Ontario plans to train 35 to 40 new firearms-safety instructors this year and next out of hundreds of potential applicants, as the province seeks to balance the availability of teachers with demand by students wanting to own guns.
The number of openings for new instructors to run the mandatory safety courses and examinations is based on how many existing instructors will stop teaching and where they’re located, said Dave Wall, the executive manager of the Firearms Safety Education Service of Ontario (FSESO).
“It’s a balancing act,” Wall told TheGunBlog.ca by telephone today. “We’re continually monitoring the entire province. For 2017, we’re probably looking at 35 to 40 new instructors, and probably the same number next year. Over the past couple of years, we’ve done somewhere between 30 and 40.”
Prospective gun owners pay to take the courses, and it can be difficult to find an open seat at a convenient date and location. The courses take place in classrooms, and instructors are responsible for training students in safe and proper gun handling, the principles of marksmanship and how to obey Canada’s complex firearms laws.
The law requires a police-issued licence for private civilians to buy or own guns and ammunition legally. Anyone wanting a permit must take the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC) from a certified instructor and pass an exam before they can apply. They are subject to a police background check, and if the police approve the application, the licensee will be allowed to own many types of shotguns and rifles classified as “Non-restricted” firearms. Owning handguns, AR-15 rifles or other so-called “Restricted” guns requires taking the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC) and passing another exam.
6-8 Million Shooters
Even with that licence, many of the world’s most popular guns are banned, as is carrying a gun for protection. The law also sets out different rules for how different firearms must be stored and transported and where they can be fired. The safety courses cover all this.
More than 2 million Canadian men, women and youth have licenses, making shooting one of the country’s most-popular sports. Including unlicensed family, friends and guests who join them at the target range or on a hunting trip, Canada has an estimated 6 million to 8 million shooters. Ontario has issued almost 30 percent of all licences, more than any other province or territory.
After students pass their exams, instructors send the results to the FSESO, which checks them for accuracy, checks the validity of instructors’ certifications and then sends the results back to students to submit with their licence applications. An office mistake at the FSESO last year led to hundreds of applications being delayed. Years ago, before the current procedures, some individuals posed as instructors, advertised courses and fraudulently collected money from unsuspecting students, Wall said.
“We train all the instructors in the province,” Wall said. “They are all members of the FSESO. We train them to deliver these two courses and to test students. All these instructors are regulated. They are limited to a set course fee. The courses have to meet standards set by the federal government.”
‘We Fill Up Fast’
The FSESO is an independent, private, non-profit organization that administers the CFSC and CRFSC on behalf of the Chief Firearms Office of Ontario. The Chief Firearms Office is run by the Ontario Provincial Police. The FSESO’s website suggests calling the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for details on laws and licensing, even though the organizations are separate, Wall said.
The FSESO ran two training courses for new instructors last year and has four scheduled this year, Wall said. Most of the time, the FSESO’s website says they aren’t accepting applications. When they do advertise, they typically get 200 to 300 applicants, he said.
“We fill up fast,” Wall said.