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Firearm Law in Canada – Increasing Ownership

Increased Gun Ownership and the Firearm Law in Canada

Under the firearm law there are three classes of firearms in Canada: non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited.

The CBC has recently reported that the number of restricted guns in Canada has increased 9.5% in 2015 and has doubled since 2004.

The same article offers three interrelated causes for the increase. It is noted that the sharpest increase occurred during Prime Minister Harper’s administration which advocated fewer restrictions on gun ownership. Secondly, it is suggested that the demand for restricted firearms in Canada originates in America where the firearm law can be described as famously lax making is easy to purchase hand guns and rifles. The last reason offered is that an increased fear of terrorism has led to a feeling that people need guns to feel safe.

What is a firearm?

Section 2 of the Criminal Code of Canada defines “firearm” as: “a barrelled weapon from which any shot, bullet or other projectile can be discharged and that is capable of causing serious bodily injury or death to a person, and includes any frame or receiver of such a barrelled weapon and anything that can be adapted for use as a firearm.”

What of crossbows?

The RCMP advises:

“Crossbows that can be aimed and fired with one hand and crossbows with an overall length of 500 mm or less are prohibited. You cannot lawfully possess or acquire a prohibited crossbow. You do not need a valid licence or registration certificate to possess any other type of bow, including a crossbow that is longer than 500 mm and that requires the use of both hands. Criminal Code provisions making it an offence to acquire a crossbow without a valid licence were never brought into force.”

Most crossbows do not have serial numbers which makes regulation more difficult. The provision that would have made crossbows a “firearm” therefore requiring licences was withdrawn in 1995 before becoming law.

The recent killings in Scarborough were attributed to crossbow injuries. The man accused of first-degree murder had a weapons ban in effect from 2009. It is unclear whether the accused purchased the crossbow, however, since there is no regulation of crossbows, it is impossible for retailers to know who they should not be sold to. Some have suggested that retailers should be able to access the database that lists those with such a firearms ban.

It is important to understand the classification of firearms and weapons especially if you are under such a ban. Political pressures can bring swift changes to related areas of the firearm law. Contact Smordin Law today if you require assistance.


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