Many Canadians believe anyone can walk into their local gun store, toss a wad of cash on the counter and walk out with a gun. Worse, this lie is often promoted by reporters and elected officials alike.
It’s critical for Canadians to understand all of the legal hurdles an individual must clear before they are granted a firearm Possession and Acquisition Licence by the RCMP Canadian Firearm Centre.
It’s also the only way to understand just how seriously Canadians take the public safety issues surrounding lawful firearm ownership.
Only by knowing what Canadian law says about firearms can we hold our politicians to account when they lie to us, the media and each other in the House of Commons.
To correct the well-promoted misconception anyone can buy a gun, here are the steps required, including all the hurdles you must jump before you are granted a Canadian firearm Possession and Acquisition Licence.
A person is not eligible to hold a licence if it is desirable, in the interests of the safety… that the person not possess a firearm…
If the applicant passes the default refusal mechanism, their eligibility to hold a licence is determined by Section 5 (2) parts (a), (b) and (c).
In this section, it says the applicant must not have any convictions under a wide series of criminal offences, must not have a history of mental illness or “history of behaviour that includes violence or threatened or attempted violence on the part of the person against any person.”
If any of these are in your personal history, you do not qualify to hold a licence.
Likewise, if a person is prohibited from owning firearms by court order, they are not eligible for a licence. [Section 6 (1)] Firearm Prohibition Orders are judicial restrictions typically, but not always, ordered against on people who commit violence against another person.
Assuming the individual passes these hurdles, they must meet the safety course requirements set out in Section 7, which include both written and practical exams.
- To legally own Non-Restricted firearms (most rifles and shotguns) the individual must pass the Canadian Firearm Safety Course.
- To legally own Restricted firearms (handguns and some semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15) the individual must also pass the Canadian Restricted Firearm Safety Course.
Completing each course and taking the written and practical exams takes a couple of days, often spread over two weekends or a series of week nights. Registering for a place in an upcoming course can take a few months, and the total cost is about $300.00.
The application form must be filled out and submitted, along with the required fee for processing.
Once the application form is received by the RCMP’s Canadian Firearms Program and passes initial screening, background checks begin.
The RCMP and/or the applicant’s provincial police force (and possibly their local police) examines their past to ensure the individual is eligible to possess firearms. This process can take three months or more.
Individuals listed as references on the licence application may be called (they aren’t always) and asked a series of questions. These questions are designed to elicit a negative response so your licence application can be denied.
Only by passing all of these requirements and paying all the required fees for training and licencing is a person eligible to hold a licence.
The next time someone says it is easy to legally own firearms in Canada, please set them straight and direct them to this article.
NOTE: I describe the reference check process and list the questions asked in an article about police attitudes toward firearm ownership and my daughter-in-law’s firearm licence application.
What are your experiences with obtaining a firearm licence? Please let me know about your experience with wait times, background and reference checks in the comments section below.