 2012 to 2016
Year Expiring licences
Renewed Did not renew
2012 303,675 66,872
2013 288,479 92,767
2014 253,278 102,509
2015 229,363 107,241
2016 168,868 72,184

Chart 3: Compliance levels for restricted and prohibited firearms onlyFootnote 4, 2012 to 2016

Description of graph in tabular format follows.

Chart 3: Compliance levels for restricted and prohibited firearms onlyFootnote 4, 2012 to 2016 - Tabular format
Chart 3: Compliance levels for restricted and prohibited firearms onlyFootnote 4, 2012 to 2016
Year Number of queries
Renewed Did not renew
2011 39,361 2,908
2012 35,597 3,383
2013 32,525 3,290
2014 31,507 4,425
2015 27,205 3,652

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 in CPIC via a Firearms Interest Police (FIP) event and sent to the relevant CFO for review. Licence holders are regularly screened to assess their continuous eligibility to remain licensed. There were 29,487 FIP events in 2016 that were matched to a person with a firearms licence (Table 8).

Table 8: Number of FIP events by CFO jurisdiction, 2016
CFO jurisdiction Matches
Newfoundland and Labrador 667
Prince Edward Island 69
Nova Scotia 1,117
New Brunswick 458
Quebec 9,176
Ontario 8,408
Manitoba and Nunavut 1,301
Saskatchewan 1,343
Alberta and Northwest Territories 5,364
British Columbia and Yukon 1,584
Total 29,487

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. There were 2,223 firearms licences revoked in 2016 (Tables 9 and 10). Some of these revocations may have been referred to or overturned by the courts since the initial revocation.

Table 9: Number of firearms licence revocations, 2012 to 2016
Year Revocations
2012 2,421
2013 2,497
2014 2,354
2015 2,347
2016 2,223
Total 11,842
Table 10: Reasons for firearms licence revocations, 2016Footnote 5
Reason Revocations
Court-ordered prohibition/probation 1,393
Domestic violence 66
Drug offences 20
Mental health 424
Potential risk to others 238
Potential risk to self 251
Provided false information 63
Unsafe firearm use and storage 52
Violent behaviour 92

Firearms licence application refusals and firearms licence revocations are recorded in the CFP's national CFIS database. Individuals who have an application refused or a licence revoked, therefore, cannot evade this decision by moving from one municipal or provincial/territorial jurisdiction to another.

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.

Prohibition orders are recorded in the CPIC database and form part of the background and continuous-eligibility checks for firearms licences. Information from municipal, provincial and federal court records 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 2016, there were 422,887 individuals prohibited from possessing firearms (Chart 4).

Chart 4: Individuals prohibited from possessing firearms, 2012 to 2016 (as of December 31 each yearFootnote 6)

Description of graph in tabular format follows.

Note: Data courtesy of CPIC

Chart 4: Individuals prohibited from possessing firearms, 2012 to 2016 (as of December 31 each yearFootnote 6)- Tabular format
Chart 4: Individuals prohibited from possessing firearms, 2012 to 2016 (as of December 31 each yearFootnote 6)
Year Number of prohibitions
2012 295,670
2013 367,374
2014 387,168
2015 405,440
2016 422,887

Firearms businesses

A business, museum or organization that manufactures, sells, possesses, handles, displays or stores 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. As of December 31, 2016, there were 4,495 firearms businesses in Canada licensed under the Firearms Act, not including carriers and museums. Of these, 2,026 were licensed to sell only ammunition.

Shooting clubs and ranges

CFOs approve and perform 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 tools 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. There were an estimated 1,400 shooting ranges in Canada in 2016.

Registration

According to sub-section 84(1) of the Criminal Code, 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; however, 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, through the Registrar of Firearms, coordinates the National Verifiers Network, which authorizes new certified verifiers and responds to all inquiries about becoming a certified verifier.

Registration applicants must already have a firearms licence allowing them to possess a certain class of firearm. A firearms licence with the correct classes is required to register a restricted or prohibited firearm. When a registered firearm is transferred to a new owner, the Registrar of Firearms will issue a new registration certificate if 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.

As of December 31, 2016, there were 1,022,628 restricted or prohibited firearms registered to individuals or businesses in Canada (Tables 11 and 12).

Table 11: Firearms registered to individuals or businesses, by class, 2013 to 2016
Firearm Class 2013 2014 2015 2016
Restricted 659,387 726,705 795,854 839,295
Prohibited 188,552 185,793 182,493 183,333
Total 847,939 912,498 978,347 1,022,628
Table 12: Firearms registered to individuals or businesses, by class and province or territory, 2016
Province or Territory Restricted Prohibited Total
Newfoundland and Labrador 7,332 1,504 8,836
Prince Edward Island 2,416 747 3,163
Nova Scotia 22,131 6,391 28,522
New Brunswick 16,751 4,523 21,274
Quebec 79,980 28,135 108,115
Ontario 300,184 75,342 375,526
Manitoba 30,247 5,463 35,710
Saskatchewan 45,525 7,969 53,494
Alberta 172,708 25,261 197,969
British Columbia 156,782 27,153 183,935
Yukon 2,630 378 3,008
Northwest Territories 1,508 305 1,813
Nunavut 354 33 387
Other 747 129 876
Total 839,295 183,333 1,022,628

Firearms registration application refusals and certificate revocations

The Registrar of Firearms has the authority to revoke registration certificates and refuse firearms registration applications. In 2016, there were 59 firearm registration applications refused and 6,825 firearm registration certificates revoked (Table 13).

Table 13: Number of registration refusals and revocations, 2012 to 2016
Year Applications Refused Certificates Revoked Total
2012 163 54,222 54,385
2013 134 70,027 70,161
2014 105 58,609 58,714
2015 60 7,159 7,219
2016 59 6,825 6,884
Total 520 196,834 197,363

Note: For 2012-2014, totals include non-restricted firearms for Quebec, but not for other provinces. Prior to 2014, registration refusals were calculated by application date. In 2014, they were calculated by refusal date. The significant decrease in 2015 is attributed to the deletion of non-restricted registrations in Quebec.

Safety training

Firearms Officer providing safety training to a youth in Nunavut

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 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.

Moving forward

As Canada's centre for firearms expertise, the CFP continued its commitment to enhancing firearms safety and addressing firearms crime in 2016, which was also the Program's tenth year as part of the RCMP.

The CFP's regulatory and law enforcement teams worked in concert to provide a suite of services and safeguards that include licence applicant screening and continuous licence eligibility checks, firearms registration and safety training, and specialized support services to policing partners across Canada and around the world. In 2016, the CFP collaborated with a record 52 Aboriginal communities in the delivery of firearms safety awareness and outreach.

In 2017, the CFP will seek to further modernize its web services, as well as maintain exceptional operational and technical support to law enforcement agencies. The Program will continue to work closely with provincial and territorial partners and Aboriginal communities to promote firearm safety awareness. Finally, the CFP will uphold its practice of client service excellence in serving its more than two million individual and business firearms clients.

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