TheGunBlog.ca — Canada’s federal firearm regulator said it’s still “working at posting” its so-called Firearms Reference Table of opinions on the legal classifications of guns, without any timing to publish the private catalogue.
The FRT shows the RCMP’s interpretation of whether a firearm should be considered “Non-restricted,” “Restricted” or “Prohibited,” the only three classifications in law.
The label is critical because it means the difference between freedom and prison for Canada’s 2.2 million federally licensed gun users and 1,500 firearm businesses. What is legal with guns in one class could be a federal crime with guns in another.
“We are working at posting the firearms reference table and have no further information at this time,” Caroline Duval, a spokeswoman for the Ottawa-based RCMP, told TheGunBlog.ca on Nov. 19 by e-mail in response to questions.
Key Dates 2019
- 04 Jan: Information Commissioner of Canada applies to take government to Federal Court for refusing to share FRT. The court was waiting on a related decision made last month.
- 08 Apr: RCMP’s Robert MacKinnon tells Senate committee studying Bill C-71 that RCMP Canadian Firearms Program “is taking steps to make the firearms reference table public.”
- 15 May: Senator André Pratte tells Senate that RCMP has said FRT would be public “starting in a couple of months.”
- 23 May: RCMP’s Caroline Duval is quoted as telling iPolitics it “is planning on releasing a public-facing version of the Firearms Reference Table later this year.”
Opinion With Force of Law
Even though the RCMP’s opinions aren’t law, law-enforcement and regulatory officials treat them as if they were.
- Regulators use the opinions to allow or refuse import and export authorizations.
- Customs agents use the opinions to stop imports.
- Police use the opinions to confiscate guns and arrest people.
No Transparency, No Appeal
- The RCMP has been criticized for years for refusing to make public its opinions and rationale.
- There’s no appeal mechanism outside a court challenge that can take years and cost tens of thousands of dollars, without any guarantee of success.
- The RCMP has said it bases its interpretations on the Criminal Code.
The RCMP says on its web page about the FRT:
Use of the FRT Web is limited to individuals who have been authorized by the RCMP. Authorized users include members of the police community, specific Public Agents and approved firearm verifiers.
- The Firearms Reference Table in 2017 had 173,115 firearm descriptions and classifications, with about 8,000 new models added each year, according to the RCMP 2017 Commissioner of Firearms report. The 2018 edition has yet to be published.
Canada’s system of legal classifications for guns is arbitrary, misleading and confusing.
- Arbitrary Criteria: Mix of dimensions, operations, and whim. Many of the world’s most-popular and most-iconic firearms are off limits to Canadians by decree.
- Misleading Labels: “Non-restricted” and “Prohibited” don’t mean what they say. Buying, selling, having, or traveling with any gun — even a so-called “Non-restricted” shotgun or rifle — is tightly restricted under threat of prison. So-called “Prohibited” models are legal with the appropriate licence.
- Confusing Result: It could be a federal crime with a prison sentence for someone to have a particular model of “Restricted” or “Prohibited” firearm, while it would be legal for them to have a functionally identical “Non-restricted” model.
- RCMP Comments on How It Interprets Firearm Classifications
- Wolverine Supplies: Brief to House of Commons Standing Committee Reference Bill C-71
- Dennis Young: RCMP Release FRT Processing Procedures
Correction: Removes reference to courts in section on “Opinion With Force of Law.”