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Finding 2

The Canadian Firearms Program as a public safety-oriented regulatory framework, is continuing toward achieving its strategic outcome of reducing firearm-related harm.

Recently compiled statistics initiated by this evaluation, data from Statistics Canada and all of the Provincial and Territorial Coroners indicate notable decreases of firearm deaths (approximately 12%) in Canada between 2001 and 2004. The findings are limited to four years as several of the Coroners only provided limited data. All of the Coroners had been encouraged to provide twenty years of data and the majority came close to this or exceeded it.

Suicides were the principal cause of death (approx 79%) in 2001, which continued to decline to 76% in 2004. These were mostly inflicted using long guns. Homicides rose by 3% over the same period from 19-22%. Accidental deaths, though nominal, were on the decline. There are other social and legal changes which may have contributed to the changes in mortality rate. However, the analysis of those factors and their impacts are beyond the scope of this evaluation.

Firearm Deaths in Canada
  Homicide1 Suicide2 Accidental Total
Year Hand- gun (% of total) Long-gun Other Hand-gun Long-gun Other unspecified Hand-gun Long-gun Other unspecified Homicide, suicide and accidental
2004 *112-14% 52- 7% 9 88- 11% 475- 61% 29 1 14- 2% 0 780
2003 110-15% 45- 6% 6 95- 13% 451- 60% 14 4- 1% 12- 2% 10 747
2002 98-12% 46- 5% 8 92- 11% 553- 66% 25 8- 1% 9- 1% 2 841
2001 110-12% 53- 6% 8 106- 12% 569- 64% 25 3 17- 2% 0 891

* First number denotes number of deaths. Second percentage is in relation to toal homicide, suicide and accidental deaths, in the far right column.

Longguns had been used in 72% of the firearm deaths in 2001. This decreased to 69% of deaths by 2004. Handguns by comparison were used in 25% of the deaths in 2001. This increased to 26% in 2004.3

As a national average, handguns are the preferred firearm for homicide; however long guns were used in approximately one-third of these instances. Handgun statistics are more reflective of major urban centres. Outside of the larger urban centres, and in cities and towns where the population is 100,000 or less, the firearm of choice is mostly the long gun. Recent findings also show that the spousal homicide rates have declined significantly, particularly with respect to long guns.

CHART 2 - Victims of homicide Committed with Firearm Non-Census Area (Less than 100,000 population) (Excluding the Territories)
Canada Homicides Total Shootings
Year Handgun Rifle Shotgun Sawed-off rifle/shotgun Fully Automatic firearm Unknown Type
2005 *15- 20% 45-61% 4- 5% 1 9 74
2004 15- 33% 23-50% 5- 11% 0 3 46
2003 15- 35% 22-51% 6- 14% 0 0 43
2002 14- 27% 34-65% 2- 4% 0 2 52
2001 21- 36% 32-54% 4- 7% 1 1 59
2000 25- 38% 34-52% 3- 5% 1 2 65
1999 22- 33% 39-59% 2- 3% 1 2 66
1998 15- 26% 35-61% 5- 9% 1 1 57
1997 22- 28% 50-64% 3- 4% 0 3 78
1996 31- 33% 52-55% 10- 11% 1 0 94

*First number denotes number of deaths. Second percentage is in relation to total homicides with handguns; riffle/shotgun; sawed off riffle/shotgun; fully automatic firearm and unknown type firearm deaths; noted in the far right column.

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey

CHART 3 - Victims of Spousal Homicide Committed with Firearm by type of Firearm, Canada
Year Handgun Rifle Shotgun Other Firearms Total Firearms % Male Victims % Female Victims
2007 1 6 2 9 0% 100
2006 4 9 3 16 18.8% 81.3%
2005 4 14 3 21 4.8% 95.2
2004 7 7 2 16 6.3% 93.8%
2003 7 12 4 23 8.7% 91.3%
2002 5 10 1 16 12.5% 87.5%
2001 6 12 1 19 5.3% 94.7%
2000 8 12 0 20 20% 80%
1999 5 17 1 23 4.3% 95.7%
1998 3 12 4 19 10.5 89.5%
1997 8 17 2 27 14.8% 85.2%
1996 4 20 3 27 14.8% 85.2%
  • Spousal homicides are those that involve persons in legal marriages, those who are separated or divorced from such unions and those in common-law relationships (including same-sec spouses)
  • Other Firearms include sawed-off rifle/shotgun, fully automatic weapons, forearm like weapons (i.e. nail guns, pellet gun, etc) and forearms of unknown type.
  • Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey

Chart 4 - Homicide trends (See Firearm-related and gang-related homicides, 1993-2007

Chart 5 - International Homicide 4 (See Chart 1 - Homicide rates for selected countries (Statistics Canada))

The CFP's policy objectives are to reduce the firearms risks to the health and personal safety of Canadians; promote responsible ownership, use and storage of firearms; and, provide police and other organizations with expertise and information vital to the prevention and investigation of firearms crime both in Canada and internationally With respect to the CFP and firearms users in 2007 there were:

  1. 1.8 million licensed individuals;
  2. over 7.0 million registered firearms;
  3. one million Possession Only Licence's (POL);
  4. 800,000 Possession and Acquisition Licences (PAL);
  5. 6,000 Possession Licenses for Minors;
  6. Continuous eligibility checks identified over 97,000 potential public safety issues (Firearms Interest to Police);
  7. FIP hits led to 466 Licence Refusals and 1701 Licence Revocations;
  8. More than 84,000 individuals took firearms safety training;
  9. The Canadian Firearms Registry On-Line (CFRO) received an average of 6,900 queries per day.

Universal licensing and registration of firearms create an atmosphere of accountability. Knowing that individuals and businesses are accountable for their firearms and the use of them decreases the likelihood that an individual will misuse, traffic or commit a crime with a firearm. As well, continuous eligibility checks of firearms licence holders ensure that firearms are removed from people whose behaviour suggests that they might pose a threat to public safety.5

Continuous-eligibility screening is one of the most innovative features of the CFP. Rather than just doing background checks at the time of licensing and renewal (as was done under previous legislation), the CFRS is dynamic and continuously updated as new information comes to the attention of the police and courts concerning the behaviour of licence holders. All current holders of firearms licences, POL (Possession Only) and PAL (Possession and Acquisition of further firearms), are recorded in the Canadian Firearms Information System (CFIS). CFIS automatically checks with the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) every day to determine whether a licence holder has been the subject of an incident report in CPIC. All matches generate a report entitled Firearms Interest Police (FIP) that is automatically forwarded to the CFO in the relevant province for follow-up. Some of these reports require no further action, but others may lead to review of the individual's licence and may result in its revocation. Continuous-eligibility screening reduces the likelihood that an individual who has shown they are a risk to public safety will be permitted to retain possession of firearms.

Number of confirmed FIP reports by province
Province/Territory 2007
Newfoundland and Labrador 2,116
Nova Scotia 5,588
Quebec 37,302
Manitoba 4,348
Alberta 8,766
Yukon 273
Nunavut 589
Prince Edward Island 278
New Brunswick 3,671
Ontario 19,924
Saskatchewan 2,877
British Columbia 11,426
Northwest Territories 216
Total 97,374

Licensing of an individual to possess firearms requires a variety of background checks. Applicants are screened to detect potential public safety risks based on information provided with a firearms licence application. Continuous eligibility screening is conducted over the term of the licence to identify any public safety risks that may arise over time. A licence may also be revoked following a court order or a Chief Firearms Officer's investigation resulting from a call to the CFP's Public Safety Line (1-800-731-4000). Reasons for licence refusals or revocations include: a history of violence, mental illness, potential risk to oneself or others, unsafe firearm use and storage, drug offences, and providing false information.

Number of license refusals and revocations
(by year)
Year Refusals Revocations
2006 424 2093
2007 466 1701
2008 478 1800
2009 148 499

* Information on refusals and revocations are periodically uploaded to the Canadian Firearms Information System (CFIS) by Chief Firearms Officers, and may be retroactive to a previous year. This data was extracted from CFIS as of April 1st, 2009

Reasons for Licence Refusals

  • Potential risk to self - 20%
  • Mental health - 11%
  • Violent - 14%
  • Drug offences - 8%
  • Domestic violence - 8%
  • Unsafe firearm and storage - 3%
  • Provided false information - 11%
  • Court-ordered prohibition or probation - 33%
  • Potential risk to others - 39%


Reasons for Licence Revocations

  • Potential risk to self, 12%
  • Mental health, 8%
  • Violent, 6%
  • Drug offences, 3%
  • Domestic violence, 4%
  • Provided false information, 2%
  • Court-ordered prohibition or probation, 69%
  • Potential risk to others, 18%
  • Unsafe firearms use and storage, 3%

A large increase in revocations due to court-ordered firearms prohibitions resulted from an initiative to use CPIC for this data, and ensured that many thousands of individuals with criminal backgrounds, who would have escaped scrutiny under the old manual system, lost their privilege to possess firearms.

The Canadian Firearms Registry On-line (CFRO) is a subset of the Canadian Firearms Information System (CFIS). The system is available to Canadian police agencies via the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) system to assist them when responding to calls and conducting investigations. As a searchable application, police officers may query the name, address and firearms licence number of an individual or other, firearm-related information such as the serial number or registration certificate number of a firearm. CFRO provides police with real-time access to the information they require in their investigative and operational activities.

Average Daily Queries to the CFRO
Type 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Individual Name 1,561 1,820 2,397 4,001 4,262 6440 6,722
Address 27 42 1,434 2,268 2,364 2574 2,606
Serial# 128 130 143 187 176 202 271
Other 95 95 117 136 172 197 207
Total 1,811 2,087 4,091 6,592 6,974 9,413 9,806

Police who use CFRO are able to get the information that they require to support their investigations. Individuals who demonstrate they are a safety risk to the public can be linked with the database of registered firearms owners, and firearms can be removed from the scenario. Police report that the Firearms Program and associated processing sites (Miramichi and CFO offices) have reduced the administrative burden placed on them (under the former firearms control legislation, they were responsible for licence screening).

A survey of CFRO users showed that 81% of trained police officers supported the statement, "In my experience, CFRO query results have proven beneficial during major operations." So beneficial, in fact, that RCMP dispatchers, RCMP Operational Communications Centres, Quebec Police agencies, Halifax Regional Police, Halton Regional Police, Canadian Military Police, OPP, Peel Regional Police, Toronto Police Service, West Vancouver Police Department and the Tsuu Tina Police Service have re-designed their Records Management Systems to auto-query CFRO whenever a police officer queries CPIC. Additionally, 513 RCMP detachments and federal units, 579 Canadian municipal police agencies and 88 OPP locations query CFRO yearly.

Key finding of CFRO survey (Percentage of positive responses)
Questions Participating Police - CFRO Trained Participating Police - Not CFRO trained Participating Police Overall
Does your agency use the CFRO system? 98% 86% 92%
Do you use CFRO in your day to day functions? 78% 53% 65%
I use CFRO in responding to calls for service 81% 65% 73%
CFRO query results influence the manner in which I handle calls for service. 73% 65% 69%
In my experience, CFRO query results have proven beneficial during major operations. 81% 68% 74%

The Canadian Firearms Program provides direct support to all domestic and international law enforcement services relative to firearms registration information and licensing of individuals and businesses by providing law enforcement agencies and other organizations with information and expertise vital to the prevention and investigation of firearms crime and misuse in Canada and internationally. This information helps distinguish between legal and illegal firearms, as well as lawful and unlawful owners and trafficking of firearms.

CFP assists law enforcement, the policing community and Crown prosecutors by preparing affidavits that certify licensing or registration information related to individuals or firearms. Typically, affidavit requests are to determine what firearms an individual has registered to them, or to determine if a given firearm is registered. This certification is based on data maintained and controlled by both the CFO and the Registrar.

Number of affidavits produced:
Year 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Affidavits# 1,150 2,260 2,400 3,374 3,606

In November 2008, Canadian police services and other public agencies started recording their service firearms, and all other firearms recovered, seized, or otherwise in inventory. This will enable users of the firearms registration database to find and track firearms recovered from crime scenes and at the borders, and generally allow for far better firearms intelligence analysis. Preliminary numbers from police agencies show that the majority of firearms seized since November 2008 are non-restricted (79.7%). A search of the registration database showed that 46.5% of non-restricted firearms seized were registered.

The Public Agents Firearms Regulations came into effect on October 31, 2008. These regulations require all police services and all government departments and agencies to report firearms in their possession. As a result, the CFP is able to quantify and track the number of protected firearms within police and other public agencies. Additionally, information related to these firearms is available to police forces across the country to assist in their investigations via a central database.6

Firearms in police custody
Firearms in custody Non-restricted Restricted Prohibited Total Matched with registered firearm
Initial Inventory 17,379 4,345 1,882 23,606 5,953
Seized 11,196 2,044 801 14,041 6,058
Surrendered 3,881 1,534 545 5,960 2,529
Safekeeping 1,188 173 87 1,448 881
Found 411 136 43 590 98
Detained 238 24 10 272 152
Imported 30 9 7 46 10
Total 34,323 8,265 3,375 45,963 15,681

The initial inventory (23,606 firearms) refers to the number of firearms in police custody accounted for when the Public Agents Firearms Regulations came into effect October 31, 2008. The final inventory data (45,963) was reported August 31, 2009. Increases of 22,357 police-identified firearms have been seen in the 10 months following the program's implementation.

The Public Agents Firearms Regulations will have a direct impact on enforcement actions within Canada. The Firearms Operations and Enforcement Support Unit of the RCMP Canadian Firearms Program identifies real time, criminal trends and patterns regarding the criminal use of firearms and reports on this directly to front-line enforcement units in order to directly impact ongoing firearms investigations.7

Strategic engagement has been the focus for CFP through 2007/2008 and has been led by the Director General. Over 20 in-person presentations to Government and Police officials across the country were conducted, resulting in a wide spread recognition of the Program and thus an increase in the use of the CFRO tool of over 25%. Communication initiatives have been initiated throughout the year to keep clients and the public aware of not only the law, but also the program. Along with the strategic engagement initiative, these communications included pamphlets, mail outs, and manuals, and were a key contributor to meeting this priority.

Number of registered firearms by class (as of March 31, 2009)

  1. Non-restricted : 6,690,792
  2. Restricted: 460,089
  3. Prohibited: 210,100

In terms of tracking firearms, the program continues to attract hundreds of thousands of new registrations each year, and enables investigators to trace firearms across every Canadian jurisdiction.

In 2006, approximately 75,000individuals participated in either the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC) or the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC). During 2007, 84,918 individuals participated in both courses.

Looking at client service metrics, the average turnaround time for all firearms licences (POL and PAL) was 24 days in 2007. This is well below the published standard of 45 days. A small licence application work-in-progress remains, but consists of applications where elevated risk indicated further follow-up investigation was required.

The outreach program for Aboriginal communities, delivers hundreds of Aboriginal firearms safety courses each year. CFP worked with Aboriginal partners in 2007 to deliver over 260 firearms safety courses in 6 communities. Since 2001, 1500 safety courses have been delivered and 1700 safety test challenges supervised, in 30 Aboriginal communities.

Business Web Services were introduced three years ago to allow for on-line transfers of firearms registration. A firearm can now be transferred between eligible owners within minutes on-line. Further web-based services are being considered.

Firearms Licensing as a program activity has succeeded in creating a searchable relational database of nearly 2 million individuals in possession of firearms, which includes names, addresses and more recently references and spouses. This database is also linked to the Registry, so the actual firearms can be associated to the owner. Several hundred thousand transactions are processed each year, including address changes, five-year renewals, upgrades to PAL, upgrades to Restricted, Revocations, and appeals.

The Program not only impacts the 1.9 million Canadians who own firearms, it enhances the safety of all other Canadians who live in the same communities, by promoting safe use and storage of firearms. The requirement that all firearms must be registered and known to authorities supports a climate of individual accountability and public confidence, which in turn goes a long way toward ensuring the 30 million Canadians who do not own firearms to accept the privilege of others to do so.

Telephone Calls Received at the CFP's Call Centre
Year Average Wait Time (seconds) Total Number of Calls Received Number of Calls Answered within 3 Minutes Percentage
2004 116 501,582 379,321 75
2005 113 839,658 629,737 74
2006 159 1,146,880 749,612 65
20078 324 1,034,298 352,320 34
2008 124 964,492 684,291 70

1 Firearm homicide source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey

2Firearm suicide and accidental death source: Chief Provincial and Territorial Coroners from across Canada

3 2004 is the last year for which the Evaluation team had obtained national data through the compilation of provincial coroner data. More recent data is available from specific provinces and territories in the Open Source statistical data section.

4 Figures reflect 2000 data (per 100,000 population)

5 Email from CFP, October 2009.

6 CFP, Strategic Integration and Program Management Services, Report 9500, run 24Sep09

7 'Enforcement Support' FOES analysts will be able to identify at a glance which firearms are in illegal status in Canada and under what circumstances they were seized. Those firearms will be cross-referenced with trace and occurrence data obtained by NWEST and the Canadian National Firearms Tracing Centre (CNFTC) and if appropriate will be submitted for tracing, the results of which are forwarded back to the agency of jurisdiction for action. This will be a critical first step in closing the tracing gap in Canada; the 'Public Agents' PAFR will allow the 'Enforcement Support unit' FOES to accurately report on ALL firearms seized by police and identify their origins Furthermore, should the origin of a firearm not be traceable, the 'Enforcement Support unit' FOES will be in a position to determine the reason and report back to the agency of jurisdiction with recommendations.

8 NOTE: The above normal average wait time in 2007 was due to temporary human resource issues, relating to transition of the Program into the RCMP, and 2008 data shows this has returned to normal.