ARCHIVED — Vol. 147, No. 15 — April 13, 2013

Regulations Amending the Firearms Licences Regulations

Statutory authority

Firearms Act

Sponsoring department

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT

(This statement is not part of the Order or the Regulations.)

Issue

The proposed amendments extend two firearms compliance measures until May 16, 2014: the Regulations Amending the Firearms Licences Regulations (i.e. the Possession Only Licence renewal measure) and the Order Declaring an Amnesty Period (2006), which, collectively, help to maintain and increase compliance with federal firearms legislation. Not extending these measures may deter some firearms owners from becoming compliant with federal firearms legislation and thereby undermine public safety. The firearms licence fee waiver will not be extended.

Background

The proposed amendments to the Firearms Licences Regulations and the Order Declaring an Amnesty Period (2006) would renew measures intended to maintain and increase compliance with the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code.

On May 17, 2006, the Government introduced a two-year licence renewal fee waiver, so that individuals applying to renew or upgrade their firearms licences (e.g. from non-restricted to restricted) were not charged any fees (SOR/2006-96). Also in 2006, a one-year Amnesty Order was introduced (SOR/2006-95). The effect of the amnesty was that owners of non-restricted firearms who did not meet registration or licensing requirements, and who were taking steps to comply with these requirements, were protected from criminal liability.

On May 10, 2007, the Amnesty Order was extended until May 16, 2008 (SOR/2007-101).

On May 8, 2008, the Government extended, for one year, until May 2009, both the fee waiver and the Amnesty Order (SOR/2008-145; SOR/2008-147).

On May 8, 2008, the Government introduced a Firearms Act regulatory amendment to enable individuals with expired Possession Only Licences (POL) to apply for new POLs (SOR/2008-146) for a limited period of time. Prior to the introduction of the POL renewal measure, firearms owners could only renew their POLs if they had not expired. Otherwise, to legally retain their firearms, they were required to pay for and complete the Canadian Firearms Safety Course as a prerequisite to obtaining a Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL), which authorizes both possession and acquisition of firearms. This POL renewal measure was set to expire on May 17, 2009.

On May 7, 2009, the three compliance measures were extended until May 16, 2010 (SOR/2009-137; SOR/2009-138; SOR/2009-139), and on May 13, 2010, the compliance measures were extended until May 16, 2011 (SOR/2010-102; SOR/2010-103; SOR/2010-104).

On March 25, 2011, the POL renewal and Amnesty Order were extended for two years, until May 16, 2013 (SOR/2011-102; SOR/2011-103), while on May 16, 2011, the licence fee waiver was extended only one year, until May 16, 2012 (SOR/2011-111).

On May 11, 2012, the fee waiver for licences with restricted and prohibited privileges was extended until September 17, 2012, while the fee waiver for licences with non-restricted privileges only was extended to May 16, 2013 (SOR/2012-101).

The three compliance measures (i.e. the POL renewal measure, the Amnesty Order and the licence fee waiver), introduced as temporary incentives for individuals to come into compliance with firearms legislation, are scheduled to expire on May 16, 2013. Since they have been in effect, licence compliance rates (i.e. individuals whose licence is scheduled to expire, and who continue to possess at least one firearm, take steps to renew their licence) have increased from 82% in 2006 to 86% in 2012.

Possession Only Licence holders are mostly experienced firearms owners often living in rural or remote regions who are not considered a significant public safety risk. Having these individuals pay for and complete the firearms safety training course to obtain a firearms licence has been described by firearms owners and advocates as a disincentive to compliance. Firearms owners who are currently not in compliance with federal firearms legislation are unlikely to return to compliance without steps being taken to encourage their doing so. In 2008, there were approximately 197 000 individuals with expired POLs. Between May 2008, when this measure was introduced, and April 2012, 50 500 individuals took advantage of this measure.

The purpose of the Amnesty Order has been to protect non-compliant owners of non-restricted firearms from criminal liability while they are taking steps to comply with the legal requirements for licensing or registration. With the coming into force of Bill C-19, Ending the Long-gun Registry Act, on April 5, 2012, the requirement to register non-restricted firearms and the associated penalties for failing to do so have been repealed. Following the coming into force of Bill C-19, and pursuant to a decision of the Quebec Superior Court on September 10, 2012, the federal government is required to maintain registration of non-restricted firearms in Quebec and individuals are required to have a registration certificate in order to transfer a non-restricted firearm. The Attorney General of Canada appealed the Quebec Superior Court decision.

Accordingly, the extension of the Amnesty Order would encourage compliance by owners of non-restricted firearms with the licensing requirements across Canada, and in Quebec, with the registration of non-restricted firearms.

The POL renewal measure is relieving in nature and, together with the Amnesty Order protecting individuals taking steps to comply with federal firearms legislation, helps maintain favourable conditions to encourage compliance with the licensing and registration requirements of the Firearms Act.

The fee waiver allows licensees to renew their licence at no cost (without the fee waiver, the cost would be $60 for non-restricted firearms licences; and, currently, individuals pay $80 for licences with restricted/prohibited privileges). In September 2012, the Government started phasing back the fee waiver for restricted and prohibited licences as part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan (www.actionplan.gc.ca). Continuing the current fee waiver for licences with only non-restricted privileges for an additional year would cost approximately $18 million in foregone revenue. The Government will not renew the current fee waiver in the current climate of fiscal restraint.

Objectives

The objectives of the proposed Regulations and Order are to extend two of the three compliance measures — the POL renewal and amnesty — for one more year, until May 16, 2014.

The proposal is consistent with the main objective of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s (RCMP) Canadian Firearms Program (CFP), which is to enhance public safety. This is achieved, in part, by maximizing the number of firearms owners who comply with the licensing and registration requirements set out in the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code. Such individuals are subject to continuous eligibility screening as a condition of possessing a firearms licence.

Continuous eligibility screening, which is a part of firearms licensing, recognizes that an individual’s circumstances, including the appropriateness of ongoing firearms possession, change over time. Such screening ensures that certain interactions with law enforcement on the part of lawful firearms owners are brought to the attention of chief firearms officers, if they are recorded in the Canadian Police Information Centre. This allows the authorities to take appropriate action, as required, including the revocation of a licence and seizure of a firearm. When a firearms owner becomes non-compliant (i.e. does not renew a licence), they are no longer within the ambit of the CFP’s jurisdiction. As a result, the Privacy Act, among other legislation, prevents the RCMP from conducting further continuous eligibility screening, thereby withdrawing a meaningful tool enabling the CFP to take pre-emptive measures in dealing with higher-risk firearms owners.

Description

The regulatory amendments and Order would extend, for one year, until May 16, 2014,

(i) the POL renewal measure, thereby removing the requirement for previous holders of these licences to take the firearms safety training course and obtain a PAL; and

(ii) the Amnesty Order which protects non-compliant owners of non-restricted firearms from criminal liability while they are taking steps to comply with the registration requirements (in Quebec only due to the decision of the Quebec Superior Court) and the licensing requirements, across Canada, of the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code.

“One-for-One” Rule

The “One-for-One” Rule does not apply to this proposal, as there is no change in administrative costs to businesses.

Small business lens

The small business lens does not apply to this proposal, as there are no costs on small businesses.

Consultation

On April 9, 2011, regulatory amendments to extend the firearms licence renewal fee waiver were prepublished in the Canada Gazette, Part Ⅰ, followed by a 15-day public comment period. There were no comments received.

Previous consultations undertaken by the Government have focused on all three compliance measures (POL renewal, Amnesty Order and fee waiver). A summary of the comments received in previous consultations on compliance measures is as follows.

On March 20, 2010, the previous regulatory amendments to extend the suite of measures to increase compliance were pre-published in the Canada Gazette, Part Ⅰ, followed by a 15-day public comment period. During this period, 15 comments were received from 12 individuals and 3 organizations, including the Coalition for Gun Control, the National Council of Women of Canada and the Ad Hoc Coalition for Women’s Equality and Human Rights. Of the respondents, all opposed the extension of the Amnesty Order, expressing concern that it was reducing the effectiveness of the firearms registry and providing immunity to long-gun owners from complying with federal firearms legislation. There were no comments directed towards the fee waiver. The Government considered the views of these stakeholders but elected to move forward with the regulatory amendments and the Order, given their importance from a public safety perspective.

On March 28, 2009, the regulatory amendments were prepublished in the Canada Gazette, Part Ⅰ, followed by a 30-day public comment period. During this period, four comments were received, two from organizations and two from individuals. Of the respondents, two supported the proposed extension of the firearms compliance measures, while two opposed the extension of the Amnesty Order. Those who supported the proposed Regulations and Amnesty Order expressed their belief that these measures were part of the Government’s commitment to repeal the long-gun registry, while opponents expressed concern that the amnesty was reducing the effectiveness of the firearms registry and providing immunity to long-gun owners from complying with federal firearms legislation.

During the prepublication period between March 1 and 31, 2008, 131 comments were received via email, fax, telephone message, and letters concerning the proposed implementation of the compliance measures. Almost all of the input on the two regulations and the Order came from individuals rather than organizations; 126 individuals, 4 organizations and 1 provincial government commented on the proposal. Overall, support for the regulatory amendments and the Order was high, with some of the respondents indicating that they thought the initiatives were a positive compliance incentive. The majority of those in favour also noted their belief that there is a need to focus legislative measures to control firearms on criminals rather than otherwise law-abiding Canadians, while also expressing concern over the amount of money they believe has been spent on the Canadian Firearms Program.

Nine respondents (one province, four organizations and four individuals) who did not support the combined initiatives in 2008 expressed specific concern towards the Amnesty Order extension. The Attorney General of Ontario was of the opinion that repeated extensions to the Amnesty Order are leading to a deterioration of the data currently available to police in the Canadian Firearms Information System. Other opponents also felt that individuals have had sufficient time (since 1995) to familiarize themselves with the requirements of the law and expressed views critical of how the Government is handling the Canadian Firearms Program. Those who self-identified as being licensed owners with registered firearms, who are currently in compliance with the law, were concerned that non-compliant individuals are being given too many opportunities to comply when information has been readily available for so long.

Rationale

Public safety would be enhanced by this proposal, in part, by maximizing the number of firearms owners who comply with the licensing and registration requirements set out in the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code. Such individuals are subject to Continuous Eligibility Screening as a condition of possessing a firearms licence.

Implementation, enforcement and service standards

Communication efforts would focus on who can avail themselves of these measures, how to do so, and the period during which these measures would be in effect. In an effort to increase voluntary compliance, communication efforts emphasize the Government’s commitment to improving public safety through effective gun control and tackling the criminal use of firearms, while reducing unnecessary administrative requirements on firearms owners.

Under federal firearms legislation currently in force, to be in lawful possession of a firearm, an individual must hold a licence issued under the Firearms Act and, in the case of a restricted or prohibited firearm, a registration certificate. In Quebec, individuals must also hold a registration certificate for non-restricted firearms.

Owners are expected to take positive steps to comply as set out in the Order Declaring an Amnesty Period (2006), with the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code.

Contacts

  • Lyndon Murdock
    Director
    Firearms and Operational Policing Policy Division
    Law Enforcement and Policing Branch
    Public Safety Canada
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0P8
    Telephone (general inquiries): 1-800-830-3118 or 613-944-4875
    Fax: 613-993-5252
    Email: firearms@ps-sp.gc.ca

  • Paula Clarke
    Counsel
    Criminal Law Policy Section
    Department of Justice
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0H8
    Telephone (general inquiries): 613-957-4728
    Fax: 613-941-9310
    Email: paula.clarke@justice.gc.ca

PROPOSED REGULATORY TEXT

Notice is given that the Governor in Council, pursuant to paragraph 117(a) of the Firearms Act (see footnote a), proposes to make the annexed Regulations Amending the Firearms Licences Regulations.

Interested persons may make representations concerning the proposed Regulations within 15 days after the date of publication of this notice. All such representations must cite the Canada Gazette, Part Ⅰ, and the date of publication of this notice, and be addressed to Lyndon Murdock, Director, Firearms and Operational Policing Policy Division, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, 269 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0P8 (tel.: 1-800-830-3118 or 613-944-4875; fax: 613-993-5252; email: firearms/armesafeu@ps-sp.gc.ca).

Ottawa, March 28, 2013

JURICA ČAPKUN
Assistant Clerk of the Privy Council

REGULATIONS AMENDING THE FIREARMS LICENCES REGULATIONS

AMENDMENTS

1. (1) Paragraph 7(1)(b) of the Firearms Licences Regulations (see footnote 1) is replaced by the following:

  • (b) the individual held a licence to possess firearms that was first applied for before January 1, 2001, which has expired, and subsequently applies for a licence to possess firearms before May 17, 2014.

(2) Subsection 7(4) of the Regulations is replaced by the following:

(4) For the purposes of subsections (2) and (3), an individual remains eligible to hold a possession licence despite the expiry, before May 17, 2014, of a possession licence held by them.

COMING INTO FORCE

2. These Regulations come into force on the day on which they are registered.

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