2018 Commissioner of Firearms report
Table of contents
RCMP Canadian Firearms Program
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0R2
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Royal Canadian Mounted Police
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© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2019
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Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0R2
Catalogue No: PS96E-PDF
Message from the Commissioner of Firearms
The Canadian Firearms Program (CFP) and its dedication to enhancing public safety is in direct alignment with the mission of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). A national program responsible for the administration of the Firearms Act and regulations, the CFP also works closely with partners and stakeholders to promote firearms safety and provide expertise and assistance to law enforcement.
In 2018, the CFP continued to develop resources and strategic and operational support services as part of the broader Government of Canada initiative to reduce gun and gang violence. The Program's Business Web Services added more than 100 Canadian firearms retailers to its online portal, allowing those businesses to perform firearms registrations and transfers. In addition, the CFP's continuous eligibility screening model was updated to include a new gender option of "other", better reflecting the diversity of the public we serve.
For a glimpse of the CFP's contributions to responsible stewardship of federal firearms legislation, client service, and firearms safety awareness, refer to the "Canadian Firearms Program by the Numbers" section on page 8.
It is my privilege to present the 2018 Commissioner of Firearms Report.
Commissioner Brenda Lucki
Commissioner of Firearms
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Purpose of the report
The 2018 Commissioner of Firearms Report summarizes the CFP's operational activities and support to its more than two million clients. 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
Mission and values
The CFP's mission is to enhance public safety by reducing the risk of harm resulting from the misuse of firearms. It screens individual owners to confirm their eligibility to possess firearms, and promotes responsible ownership, storage and use of firearms. The CFP 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, Indigenous 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 and client experience;
- 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.
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. The Program works with other federal departments and agencies, including:
- Public Safety Canada (PS): The CFP provides accurate and up-to-date firearms-related policy support and technical information.
- Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA): Assesses and confirms imported firearms declarations and inspects firearms shipments to confirm admissibility.
- Global Affairs Canada (GAC): Ensures Canada's international commitments regarding firearms reflect the government's priorities and issues the permits required to export and import firearms.
- Department of Justice (DOJ): Consults the CFP on policy development on criminal law related to firearms.
- Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada: The CFP advises on firearms legislation and related issues.
- Guns and Gangs law enforcement units: The CFP collaborates on investigations leading to prosecution of criminals involved in the smuggling, trafficking and criminal use of firearms with provincial/territorial and municipal law enforcement units.
- International partners: Assists in preventing the illegal movement of firearms across borders; maintains strong relationships with law enforcement agencies from the United States and INTERPOL; and provides for electronic exchange of firearms tracing information with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
In 1996, under the Department of Justice, the Canada Firearms Centre was established as a stand-alone agency to oversee the Firearms Act. In 2003, it became an independent agency under the Department of the Solicitor General and a Commissioner of Firearms was appointed. In 2006, the responsibility for the administration of the Firearms Act and the operation of the Canada Firearms Centre was transferred to the RCMP. In 2008, the RCMP amalgamated the Canada Firearms Centre and the Firearms Support Services Directorate into one integrated group – the Canadian Firearms Program (CFP).
Since 2006, the CFP has supported the lawful ownership and use of firearms in Canada by administering the Firearms Act and assisting law enforcement with firearms-related investigations and expertise. The CFP falls under the authority of the Commissioner of Firearms, who is also the Commissioner of the RCMP.
Administration of the Firearms Act
The CFP administers the Firearms Act and is responsible for the licensing of individuals and businesses through CFOs for each province and territory, and the registration of restricted and prohibited firearms through the Registrar of Firearms (Registrar).
The CFP's national firearms safety education and awareness programs are key components for the safe use of firearms. The CFP also works with partner organizations and provincial/territorial governments to disseminate information to firearm owners and the general public.
2018: Canadian Firearms Program by the Numbers
Noteworthy in 2018
Supporting Actions Against Guns and Gangs in Canada
The Initiative to Take Action Against Gun and Gang Violence (ITAAGGV) is a significant component of the government's priority to address gun and gang violence in Canada. Aimed at supporting the development of initiatives to reduce gun crime and criminal gang activity, it aligns federal, provincial/territorial and community-level efforts to support prevention and enforcement efforts. Under ITAAGGV, the CFP has committed to expanding and enhancing existing services including:
- bolstering investigative firearms support nationwide;
- increasing capacity to conduct physical firearms inspections; and
- providing anonymous online capability to investigate firearm trafficking and smuggling.
As part of this priority, the Criminal Firearms Strategic and Operational Support Services (CFSOSS) Section was established in 2018 to build capacity that will provide ITAAGGV partners with the necessary tools, strategic analysis and research, program and policy development support, and ensure an integrated and coordinated approach to reducing criminal gun usage and gang violence through effective communication among ITAAGGV partners.
In March 2018, the CFP contributed to a Summit on Gun and Gang Violence to engage stakeholders and address challenges, opportunities and best practices for reducing firearms crime and gang-related violence in Canada. More than 180 individuals, including representatives of community, youth and Indigenous organizations, as well as law enforcement, criminal justice, all levels of government, former gang members, academics, and victims of violence, participated in the summit and provided perspectives and input on these important issues.
20th Anniversary of the Firearms Act Coming into Force
December 1, 2018 marked the 20th anniversary of the coming into force of the Firearms Act. Over the last two decades, there have been significant legislative and regulatory developments, including:
|2001||As of January 1, 2001, Canadians need a licence to possess a firearm.|
|2002||British Columbia, Yukon Territory, and Newfoundland and Labrador "opt out" of administering the Act themselves. The RCMP now supports and oversees the Chief Firearms Officers for these, as well.|
|2005||Remaining elements of Bill C-10A come into force, which improve service delivery, streamline processes and improve transparency and accountability.|
|2012||Bill C-19: The Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act comes into force on April 5, 2012, mandating that the registration of non-restricted firearms is no longer required. In October 2012, all non-restricted firearms registration records, except for Quebec, are destroyed. In April 2012, the Government of Quebec files a court challenge to Bill C-19, and due to a series of court orders and undertakings, non-restricted firearms registration requirements for the province of Quebec are retained, and Quebec residents continue to register non-restricted firearms until March 27, 2015 when the Supreme Court of Canada makes a final decision of the challenge. The official Quebec non-restricted firearm records are destroyed in April 2015.|
|2015||Bill C-42: The Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act receives Royal Assent on June 18, 2015. This legislation amends the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code. On September 2, 2015, provisions of Bill C-42 comes into force. Among them, the elimination of the Possession Only Licence (POL) and conversion of all existing POLs to Possession and Acquisition Licences and amendments to the Authorization to Transport for restricted and prohibited firearms. This same year, the CFP's client base surpasses 2 million.|
CFP contributions to public safety
In Canada, an individual must possess a valid firearms licence to be authorized to acquire or own a firearm, as well as to acquire ammunition. The licence requirement does not apply in the case where an individual is using a firearm under the direct and immediate supervision of a valid firearms licence holder.
Under the existing regime, individuals must apply to the CFO in their province or territory of residence in order to be issued a licence. All applicants are screened to ensure that there are no reasons why, in the interest of public safety, they should not possess a firearm.
There are two main types of firearms licences available to individuals in Canada:
- The Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL), issued to individuals aged 18 and older.
- The Minor's Licence, primarily issued to individuals between the ages of 12 and 17 to use, but not acquire, a firearm.
Section 5 of the Firearms Act provides CFOs with criteria to be considered in determining eligibility to obtain a new licence or in determining a person's continuous eligibility to hold a licence. This criteria includes: whether the person has been treated for a mental illness associated with violence
As of December 31, 2018, there were 2,183,827 licensed individuals across Canada, which includes both PAL holders and Minor's Licences (Table 1).
|Province or territory||PAL||Minor's licence||Total|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||76,400||402||76,802|
|Prince Edward Island||6,348||15||6,363|
In 2018 alone, the CFP issued 428,576 individual licences, including new licences and renewals for Possession and Acquisition licences and new licences for minors (Table 2).
|Licence type||Licence count|
|Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL)||424,361|
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 be listed as an employee on the business licence. 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 proper 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, 2018, there were 4,442 firearms businesses in Canada licensed under the Firearms Act, not including carriers and museums. Of these, 2,004 were licensed to only sell ammunition (Table 3).
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. 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 approximately 1,400 shooting ranges in Canada in 2018.
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 2018, there were 827 firearms licence applications refused for various public safety reasons (Tables 4 and 5). An individual may challenge any licence application refusal by a CFO by applying to a provincial court for a reference hearing unless the individual has been prohibited for owning firearms through a court-ordered firearms prohibition order.
As part of the CFP mandate to promote public safety, firearms licence applicants are screened to assess their eligibility to possess a firearms licence. After a firearms licence is issued, continuous eligibility screening is conducted over the term of the licence. Information that is brought to the attention of a CFO may bring an individual's eligibility to hold a licence into question. That individual might then be subject to review and further investigation (Table 5).
|Potential risk to others||208|
|Potential risk to self||152|
|Provided false information||162|
|Unsafe firearm use and storage||18|
Firearms licence renewals
Under 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 CFO of any address changes, which helps ensure they receive the renewal notice.
A total of 365,036 individual PAL licences expired in 2018 (Chart 1). Moreover, there were 46,614 expired licences with a restricted or prohibited firearm registered to them at the time of expiration. Of those, 43,089 licence holders renewed; however, 3,525 licence holders did not renew (Chart 2). The CFP follows up on these to determine the disposition of the firearm. Of the licences that were renewed in 2018, 57% of firearms licence holders used the CFP's online licence renewal tool through the Program's web portal.
In 2017, the Governor in Council brought into force the amendment to the Firearms Act which provides firearms owners an automatic six-month extension period for a firearms licence that has not been renewed before the expiry date. More information on the six-month extension period can be found on the Canadian Firearms Program's website.
Chart 1: Firearms licence renewalsFootnote 2, 2014 to 2018
Chart 1: Firearms licence renewalsFootnote 2, 2014 to 2018 - Tabular format
|Renewed||Did not renew|
Chart 2: Licence renewal for Restricted and Prohibited privileges only and in possession of a firearm*Footnote 3, 2014 to 2018
Chart 2: Licence renewal for restricted and prohibited privileges only and in possession of a firearm, 2014 to 2018 - Tabular format
|Renewed||Did not renew|
Continuous eligibility screening of firearms licence holders
Under the continuous eligibility regime, at any point during an individual's licence validity period, an event could occur that could prompt a review of their eligibility to hold a firearms licence.
If a firearms licence holder is involved in an event which could affect their eligibility (as defined by section 5 of the Firearms Act), it is reported by law enforcement via the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database and sent to the relevant CFO for review. An event can also be registered by individuals using the CFP's 1-800 number or by the courts with the issuance of a Firearms Prohibiton Order. A CFO is authorized to investigate the incident to determine if the client remains eligible to hold a licence.
Did you know?
In 2018, the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) began to initiate changes to allow the entry of a third gender option/designation. A new gender determinant, "Other" option, was made available in CPIC as of April 29, 2018, further to a joint agreement between Treasury Board Secretariat and Justice Canada.
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 3,015 firearms licences revoked in 2018 (Tables 6 and 7). Similar to licence application refusals, an individual may challenge a licence revocation by applying to a provincial court for a reference hearing unless the revocation is the result of a court- ordered Firearms Prohibition. As a result, some of these revocations may have been referred to, or overturned by the courts since the initial revocation.
|Potential risk to others||685|
|Potential risk to self||658|
|Provided false information||70|
|Unsafe firearm use and storage||72|
Firearms licence application refusals and firearms licence revocations are recorded in the CFP's national Canadian Firearms Information System (CFIS) database. Therefore, individuals who have an application refused or a licence revoked, cannot evade this decision by moving from one municipal or provincial/territorial jurisdiction to another.
Firearm prohibition orders for individuals
Under section 89 of the Firearms Act, every court, judge or justice that orders, varies or revokes a firearms prohibition order must notify the CFO 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 or the revocation of a firearms licence. However, under section 113 of the Criminal Code, special provisions may be made for an individual, against whom a prohibition order is made, to possess a firearm if they are able to establish to the satisfaction of a competent authority that they require a firearm for the purpose of hunting in order to sustain themselves or their family. As of December 31, 2018, there were 459,538 individuals prohibited from possessing firearms (Chart 3).
Chart 3: Individuals prohibited from possessing firearms, 2014 to 2018 (as of December 31 each yearFootnote 5)
Note: Data generated from CPIC system – Data not managed by RCMP.
Chart 3: Individuals prohibited from possessing firearms, 2014 to 2018 (as of December 31 each yearFootnote 5)- Tabular format
|Year||Number of prohibitions|
All firearms can be categorized into one of three classes, defined in subsection 84(1) of the Criminal Code:
- Non-restricted firearms - typically shotguns and rifles;
- Restricted firearms - predominantly handguns; and,
- 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 used to confirm the identification and class of a firearm by an approved verifier. The Program, through the Registrar of Firearms, coordinates with the National Verifiers Network. The National Verifiers Network authorizes verifiers and responds to all inquiries about becoming a certified verifier.
Applicants who wish to register a firearm must already have a firearms licence allowing them to possess the corresponding class of firearm. In other words, a firearms licence with the appropriate privileges 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 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, 2018, there were 1,164,197 restricted or prohibited firearms registered to individuals or businesses in Canada (Tables 8 and 9).
|Province or Territory||Restricted||Prohibited||Total|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||8,365||1,528||9,893|
|Prince Edward Island||2,586||753||3,339|
Firearms registration application refusals and certificate revocations
The Registrar of Firearms has the authority to revoke registration certificates and refuse firearms registration applications. In 2018, there were 17 firearm registration applications refused and 3,411 firearm registration certificates revoked (Table 10).
|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.
The CFSC was developed in partnership with the provinces and territories, national organizations with an ongoing interest in firearms safety, and many firearms instructors from across Canada. The content of this course is overseen by the CFP and approved by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, and was developed to meet the mandatory requirements of section 7 of the Firearms Act.
The CFP supports law enforcement agencies across the country and internationally to combat the illegal smuggling, trafficking, distribution, and criminal use of firearms. Through partnerships with municipal, provincial/territorial, and other federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies, the CFP supports firearms investigations and prosecutions, tracing of crime guns, managing specialized firearms-related data, and applying the legal criteria in the Criminal Code to identify the classification of firearms.
National Weapons Enforcement Support Team
The National Weapons Enforcement Support Team (NWEST) is a partnership between the RCMP and Canadian municipal and provincial police services in support of law enforcement efforts to counter the illegal movement of firearms into and across Canada. NWEST supports investigations and the prosecution of persons involved in the illegal movement and criminal use of firearms, playing a vital role in the fight against organized crime and terrorism. NWEST partners with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), conducting joint investigations to intercept illegal firearms entering Canada through border crossings, and with Global Affairs Canada (GAC), addressing the issue of international firearms sales.
NWEST also works alongside U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) on cross-border smuggling projects and investigations.
NWEST provides operational support through firearms identification and determination of legal classification based on criteria in the Criminal Code, including the preparation and execution of search warrants, production orders and prohibition orders. NWEST also assists in the prosecution of persons involved in illegal firearms activity by providing expert advice to law enforcement agencies and crown attorneys, and training to front-line law enforcement agencies across the country.
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 2018, there were 1,832 public service agencies that declared an inventory of firearms (Table 11), with 25,430 firearms seized among them (Tables 12 and 13).
|Agency type||Count of public agencies|
|Province or territory||Seizures|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||400|
|Prince Edward Island||126|
Canadian National Firearms Tracing Centre
Firearms tracing services
The Canadian National Firearms Tracing Centre (CNFTC) processes firearm tracing requests to assist national and international law enforcement agencies in their investigations by determining the origin and history of a firearm, and potentially linking the firearm to a crime. In 2018, the Program received 1,145 firearms tracing requests.
The CNFTC has access to specialized databases to assist with firearm investigations. The CNFTC also assists the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and INTERPOL with international and trans-border tracing investigations.
Specialized Firearms Support Services
Firearms identification expertise
The Specialized Firearms Support Services (SFSS) Unit is a centre of expertise in the identification and classification of firearms in Canada. The unit is regularly called upon to provide technical firearms information and advice to both domestic and international governments and working groups.
The unit's primary tool to support law enforcement is the Firearms Reference Table (FRT). The FRT is a comprehensive firearms database that provides national and international law enforcement officers with information to assist in the identification and description of firearms that are subject to criminal prosecutions.
As of December 31, 2018, the FRT held 179,833 separate firearms descriptions and classifications. On average, 8,000 new firearms records are added each year. The FRT is available to all police and regulatory agencies in Canada, and is a trusted firearms identification tool relied upon by 194 INTERPOL member countries.
Firearms Internet Investigations Support Unit
Internet investigations keeping Canadians safe
The Firearms Internet Investigations Support Unit (FIISU) conducts open-source internet investigations regarding firearms licensing, renewal and continuous eligibility. These investigations assist the CFO in determining a client's eligiblity to possess (or continue to possess) a firearms licence.
FIISU also coordinates and collaborates with law enforcement agencies at the municipal, regional, provincial/territorial, federal, and international levels to assist in the collection of case-specific information pertaining to ongoing law enforcement investigations. FIISU has established and participated in specialized working groups and project teams to assist partners such as the CBSA, in the interdiction of illegal firearms smuggling. FIISU has also assisted the ATF in developing online investigative best practices and processes to combat the criminal use of firearms, and to develop firearms investigation enforcement techniques.
The CFP, as Canada's centre for firearms expertise, continues to demonstrate its commitment to enhancing firearms safety and combatting firearms crime. The CFP considers the safety of Canadians to be its top priority.
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