New Gun Law: More Bans, More Police Powers, More Paperwork

Canada Liberal Party Guns Policy

(Update 20 March 2019: Visit our Bill C-71 page for the latest info and The Bill C-71 Book.) — Canada’s Liberal government today proposed a law to ban more guns, expand police powers and increase restrictions on millions of responsible hunters and sport shooters, while leaving alone violent criminals.

The measures follow through on election-campaign plans to push the first anti-gun legislation since the Firearms Act of 1995.

What Happened Today

Main Points

1. Give RCMP power to classify firearms.

  • This is the one that worries shooters the most.
  • The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have repeatedly turned lawful gun owners into criminals by applying the “Prohibited” label to gear that had been previously classified as “Restricted,” “Non-restricted,” or unclassified.
  • The reclassifications led to an unjust loss of rights and property. Items costing thousands of dollars lost their value.
  • The national police also broke into homes in High River, Alberta, in 2013 to illegally take guns, further fuelling distrust among gun owners.
  • The RCMP’s former chief has said the police enforce the law as laid out in the Criminal Code, and shield politicians from undue blame by a “rabid” and “aggressive” gun lobby.

2. Classify 15 models of CZ 858 and Swiss Arms rifles as “Prohibited.”

  • The classifications of these rifles have flip-flopped. The former minister of public safety, a Conservative, “downgraded” them in 2015 after the RCMP had “upgraded” them.
  • Owners of the rifles at June 30 will be “grandfathered” to allow them to keep using them. Grandfather status can’t be passed on, resulting in eventual bans.

3. Expand background checks for gun licences.

  • Will look at whole life, not only past 5 years.
  • Will look at “pattern of behaviour” vs. one-time events. So if you did something wrong 5 years ago, might be OK. If you did it again last week, might not be.

4. Require “specific transportation authorizations” to move guns.

  • For “Restricted” and ”Prohibited” firearms: require specific permission to move guns, except from store to home and between home and shooting range.
  • Reinstates discretion of provincial Chief Firearms Officers to refuse transport.
  • This new Authorization To Transport (ATT) undoes part of Bill C-42, passed by the previous Conservative government.
  • The slides say this “Provides police with a better means by which they can challenge those who are unlawfully transporting firearms (e.g., not by a reasonably direct route)”

5. Require gun buyers to show gun licence, require seller to verify validity.

  • Press release says this will be required “whenever a Non-restricted firearm is transferred.”
  • Having to show a licence to buy is almost universal now.
  • Many stores check licence validity, but it is difficult or impossible to do online by phone and outside office hours.

6. Require stores to record personal details of gun buyers and what they buy.

  • Many shops already do this for marketing, warranties and product recalls.
  • This is what some are calling a “backdoor registry.”
  • Risk of data hack, theft, as with any personal info.
  • Police will be able to access data with warrant.

What’s Wrong With the Bill

  • No evidence that it’s useful.
    • No evidence that gun classification serves a purpose.
    • No evidence that the proposals will stop violent criminals.
    • No plan for how the law will be enforced on violent criminals.
    • No mention of what these new proposals will cost.
  • Punishes the wrong people. The proposed law will burden the 36 million Canadians who don’t hurt people, and leave alone the few thousand who do.
  • Ignores firearm industry. The government prepared this bill without consulting the experts on how Canadians buy, sell and use guns: the firearm industry. Many points in the law are already common practice or almost universal, and industry could have achieved many of the law’s objectives much more simply through self-regulation.
  • Fuels distrust in the authorities. If you knew an armed agency that regularly dispossessed people of their rights and property, would you want them to know what you own?
  • Stigmatizes mental problems. The expanded background checks could lead anxious or depressed gun owners to avoiding treatment if they’re worried they’ll lose their guns.
  • Wrong about the role of law. Laws don’t prevent crime. They allow us to prosecute and punish criminals, generally after they’ve punctured their victims. No smuggler ever refused a sale because a would-be murderer didn’t show ID, and no killer has ever canceled a hit over how police classified tools.

Political Process

  • House of Commons: Bill goes through various readings, reports, debates and committees, and possibly a clause-by-clause review.
  • Senate: Bill goes through various readings, reviews, committees, and possibly some back-and-forth with the House of Commons over requested amendments.
  • Royal Assent: If the bill is accepted by the House and the Senate, it is proclaimed into law by the Governor General.
  • Coming Into Force: Laws can take effect on the day of Royal Assent, or later.


  • Some political analysts say a bill can become law in as little as nine months, placing it just in time for Christmas. It could also take 12 months or more. And it could be defeated.

Political Context

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is driving the bill, even though Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale delivered it.
  • The Liberals control the House of Commons with a majority of 183 out of 337 seats.
  • Trudeau can probably pass the bill in the House easily by whipping the vote, i.e., requiring all Liberal members to vote in favour.
  • The Senate, a source of hope? Here’s how Wikipedia indicates affiliation:
    • Independent: 43
    • Conservative: 33
    • Liberal: 11
    • Non-Affiliated: 6
    • Vacant: 12


  • These proposals aren’t as bad as some feared. Some people expected a ban on semi-automatic firearms. Some of the proposals are good.
  • But:
    • These measures burden the good guys, not the bad guys.
    • The only people who are affected by restrictions and paperwork are the people we don’t need to worry about.
    • They didn’t ban your guns this time? That’s why there’s next time.
  • Speculation: The official opposition, the Conservative Party led by Andrew Scheer, may debate and delay the bill so that it drags into the campaign period for the October 2019 election.
  • Fact: Historically some Conservatives have opposed gun ownership. Today, Scheer is the only federal party leader to own a gun. He outlined strong policies when he ran to lead the party last year. Gun owners vote Conservative.

What We Can Do

  • Come out of the closet. Come out of the shadows. When appropriate, share the value and joy we get from guns and shooting.
  • Subscribe to for updates on news and actions.
  • Join your favourite gun-rights association, or join them all.
  • Contact your member of parliament to express your concerns.
  • Join your local political-party association.
  • Support candidates who support gun owners. Volunteer on their campaigns, donate money, vote for them.


  • Some (all?) of the language in the press release is worth noting.
  • It refers to legally owned rifles and shotguns as “unrestricted weapons.” But all legally owned firearms in Canada are strictly regulated and restricted. Where can we get these unrestricted weapons?
  • It refers to “Restricted” and “Prohibited” firearms as mostly handguns and “assault weapons.” Where can we buy these assault weapons?


Liberal Party’s 2015 Election Campaign Plans, Translated by

  • Remove the power of elected, accountable, unarmed politicians to decide gun policy, and hand it to an unelected, unaccountable, armed police force that views lawful hunters and shooters as “rabid” and “aggressive.”
  • Require RCMP-licensed shooters to get police permission to go shooting with their handguns, AR-15 rifles, or other scary-looking firearms.
  • Require enhanced background checks to buy a handgun, AR-15 rifle, or other scary-looking firearm.
  • Require gun buyers to continue doing what they’ve done for decades, i.e., show a licence when they buy a gun.
  • Require gun sellers to confirm that licences are valid.
  • Require gun sellers to keep records of all gun inventory and sales.
  • Immediately hinder gun imports by implementing the Firearms Marking Regulations.
  • Modify the Canadian Firearms Advisory Committee to stack it with anti-gun lobbyists, and people who are unfamiliar with guns, shooting activities and the firearm industry.
  • Give $100 million/year to provinces to support police anti-gang policies.
  • Enhance the ability of border guards to halt gun smuggling from the U.S. and confiscate guns from retired tourists on their way from Montana to Alaska.

What’s Already in the Firearms Act of 1995

  • Criminalizes possession of guns without a licence, even if you never took them out of the box.
  • Requires a gun licence to buy or own firearms. Obtained by taking an RCMP-approved safety course, passing written and practical exams, obtaining a photo ID card and passing a daily background check by the RCMP. Failure to renew a licence on time can lead to 10 years in jail.
  • Requires police permission to transport firearms for which one has a police-approved licence.
  • Bans many of the world’s most popular and iconic firearms, whether automatic or semi-auto (e.g. AK-47, FN-FAL, HK 91, Glock 19, Glock 26, Walther PPK.)
  • Criminalizes possession of standard-capacity magazines.
  • Authorizes warrantless searches of people’s homes, among other violations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • Used to justify RCMP’s illegal confiscation of property in High River, Alberta.

Related Information

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