Possessing a firearm is legal in Canada if you have a valid firearm license. But the government lays down several restrictions on its usage. The type of firearm you possess is important in determining whether it is legal or not. The tougher weapon laws are the result of increasing assaults with weapons and gun violence in the country. Unfortunately, the lack of knowledge about weapon laws has also led to a rise in rumours regarding gun possession and use.
This blog post aims to clear the confusion surrounding weapons offences and laws in Canada so that you can understand the situation if you’re ever charged with a firearm offence.
Weapons Offences in Canada: What You Need to Know
Classification of Firearms
Before you learn about the offences, it is necessary to understand the classification of firearms under the Criminal Code of Canada. After all, you should know owning which weapon is illegal and handling which one is legal.
The Criminal Code Canada classifies firearms in three categories mentioned below.
Prohibited firearms is the category of weapons that are illegal to own and use in Canada unless the firearm was owned prior to it becoming prohibited. It includes all fully automatic firearms, rifles and shotguns adapted into handguns, firearms converted into automatic and semi-automatic, handguns that are less than 105 mm in length or handguns designed to discharge a 25 or 32 calibre cartridge.
Restricted firearms is the category of firearms that are legal to posses provided you complete a safety course and obtain a valid license under the Firearms Act. It includes handguns that are not prohibited, weapons with a barrel length less than 470 mm and weapons that can discharge ammunition in a semi-automatic manner. That said, semi-automatic firearms that are capable of discharging centre-fire ammunition and weapons that are designed to fire even if their length is reduced to less than 660 mm are included in restricted firearms category.
Non-restricted category of firearms includes all weapons used for hunting such as rifles and shotguns. All firearms that are neither prohibited nor restricted fall into this category.
Types of Weapons Offences
You’ll be charged with a weapons offence if
- You’re found possessing a loaded non-prohibited, restricted or non-prohibited firearm or unloaded prohibited, non-prohibited or restricted firearm (or replicas of these weapons) along with readily accessible ammunition and without a valid license of possession
- You’re found possessing a firearm for a dangerous purpose and with the intent to do harm with
- You discharged a firearm without reasonable precautions taken for the safety of people around (you failed to meet the required standard of care)
- You improperly stored or transported a firearm that would endanger other people
- You transported or manufactured firearms (trafficking) that you’re not authorized or possessed firearms for the purpose of trafficking
Penalties for Weapons Offences
The penalties of weapons offences under the Firearms Act in Canada depend on the nature and severity of the crime. Some non-severe penalties are-
- The minimum penalty for careless handling and storage of firearms is between a sentence of six months plus $5,000 fine to two years sentence and the maximum penalty is a sentence of 5 years for subsequent offences.
- Pointing a firearm at another person or carrying a concealed weapon can land you in trouble and you’ll have to face a minimum sentence of six months plus $5,000 fine and a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison.
On the other hand, penalties for severe offences where the offender intends to disobey the law and commits the offence are mentioned below.
- If you possess a weapon (unauthorized weapon, real or replica) for dangerous purposes with the intention of doing harm, you’ll be sentenced to a minimum of six months in prison plus $5,000 fine or a maximum of ten years in jail.
- If you knowingly possess a firearm that is unauthorized with the intention of committing a crime or engaging in illegal activity, the penalty will be minimum one year and maximum ten years in prison for the second offence.
- If you possess a restricted weapon with ammunition, you’ll have to serve jail time of at least one year with $5,000 fine or a maximum of ten years in prison.
Weapons offences are one of the most complex types of offences in Canadian law. Only an attorney can understand the technicalities. It is advisable to consult your case with a criminal defence lawyer if you have been charged with a firearms offence. The legal professional will evaluate your case and be able to guide you on what should be your next step.