Starting Nov. 30, Canadian gun owners will no longer risk going to jail for 10 years on the day our firearm licences expire, as the government adopts a six-month grace period for people who can’t renew on time.
- Hundreds of gun owners are charged each year for paper crimes.
- Grace period is part of law voted 2 years ago, but RCMP needed extra time.
- Gun owners can’t use their guns or buy new guns or ammo while graced.
Almost 600 people are charged each year over firearm paperwork and administration, according to research by Gary Mauser.
Every gun owner is at risk of being turned into a criminal overnight every five years when our firearm licences expire if the RCMP doesn’t renew them in time or at all. Critics say it’s the only case in Canada where legally possessed property suddenly becomes illegal, and where a property owner can go to jail because of expired paperwork.
For some non-renewals, licence holders submitted their applications well before the expiry date but didn’t get their new licences because of administrative delays, processing mistakes such as lost applications, or mail-delivery errors. In other cases, gun owners didn’t submit applications because they were traveling, in the military or in the hospital, while others forgot.
The six-month grace will provide permit holders “with additional time to come into compliance with the licensing requirements of the Firearms Act, without the risk of criminal prosecution,” the government said today in the Canada Gazette, its official newsletter. “During the grace period, a firearm owner will not be allowed to use his or her firearm or acquire firearms or ammunition until the licence is renewed.”
Owning or buying a gun legally in Canada requires a licence issued under the authority of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. More than 2 million men and women have attended safety courses, taken exams and passed background checks to obtain the permits.
The licences are valid for five years and cost $60 or $80, depending on the type of permit. They don’t allow the holder to carry a firearm in daily life for self-defence.
Having guns without a valid licence violates Section 91 of the Criminal Code and can be punished by five years behind bars. Section 92 says that having guns without a valid licence and knowing you don’t have the licence can land you 10 years.
The grace period was part of Bill C-42, the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act, voted into law in June 2015 by the Conservative-led government. The current Liberals announced its adoption in an Order in Council dated Nov. 2 on the website of the Privy Council Office.
The measure wasn’t adopted when other parts of Bill C-42 took effect because the RCMP “required additional time to make changes to the Canadian Firearms Information System (CFIS), which contains all information related to firearms licence holders, to prepare for the implementation of the grace period,” the government said. “These changes have now been made.”
The Liberals are preparing a package of laws by the end of the year to increase paperwork and restrictions on shooters, including undoing some parts of Bill C-42. The Ministry of Public Safety didn’t reply to e-mails asking if the measures would repeal the grace period.
Last week, parliament voted against a so-called Private Member’s Bill to eliminate the expiry of licences. The Canadian Shooting Sports Association has said that a certificate of competency would be more just and effective than the current licensing regime.
- Canada Gazette full text of Order in Council, including background
- Canadian Shooting Sports Association Comments on Grace Period
- Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights Comments on Grace Period
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