Canadian Gun "Laws"

Canadian Gun "Laws"

If you're reading this from outside of Canada, you may be unfamiliar with how our firearms laws work here. I'll try to break it down for you, but our laws are fucking confusing and sometimes outright nonsensical.

We have three classes of firearms: unrestricted, restricted and prohibited. Unrestricted is long guns - most hunting rifles (including semi-automatic, bolt, and lever action) and shotguns. Restricted firearms are handguns and certain specific semi-automatic long guns (for example, the AR-15). Prohibited firearms are full-auto military-type firearms, most .32 calibre pistols, any pistol with a barrel length under 4", and a long list of semi-automatic long guns that are essentially no different from the unrestricted ones but which look scary. It's seriously that - there's no logic to the classification. AKs are scary-looking murder death rape-assault weapons, so they're prohibited. AR-15s would be prohibited also, because they're black and scary, but they are frequently used for competition target shooting, so they are only restricted. 

Canadians need to apply for a license to own a firearm. This requires passing a safety test to prove competence, a background check, personal references and the okay from the province's Chief Firearms Officer (the CFO). If you pass those checks, you get your Possession and Acquisition License. The Non-restricted license is pretty easy to get. Teenagers can get one with their parents' permission, and go hunting with their families. Restricted licenses are somewhat more difficult to get - for the Non-restricted license, the CFO's office may not bother to call your personal references, but for the R-PAL, they almost certainly will. Practically nobody gets Prohibited licenses unless they have "collector status," and to get that you pretty much have to build a medieval stronghold in your house to store the collection in. 

Non-restricted firearms can be transported in vehicles pretty much wherever, as long as they are kept out of sight and unloaded. They can be stored wherever, even out in the open, as long as they are unloaded. You can shoot them wherever local bylaws allow - a lot of counties and municipalities prohibit discharging ammunition above a certain calibre, so if you want to hunt deer with your 30-cal rifle, you have to know a place that allows it. 

Restricted firearms - and remember, you Americans, that this includes the AR-15 - can only be legally fired at approved firing ranges. You can't even shoot them on land you own, unless you are a farmer with hundreds of acres and an approved range that meets strict RCMP guidelines somewhere out in the back 40. And if you don't own your own range, to get them to a range where you can shoot them, you have to get approval from the CFO's office in the form of an Authorization To Transport (ATT). The ATT allows you to take your restricted firearm from your house to the range and back home, via the most direct route. The firearm must be kept unloaded, with the action locked, and in a locked case in the trunk of the car (or hidden away somewhere in the cab of a truck). If you do not have a membership at an approved range, you can be denied an ATT. 

When you do have a membership, you can apply for a Long-Term ATT, or LTATT, which allows you to take your restricted firearm to the range and back home whenever you want, without having to file paperwork with the RCMP first. If you want to take it to a gunsmith, however, you still need a Short-Term ATT (STATT). The LTATT is only good for one destination.

Canadians are also required to register Restricted firearms. You are also required to apply for an ATT to take the gun home from the gun store. It's the same for private sales - the seller has to transfer the registration, the buyer has to get the ATT to take it home. 

Long guns that use centrefire ammunition (regardless of action type, and including shotguns) are limited to 5-round magazines, with the exception of certain .303 British rifles (like the gorgeous SMLE pictured above), M1 Garands and a few others. So my SKS, with its integral magazine pinned to 5 rounds, holds the same number of bullets as the next guy's AR-15, or the next guy's deer rifle. Rimfire long guns have no magazine-size restrictions per se, but restrictions can apply to specific firearms. All handguns, centrefire or rimfire, are limited to 10 rounds. 

There are weird loopholes, however, that allow for some weird things, or which create problems for gun owners wishing to abide by the confusing laws. 

The laws apply to the magazines themselves, not to the firearms in which they are being used. So, for example, some types of .40 S&W magazines will hold a slightly larger number of 9mm rounds, and will fit and function in 9mm pistols. It is therefore perfectly legal to use higher-capacity mags designed for .40 S&W in a compatible 9mm pistol (or carbine which uses pistol mags). Another weird example: the LAR-15 pistol uses a magazine that fits into standard AR-15 rifles, and since that magazine is designed for a pistol, which can legally hold 10 rounds, it is perfectly legal to use that 10-round magazine in a rifle, which can normally only hold 5. But you had better bring along the RCMP fact sheet if you plan on taking it to the range.

The reverse can also be true, however. For example, I have a Mossberg 715t .22 cal rifle with a 10-round magazine. Mossberg makes a 25-round magazine for that rifle, but they also make a pistol-sized version of that firearm, and the magazine was designed to be used in both the rifle and the pistol. The magazine is therefore limited to 10 rounds, and the 25-round magazine is considered a prohibited device in Canada. Ruger also makes a 10-22 pistol, which uses the same magazines as the rifle, but high-capacity 10-22 magazines are totally legal. 

There's no logic to Canadian gun laws. The red tape makes owning guns a hassle, nevermind trying to shoot one. But we still own millions of the fuckin' things, so go figure. 

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