Canada Postpones Firearms Marking Regulations for Eighth Time

The Canadian government postponed its Firearms Marking Regulations for the eighth time since they were adopted in 2004 amid confusion about how to enforce and obey the policy and concern about its effects.

This was the first deferral by a governing party that had campaigned on a plan to implement the rules “immediately.”

The measures will now take effect on Dec. 1, 2018, instead of June 1 this year, the Ministry of Public Safety said today on its website. Regina Gun Safety & Licensing published an e-mail from the RCMP yesterday announcing the new timing.

Turmoil, Flaws

The gun industry is in turmoil over how to comply with the marking policy as it applies to imports since almost every one of the roughly 350,000 firearms sold in Canada each year comes from abroad. Importers have accelerated or cancelled shipments to steer clear of the previous June 1 deadline and avoid the risk of financial or legal charges.

The regulations were adopted in 2004 to help authorities trace international gun shipments as part of the UN Firearms Protocol against illegal trade, and the Canadian government has sought to adapt them for police investigating domestic crimes. But having 350,000 guns marked with the same code each year won’t help with tracing, and markings won’t stop traffickers from removing them or applying fakes. Manufacturers already mark firearms with the make, model, country of origin and serial number, enabling businesses and police to track guns in less than a minute.

“The deferral will provide the time required to propose amendments to the Regulations in order to achieve their intended purpose, which is to help improve public safety by facilitating the ability of law enforcement to trace the criminal use of firearms,” the ministry said.

‘Catastrophic Damage’

The Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association, the main industry group, said in September that the cost and complexity of the regulations as written will cause “catastrophic damage” to thousands of small businesses, and has urged the government for months to clarify, modify or scrap the measures.

“We’re very happy that they made the announcement rather than patching together a poor resolution,” Wes Winkel, president of the industry association, said by telephone today. He’s hoping to continue meeting with ministry staff to offer input on the marking rules, he said.

Three successive governments had deferred the regulations seven times before today. The rules say that guns that enter Canada must be marked with “Canada” or “CA” and the last two digits of the year of import, such as “CA17.” They also say how, when and where the marks must be applied, but the text is confusing even to experts and doesn’t say how the plan will be enforced or what the penalties will be for non-compliance.

Promises, Deferrals

The current Liberal government of Justin Trudeau said during the 2015 election campaign that it would “immediately implement the imported gun marking regulations that have been repeatedly delayed by Stephen Harper,” the Conservative former prime minister.

Under Harper, who was elected prime minister in 2006 and 2011 and lost to Trudeau in 2015, the official notices to defer the regulations were registered less than 10 days before they were to come into force in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, and more than four months before in 2015.

Related Information


By the Ministry of Public Safety

(Thank you to Canadian Firearms Blog for the number of times the regulations were deferred.)

© 2017