Gun Licences Fell in 2020 for First Time in a Decade on Covid-19

TheGunBlog.ca — The number of Canadians with a federal gun licence fell last year for the first time in a decade, as shutdowns to stop Covid-19 prevented people from applying for a permit.

This year is on course for a new drop.

Gun Licence Numbers

Canada had 2,198,275 adults with a firearm Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) at 31 December 2020, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told TheGunBlog.ca in response to our questions. The Ottawa-based agency oversees licensing.

That’s 18,234 less than the 2,216,509 at the end of 2019, a year-end record high.

A licence is required to buy or sell guns on the government-controlled firearm market.

Analysis and Context

Cancelations, Delays

Provinces and instructors across Canada canceled the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC) and the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC) for weeks or months last year to avoid spreading the virus linked to Covid-19.

Delays at the licensing authority mean some people who passed the course and filed their applications are still waiting for their permits.

RCMP Comment

Caroline Duval, a spokeswoman for the RCMP, e-mailed the following to TheGunBlog.ca today. We added paragraph breaks.

The total number of PALs declined in 2020, which is not consistent with the usual trend of a year-over-year increase.

This decline is likely attributable to impacts stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic that has affected the availability of firearms safety training course offerings and a reduction in the number of applications received overall.

In addition, our processing site is currently operating at a reduced capacity, which has resulted in delays in the processing of new applications for a firearms licence.

RCMP, Response to TheGunBlog.ca, 12 April 2021

Virus Ends Decade of Licence Gains

Last year’s 0.8% decline ended 10 years of gains driven by the surging popularity of sport shooting, especially among women.

It was the longest upward streak since the controversial and costly new licensing regime was imposed in 2001.

New Gun-Licence Drop in 2021?

Although some CFSC instructors are seeing an increase in bookings that suggests pent-up demand for licences, classes in Ontario and other regions are in anti-Covid-19 shutdowns.

Ontario trains more than one-fourth of all gun-permit applicants, the most of any province or territory.

Screenshot of FSESO web page.
Screenshot of message on website of Firearms Safety Education Service of Ontario.

“Please be advised that the Chief Firearms Officer of Ontario has ordered the suspension of all CFSC and CRFSC courses and examinations in the Province of Ontario until further notice,” the Firearms Safety Education Service of Ontario (FSESO), the instructors’ association, said on its website.

“At this time, we do not have any information regarding timelines for courses to resume,” FSESO said.

Interactive Charts

Here are the same charts as at Canada Gun Facts & Stats.