Firearms Ban RIAS, RCMP Release on FRT
Date: June 25, 2020
Branch / Agency: CCSB/ Public Safety
- On May 1, 2020, our Government banned over 1,500 models of assault-style firearms and their variants as well as component parts for some of the newly prohibited firearms. Also included are firearms with a muzzle energy greater than 10,000 Joules or a bore diameter of 20 mm or greater that exceed safe civilian use.
- The market is now frozen and the proliferation of these firearms in our communities has been stopped.
- We have put in place an amnesty to give existing owners time to come into compliance with the law. The amnesty also provides a temporary exception for Indigenous persons exercising s.35 Constitutional rights to hunt and for sustenance hunters to allow for continued use until a suitable replacement can be found.
- We have also signaled our intent to implement a buyback program as soon as possible. We are looking at a range of options, and will work with federal, provincial and territorial partners and stakeholders to get this right for law-abiding gun owners and businesses. Details of the buy-back program will be available at a later date.
- While the ban is a crucial first step, it is only one of a series of measures that we will take to target firearm-related crime in this country.
- I have been very clear that we that we need to strengthen Canada’s gun control framework and this Government intends to introduce a red-flag regime to reduce cases of intimate partner violence and suicide by temporarily removing firearms from individuals who pose a danger to themselves or their partners or kids.
- We will strengthen firearms storage requirements to deter theft, enhance police tracing capacity, and work with our partners from other levels of government to give municipalities the ability to further restrict handguns.
- We know that we must do more to prevent smuggled guns from entering Canada. That is why we will introduce tougher penalties for trafficking and smuggling offences and continue to make important investments in the RCMP and CBSA to strengthen border controls.
- We will also establish a dedicated funding stream for municipalities to fight gang-related violence and expand diversion programs with a focus on crime prevention that keep at-risk youth out of the criminal justice system.
- This is a time for action on many fronts, and this Government intends to follow through and deliver for Canadians.
IF PRESSED ON THE FIREARMS REFERENCE TABLE:
- The Canadian Firearms Program has updated the Firearms Reference Table (FRT) reflecting the firearms listed in the Gazette and any known variants.
- Should any additional variants be identified, these will be updated in the FRT and posted on the CFP website.
- To provide assistance to the general public, the FRT public version contains a link to a supplementary list of FRT records affected by the May 1, 2020 Order in Council.
IF PRESSED ON THE USE OF ORDERS IN COUNCIL:
- Parliament gave the Governor-in-Council the authority to prescribe firearms as prohibited or restricted by regulation since 1969. This power has been used a number of times since then.
- The 1995 Firearms Act, which established the current firearms classification system, also provided the Government with the authority to prescribe firearms as prohibited or restricted. This power was re-enacted in section 117.15 in the Criminal Code.
- This is the same regulatory authority that has been used in the past to prohibit firearms such as the AK-47 and the Uzi submachine gun and was used for the regulations introduced on May 1, 2020.
IF PRESSED ON FORMER BILL C-71:
- We are also continuing our work to bring into force the provisions enacted by former Bill C-71, which received Royal Assent in June 2019.
- Prior to these provisions coming into force, we need to secure funding for the RCMP to update its information management and technology systems to support these changes, test the systems to ensure that that the transition is seamless for both individual owners and retailers, and table the associated regulations in both Houses.
On May 1, 2020, the Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and Other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited, Restricted or Non-Restricted were amended to prescribe as prohibited approximately 1,500 models of firearms and their variants, along with upper receivers for some newly-prohibited firearms. Of those, nine principal models of assault-style firearms are prohibited as they have semi-automatic action with sustained rapid-fire capability (tactical military design with large magazine capacity); are of modern design; and are present in large volumes in the Canadian market. Also included are two categories of firearm that exceed safe civilian use: firearms with 20 mm bore or greater or with a muzzle energy of greater than 10,000 Joules.
Firearms Reference Table
In 2020, the Firearms Reference Table (FRT) was made available to the general public in order to increase transparency of information on firearms.
The public-facing version of the FRT is updated periodically and is dated. Following the May 1, 2020 prohibition announcement firearms businesses and other stakeholders have noted that ongoing changes to the Firearms Reference Table has created confusion and uncertainty on what firearms may be captured under the prohibition.
Should any additional variants be identified, these will be updated in the FRT and posted on the CFP website. A link has been added to the public version of the FRT that provides a list of the newly prohibited firearms.
Use of Orders in Council to Re-Classify Firearms
Bill C-150 received Royal Assent in June 1969 and created the categories of “restricted weapon” (included handguns and fully automatic firearms, which had to be registered and required a permit to transport) and “prohibited weapon” (weapons such as brass knuckles or silencers). The definitions of both of these categories also included an authority for the Governor in Council (GIC) to prescribe by Order in Council firearms as “restricted weapons” or “prohibited weapons.” A firearm could not be prescribed as either a restricted weapon or a prohibited weapon if it “was commonly used for hunting or sporting purposes.”
The authority was used sparingly and prescribed according to the name of the firearm, which resulted in manufacturers simply changing minor aspects of the firearms to avoid being captured in the prohibited weapon category.
Bill C-17 received Senate approval and Royal Assent on December 5, 1991, and then came into force between 1992 and 1994. Bill C-17 created the authority for the GIC to prescribe specific makes and models and variants of military or paramilitary firearms, not commonly used in Canada for a hunting or sporting purpose, as prohibited or restricted. This was a broader scope (listing by makes and models and including variants) than the power to prescribe by name only. The Bill also:
- Distinguished between “non-restricted weapons” (rifles and shotguns); “restricted weapons” (primarily handguns, short-barreled semi-automatics, and grandfathered prohibited weapons) and “prohibited weapons” (fully automatic firearms and sawed off shotguns).
- Gave the GIC the power to prescribe some weapons as prohibited (such as some knives, tasers, and brass knuckles).
- Amended the definition of “prohibited weapon” in the Criminal Code to include fully automatic firearms.
Three Orders in Council effective as of October 1, 1992, dealt with three classes of weapons (except as otherwise noted):
- Prohibited weapons (with “grandfather” clause) came into force July 27, 1992 (Registration deadline October 1, 1992): Three assault pistols and one carbine became prohibited. Existing owners were allowed to retain firearms they owned on the date of the coming into force. These were to be registered as “restricted weapons”. Once existing owners died or disposed of the weapons, they reverted to prohibited weapons status and had to be deactivated or disposed of.
- Prohibited weapons (without “grandfather” clause) effective October 1, 1992: A list of “assault pistols”, “combat shotguns”, certain models of .50 calibre sniper rifles and other military-type firearms were classified as prohibited weapons. There was no retention allowed of these weapons after October 1, 1992; they had to be disposed of, surrendered or deactivated by that date.
- Restricted weapons effective October 1, 1992: Several semi automatic assault rifles and similar firearms were declared to be restricted weapons. These weapons had to be registered and could not be used for hunting. However, they were allowed to be used in sporting applications (i.e. target shooting) and for gun collections.
In 1995, the Firearms Act (Bill C-68) was passed and created three new categories of firearms (no longer referring to them as ‘weapons’): non-restricted, restricted and prohibited. With regard to the classification of restricted and prohibited firearms, the Act added the power of the Government to prescribe firearms as prohibited or restricted firearms via regulation, as long as they are “not reasonable for use in Canada” for hunting or sporting purposes. This amendment gave the GIC a broader discretion than the previous language in Bill C-150 of “commonly used in hunting or sport shooting”).
In 1998, the Governor in Council used the power (in current section 117.15 of the Criminal Code) to make the Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and Other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited or Restricted, which incorporated the 1992 Orders in Council and prohibited additional semi-automatic military weapons (examples: AK-47 variants, Commando Arms Carbine, FN variants, Heckler & Koch HK-91).
Bill C-42 came into force in 2015 and created a “deeming provision,” which gave the GIC the authority to prescribe a firearm to be non-restricted, even if it met the Criminal Code definition of a restricted firearm or a prohibited firearm. This authority was used in 2015 to prescribe the Swiss Arms family and CZ 858 rifles to be non-restricted. This authority was repealed by Bill C-71 in 2018; however, those provisions of the former Bill have not been brought into force. The non-restricted Swiss Arms and CZ 858 firearms were prescribed to be prohibited in the Regulations announced on May 1, 2020.
Bill C-71, An Act to amend Certain Acts and Regulations in relation to firearms
Bill C-71, An Act to amend certain Acts and Regulations in relation to firearms, received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019.
Several provisions, including those clarifying that firearms seized by police are considered forfeited to the Crown, and those allowing remaining long-gun registration records specific to Quebec to be transferred to that province, came into force upon Royal Assent.
Provisions in the Act that will come into force at a later date, by Order-in-Council and once administrative changes have been made, will:
- Require licence verification for transfers of non-restricted firearms;
- Require vendors to keep records of non-restricted firearms transactions;
- Expand background checks to determine eligibility for firearms licences from the previous five-years to the entirety of a person’s life and expand grounds that must be considered including an applicant’s history of intimate partner violence and online threats;
- Repeal “deeming provisions” - remove the authority for the Governor-in-Council to ‘deem’ firearms to be of a less restrictive class, irrespective of the Criminal Code definitions.
- Provide grandfathering for existing owners of CZ-858 and Swiss Arms firearms, which will be reclassified as prohibited; and,
- Require a separate Authorization to Transport (ATT) when transporting restricted and prohibited firearms to any place except to an approved shooting range.
Current Status of C-71
Bringing C-71 regulations into force will require a series of both parallel and sequential initiatives. First, a funding decision will be required to facilitate the administrative and technical changes needed to support the regulatory changes. The draft regulations will need to be finalized, which will involve consultations with implicated parties. The regulations would then need to be tabled in both Houses of Parliament for at least 30 sitting days, before being brought into force through Orders-in-Council.
In parallel, the RCMP would require up to 24 months to implement the new provisions, with “deeming” and ATT provisions to be completed within the first 12 months and the remaining provisions thereafter (licence verification, licence eligibility, and vendor record-keeping). Work is underway to develop a funding proposal to support the new provisions.
The cross-border smuggling of firearms poses a threat to the safety and security of Canada. Given the availability of firearms in the United States, including firearms that are strictly controlled or prohibited in Canada, most seizures happen at the Canada-US land border. The CBSA seizes large quantities of firearms every year from U.S. citizens, mostly from non-compliant travellers attempting to retain their personal firearms while travelling. There is no doubt, however, that there are firearms entering the country undetected, as evidenced through gun crimes in Canada that involve illicit firearms.
The CBSA is leveraging investments made through the Initiative to Take Action against Gun and Gang Violence to enhance its capacity to stem the flow of inadmissible travellers and illegal firearms entering Canada at vulnerable points of entry and through postal facilities. It is also procuring equipment to enhance air cargo security and pallet imaging, enhancing intelligence collection and production abilities, and improving border operations through measures aimed at enhancing the CBSA’s capacity to detect and interdict illegal firearms at the border.
NB: Information in the section on the use of Orders in Council to re-classify firearms was prepared by the Department of Justice and has been provided by Justice to their Minister’s office.
Prepared by: [Redacted], Policy Advisor, [Redacted] (cell)
[Redacted], Senior Policy Advisor, [Redacted] (cell)
Approved by: Trevor Bhupsingh, A/Assistant Deputy Minister
- Date modified: