Vol. 149, No. 10 — May 20, 2015
SOR/2015-104 May 8, 2015
Regulations Amending the Firearms Licences Regulations
P.C. 2015-567 May 7, 2015
Whereas the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is of the opinion that the changes made to the Firearms Licences Regulations (see footnote a) by the annexed Regulations Amending the Firearms Licences Regulations are so immaterial and insubstantial that section 118 of the Firearms Act (see footnote b) should not be applicable in the circumstances;
And whereas the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness will, in accordance with subsection 119(4) of that Act, have a statement of the reasons why he formed that opinion laid before each House of Parliament;
Therefore, His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, pursuant to paragraph 117(a) of the Firearms Act (see footnote c), makes the annexed Regulations Amending the Firearms Licences Regulations.
REGULATIONS AMENDING THE FIREARMS LICENCES REGULATIONS
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, 2017.
(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, 2017, of a possession licence held by the individual.
COMING INTO FORCE
2. These Regulations come into force on the day on which they are registered.
REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT
(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)
The Order Declaring an Amnesty Period (2006) [Amnesty Order (2006)] and the Possession Only Licence renewal measure of the Regulations Amending the Firearms Licences Regulations both expire on May 16, 2015. The Order Declaring an Amnesty Period (2015) [Amnesty Order (2015)] and the Regulations extend these two firearms compliance measures for two years, until May 16, 2017. Collectively, these measures help maintain and increase compliance with federal firearms legislation, which enhances public safety through Continuous Eligibility Screening.
The purpose of firearms licensing is to ensure that, in the interest of public safety, individuals are properly trained and screened to possess firearms. Licences are valid for five years and specify the privileges to possess and/or acquire a specific class of firearm (i.e. non-restricted, restricted, prohibited). To remain lawfully entitled to possess firearms, individuals must renew a licence prior to its expiry.
For adults, there are two types of licences:
- Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL): Generally, to be eligible to apply for a PAL, which permits both firearms possession and acquisition, individuals must successfully complete the firearms safety training course(s), or pass the test(s) without taking the course(s). The cost to obtain or renew a PAL is $60 for non-restricted firearms and $80 for restricted or prohibited firearms.
- Possession Only Licence (POL): The POL was available to firearms owners when the Firearms Act came into force in 1998 and allowed them to continue to possess firearms without completing the firearms safety training course(s). While POL holders may borrow firearms and purchase ammunition, they may not acquire firearms. Renewal of a POL costs $60 regardless of the class of firearm. The Firearms Act provides for the renewal of a POL before it expires; however, in the absence of the existing POL renewal measure, no one would be eligible to renew a POL after its expiry.
As of December 2014, there were approximately 2 million valid firearms licences (1.4 million PALs, 550 000 POLs).
Holders of valid firearms licences are subject to Continuous Eligibility Screening which recognizes that an individual’s circumstances, including the appropriateness of ongoing firearms possession, change over time. Such screening is a public safety tool which brings high-risk behaviour by firearms owners to the attention of the Chief Firearms Officer for appropriate action. This allows authorities to take appropriate action, as required, including revoking a licence and seizure of firearms. When firearms owners become non-compliant (i.e. do not renew a licence), they are no longer within the ambit of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Canadian Firearms Program’s (CFP) jurisdiction. As a result, the Privacy Act, among other legislation, prevents the RCMP from conducting further Continuous Eligibility Screening, thereby withdrawing a meaningful tool that enables the CFP to take pre-emptive measures in dealing with higher-risk firearms owners.
In 2006, in order to increase compliance, the Government introduced a two-year fee waiver for firearms licence renewals, (see footnote 2) so that individuals applying to renew or upgrade their firearms licences (e.g. from non-restricted to restricted) were not charged any fees. Also in 2006, a one-year Amnesty Order was introduced. (see footnote 3) The effect of the Amnesty Order (2006) was that non-restricted firearms owners who did not meet registration or licensing requirements, and who were taking steps to comply with these requirements, were protected from criminal liability.
In 2008, the Government added a one-year measure allowing individuals to renew expired POLs. (see footnote 4) Prior to 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 successfully complete the requisite firearms safety training course(s) or test(s), and obtain a PAL. These three measures (fee waiver, Amnesty Order , and POL renewal) were extended several times.
In 2013, consistent with Canada’s Economic Action Plan, the fee waiver for licence renewals was repealed; however, the Amnesty Order (2006) and the POL renewal measure were extended in 2013 and 2014, and are currently set to expire on May 16, 2015.
The Amnesty Order (2006) was intended to encourage non-restricted firearms owners to comply with the licensing and registration requirements of the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code. With the coming into force of An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (“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. However, as a result of litigation Attorney General of Quebec v. Attorney General of Canada, et al. (regarding the long-gun registry), launched on April 2, 2012, firearms owners in Quebec were required to obtain a registration certificate upon transfer of a non-restricted firearm, and Canada was required to continue to operate the long-gun registry in Quebec until the litigation was finally resolved. On March 27, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada rendered its decision, resulting in Quebec firearms owners no longer being required to have registration certificates for non-restricted firearms.
Therefore, the parts of the Amnesty Order (2006) that dealt with registration certificates for non-restricted firearms are now obsolete. The new Amnesty Order (2015) applies only to individuals who are taking steps to renew a non-restricted firearms licence.
POL holders are mostly experienced firearms owners who are over 50 years old and who often live in rural or remote regions. In 2008, there were approximately 197 000 individuals with expired POLs. Requiring that holders of expired POLs pay for and complete the firearms safety training course to obtain a firearms licence has been described by some firearms owners and advocates as a disincentive to compliance. Firearms owners who are currently not in compliance with firearms licensing legislation are unlikely to return to compliance without steps being taken to encourage them to do so. Since May 2008, when the POL licence renewal measure was introduced, over 68 000 individuals took advantage of the opportunity to come back into compliance with the Firearms Act by applying for a new POL, including over 7 000 in 2014.
On October 7, 2014, the Government introduced Bill C-42, the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act, in the House of Commons. Bill C-42 would, among other things, amend the Firearms Act to eliminate the POL by converting all valid POLs to PALs without requiring POL holders to take firearms safety training. The Bill would also create a six-month grace period at the end of the five-year licence to allow licence holders more time to renew their licence. Should Bill C-42 be passed by Parliament and receive royal assent, there could be a delay between royal assent and implementation of the POL/PAL conversion and the grace period.
The Amnesty Order (2015) will continue to protect individuals in possession of non-restricted firearms who are taking steps to comply with federal firearms legislation, by maintaining favourable conditions to encourage compliance with licensing requirements.
The POL renewal measure will continue to maintain favourable conditions for expired POL holders to bring themselves into compliance so that they may benefit from the POL/PAL conversion provisions of Bill C-42, should it receive royal assent and be brought into force.
The regulatory amendments are consistent with the main objective of the RCMP Canadian Firearms Program, which is to enhance public safety. This is achieved, in part, by maximizing the number of firearms owners who comply with the licensing 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.
The regulatory amendments and the Order extend, for two years, until May 16, 2017
- (i) the Amnesty Order (2015) which protects non-compliant owners of non-restricted firearms from criminal liability, while they are taking steps to comply with the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code with respect to licensing requirements; and
- (ii) the POL renewal measure, thereby removing the requirement for previous holders of these licences to successfully complete the firearms safety course(s) and obtain a PAL if they wish to continue possessing their firearm(s), but do not wish to acquire additional firearms.
The “One-for-One” Rule does not apply to this initiative, as there is no change in administrative costs to business. These compliance measures apply to individuals only.
Small business lens
The small business lens does not apply to this initiative, as there are no costs to small business. These compliance measures apply to individuals only.
Previous consultations undertaken by the Government have focused on all three compliance measures (fee waiver, Amnesty Order , and POL renewal). The following summarizes the comments received in previous consultations on compliance measures.
On April 7, 2007, the proposed Amnesty Order (2006) which sought to extend the amnesty for one year to 2008, was prepublished in the Canada Gazette, Part I, for a 15-day public comment period. During this period, 566 comments were received: 558 from individuals, 7 from organizations and 1 from the Attorney General of Ontario (AGO). Four hundred and fifty-two respondents supported the proposal, 72 opposed it, and 42 did not take a position on the proposal itself but provided general comments. The AGO commented primarily on then Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (non-registration of firearms that are neither prohibited nor restricted), which the AGO considered inconsistent with the purpose of the Amnesty Order (2006).
On March 1, 2008, the three proposed regulatory amendments were prepublished in the Canada Gazette, Part I, for a 30-day public comment period, during which 131 comments were received from 126 individuals, 4 organizations and 1 provincial government. Overall, support for the amendments was high. The majority of those in favour noted a need to focus legislative firearms control measures on criminals rather than otherwise law-abiding Canadians, while also expressing concern over the amount of money spent on the Canadian Firearms Program. Nine respondents (one province, four organizations and four individuals) that did not support the combined initiatives expressed specific concern about the extension of the Amnesty Order (2006). The AGO was of the opinion that extensions to the Amnesty Order (2006) were leading to a deterioration of the data available to police in the Canadian Firearms Information System.
On March 28, 2009, regulatory amendments to extend the three compliance measures for one year were prepublished in the Canada Gazette, Part I, for a 30-day public comment period. Four comments were received, two from organizations and two from individuals. Two respondents supported the proposed extension of the compliance measures, while two opposed the extension of the Amnesty Order (2006). Supporters stated that these measures were part of the Government’s commitment to repeal the long-gun registry, while opponents expressed concern that the Amnesty Order (2006) was reducing the effectiveness of the firearms registry.
On March 20, 2010, the regulatory amendments to extend the suite of compliance measures were prepublished in the Canada Gazette, Part I, for a 15-day public comment period. Fifteen comments were received from 12 individuals and three organizations, including the Coalition for Gun Control. All the respondents opposed the extension of the Amnesty Order (2006), expressing concern that it provided immunity from non-compliance with firearms legislation. There were no comments directed towards the fee waiver.
On April 9, 2011, regulatory amendments to extend the fee waiver for one year were prepublished in the Canada Gazette, Part I, to invite public comments for 15 days. No comments were received.
On April 13, 2013, regulatory amendments to extend the POL renewal and the Amnesty Order (2006) for one year were prepublished in the Canada Gazette, Part I, followed by a 15-day public comment period. The Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement indicated that the remaining fee waiver would not be extended. During this period, 13 comments were received from 9 individuals and 4 organizations (e.g. chief medical officers, the Coalition for Gun Control). Of the respondents, all opposed an extension of the Amnesty Order (2006). Comments suggested that its continuance could serve as a disincentive to comply with legal requirements. The Government elected to move forward with the POL renewal measure and the Amnesty Order (2006). As part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan, the fee waiver for non-restricted firearms was not extended.
In 2014, the regulatory amendments to extend the POL renewal measure and the Amnesty Order (2006) were prepublished in the Canada Gazette, Part I, followed by a 15-day comment period. During this period, 41 comments were received from 30 individuals and 11 organizations (e.g. the Coalition for Gun Control, public health directors). The majority of individuals who responded opposed a further extension of the Amnesty Order (2006) on public safety grounds. Responses also included a concern that the Amnesty Order (2006) creates confusion among firearms owners about their legal obligations. Four respondents supported the extension of the Amnesty Order (2006).
In all consultations mentioned above, the Government considered the views of all stakeholders. Given the importance of advancing these measures from a public safety perspective (e.g. increase licence compliance), the Government elected to move forward with the regulatory amendments.
Collectively, the Amnesty Order (2015) and the POL renewal measure are intended to encourage compliance with the licensing provisions of the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code. Firearms owners who are compliant with firearms legislation are subject to Continuous Eligibility Screening, which contributes to enhancing public safety.
The Amnesty Order (2015) protects individuals from criminal liability for possession of a non-restricted firearm with an expired licence, provided these owners are taking steps to come into compliance.
Bill C-42, the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act, was introduced on October 7, 2014, and provides an added incentive for individuals with expired POLs to come into compliance. The Bill includes proposals to eliminate the POL by converting all valid POLs to PALs without requiring POL holders to take firearms safety training. However, this conversion scheme requires individuals to hold a valid POL, thus creating the additional incentive for expired POL holders to come into compliance with the national licensing scheme. Extending the POL renewal measure would grant individuals with expired POLs the possibility to benefit from the licence conversion proposed by Bill C-42, and will thus provide individuals who are not currently subject to Continuous Eligibility Screening, and who may still be in possession of firearms, with an incentive to come back into compliance with licensing legislation.
The POL renewal measure and the Amnesty Order (2015), which protects from criminal liability individuals who are taking steps to comply with federal firearms legislation, are relieving in nature and help to maintain favourable conditions to encourage compliance with the licensing requirements of the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code.
Implementation, enforcement and service standards
Communication efforts focus on who can avail themselves of these measures, how to do so, and the period during which these measures are 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 at minimum hold a licence issued under the Firearms Act and, in the case of a restricted or prohibited firearm, a registration certificate.
Owners are expected to take positive steps to comply with the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code, as set out in the Amnesty Order (2015).
Firearms and Operational Policing Policy Division
Community Safety and Countering Crime Branch
Public Safety Canada
Telephone (general inquiries): 1-800-830-3118 or 613-944-4875
Criminal Law Policy Section
Department of Justice
284 Wellington Street