Firearms and weapons offences under Canadian law stem from the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code, which create regulatory and criminal offences, respectively. Failure to comply with weapons and firearms laws may result in criminal charges, fines, prohibitions against ownership and imprisonment. Most penalties for the unregistered use, possession, and trafficking of a firearm include mandatory minimum sentences.

Firearm Definition

A firearm is a barrelled weapon from which a bullet or other projectile can be fired to seriously injure or kill a person. As this definition is broad enough to capture pellet and air guns, some high velocity pellet guns are subject to the same licence, registration and storage requirements as conventional firearms.

What is a Firearm?

A firearm is any barrelled weapon that discharges ammunition and can be used to seriously injure or kill a person. In Canada, firearms fall into three categories: prohibited, restricted and non-restricted.

Items not normally considered firearms for the purpose of the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code include antique firearms, devices used for signaling or industrial projects, shooting devices for terminating domestic animals or tranquilizing wildlife, and low velocity air guns.

Prohibited Firearms

Prohibited firearms include handguns with a barrel length equal to or less than 105 mm and most 25 or 32 calibre handguns. Fully automatic and converted automatic firearms, some military firearms (like the AK-47), and firearms with sawed-off barrels are also prohibited.

Restricted Firearms

Restricted firearms include certain non prohibited handguns and semi-automatic long guns, as well as firearms designed to be fired when telescoped or folded shorter than 660 mm. Purposes for which you may be licensed to have a restricted firearm include target practice and shooting competitions, collections and, in certain circumstances, use in your occupation.

Non-Restricted and Imitation Firearms

Non-restricted firearms include any rifle or shotgun that is neither restricted nor prohibited, like those used for sport and hunting. An imitation firearm is anything that imitates a firearm, including replica firearms.

Weapon Definition

A weapon is anything used, designed, or intended to cause death or injury to a person, or for the purpose of threatening or intimidating a person. Weapons can therefore be any common object used or intended to injure or threaten someone. Items used to restrain a person against their will may also be deemed weapons.

Prohibited Weapons

While a weapon is anything intended for use in the threatening, injuring or killing of a person, the Criminal Code distinguishes subclasses of prohibited and restricted weapons from everyday items that can be wielded as weapons.

Weapons prohibited by the Canadian government include:

  • Pepper spray
  • Mace
  • Tear gas
  • Crossbows
  • Switchblade knives
  • Brass knuckles
  • Spiked wristbands
  • Finger rings with one or more blades capable of projecting from the surface
  • Yaqua blowguns: a tube designed to shoot arrows by breath
  • Nunchaku: clubs or pipes linked by a length of rope, cord, wire or chain
  • Shuriken: hard plates with three or more radiating points and one or more sharp edges in the shape of a polygon, trefoil, cross, star or diamond
  • Manrikigusari or kusari: geometrically shaped hard weights or hand grips linked by rope, cord, wire or chain

Firearms & Weapons Offences

Firearms offences under Canadian law stem from the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code, which create regulatory and criminal offences, respectively.

Regulatory Firearms Offences

The licencing, possession, sale, storage and transfer of firearms in Canada is regulated by the Firearms Act. Each province and territory has a designated Chief Firearms Officer with certain powers under the Act, including:

  • The power to determine whether or not a person is eligible to hold a firearms licence, and
  • The power to determine whether or not a person should be allowed to transport a firearm from one place to another.

The Firearms Act creates regulatory offences for failing to comply with rules and regulations, including:

  • Lying in order to obtain a firearms licence
  • Tampering with a licence
  • Breaking the terms of a licence or registration certificate
  • Improper storage of a firearm
  • Failing to comply with a demand made by a firearms inspector
  • Criminal firearms offences

The Criminal Code creates a number of criminal firearms related offences, including:

  • Unauthorized possession of a firearm
  • Carrying a concealed firearm
  • Possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose
  • Possession of a firearm contrary to an order
  • Use of a firearm in the commission of an offence
  • Possession of an unauthorized firearm
  • Pointing a firearm
  • Careless use of a firearm
  • Firearm trafficking
  • Aggravated assault with a weapon
  • Assault with a weapon
  • Robbery with a weapon
  • Weapons offences

The Criminal Code creates the following weapons related offences:

  • Carrying a concealed weapon
  • Possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose
  • Weapons trafficking
  • Aggravated assault with a weapon
  • Assault with a weapon
  • Robbery with a weapon
  • Possession of a weapon contrary to an order

Firearms & Weapons in the Criminal Code of Canada

Regarding the careless use of a firearm, Section 86 of the Criminal Code states that every person commits an offence who, without lawful excuse, uses, carries, handles, ships, transports or stores a firearm, a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device or any ammunition or prohibited ammunition in a careless manner or without reasonable precautions for the safety of other persons.

Respecting the possession of weapon for dangerous purpose, Section 88 of the Criminal Code states that every person commits an offence who carries or possesses a weapon, an imitation of a weapon, a prohibited device or any ammunition or prohibited ammunition for a purpose dangerous to the public peace or for the purpose of committing an offence.

In dealing with the unauthorized possession of firearm, Section 91 of the Criminal Code states that every person commits an offence who possesses a prohibited firearm, a restricted firearm or a non-restricted firearm without being the holder of

  1. a licence under which the person may possess it; and
  2. in the case of a prohibited firearm or a restricted firearm, a registration certificate for it.

Section 95 of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to possess a loaded prohibited firearm or restricted firearm, or an unloaded prohibited firearm or restricted firearm together with readily accessible ammunition that is capable of being discharged in the firearm, without being the holder of a license and registration certificate.

About robbery with a firearm, Section 344 of the Criminal Code states that Robbery every person who commits robbery is guilty of an indictable offence and liable

  1. if a restricted firearm or prohibited firearm is used in the commission of the offence or if any firearm is used in the commission of the offence and the offence is committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with, a criminal organization, to imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of
    1. in the case of a first offence, five years, and
    2. (ii) in the case of a second or subsequent offence, seven years;

Penalties for Firearms & Weapons Offences

Penalties for weapons and firearms offences depend on the type (regulatory or criminal) and severity of the offence. Firearms and weapons violations are primarily hybrid offences, which means they can be prosecuted as either summary or indictable offences. Most penalties for the unregistered use, possession, and trafficking of a firearm include mandatory minimum sentences.

Careless Use and Contravention of Storage Regulations Penalties

  • First offence: maximum two years imprisonment when charged indictably
  • Second offence: maximum five years imprisonment when charged indictably
  • Maximum two years imprisonment if charged summarily
  • Possible $5,000 fine
  • Possible criminal record
  • Possible travel restrictions to the United States

Pointing a Firearm Penalties

  • Minimum six months imprisonment
  • Up to five year imprisonment if charged indictably
  • Maximum two years imprisonment if charged summarily
  • Possible $5,000 fine
  • Possible criminal record
  • Possible travel restrictions to the United States

Carrying a Concealed Weapon Penalties

  • Minimum six months imprisonment
  • Maximum five years imprisonment if charged indictably
  • Maximum two years imprisonment if charged summarily
  • Possible $5,000 fine
  • Possible criminal record
  • Possible travel restrictions to the United States

Possession of a Weapon for Dangerous Purposes Penalties

  • Maximum ten years imprisonment if charged indictably
  • Maximum two years imprisonment if charged summarily
  • Possible $5,000 fine
  • Possible prohibition against ownership of firearms
  • Possible criminal record
  • Possible travel restrictions to the United States

Known Possession of an Unauthorized Firearm Penalties

  • Minimum one year and maximum ten years imprisonment
  • Possible prohibition against ownership of firearms
  • Possible criminal record
  • Possible travel restrictions to the United States

Unauthorized Possession of a Restricted Firearm with Ammunition Penalties

  • Maximum two years imprisonment if charged summarily
  • Maximum ten years imprisonment if charged indictably
  • Possible $5,000 fine
  • Possible prohibition against ownership of firearms
  • Possible criminal record
  • Possible travel restrictions to the United States

Using a Firearm (or Imitation) in the Commission of an Offence Penalties

  • First offence: minimum one year and maximum 14 years imprisonment
  • Second offence: minimum three years and maximum 14 years imprisonment
  • Possible prohibition against ownership of firearms
  • Criminal record
  • Travel restrictions to the United States

Assault with a Weapon Penalties

  • Maximum 18 months imprisonment if charged summarily
  • Maximum ten years imprisonment if charged indictably
  • Possible revocation of immigration status
  • Fines
  • Compensation to victim
  • Probation
  • Criminal record
  • Travel restrictions to the United States
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