You’re visiting the Internet’s No. 1 overview of personal gun ownership in Canada.
Newest Update: 06 September 2023
- Updated Quarterly: Our interactive charts on gun imports (data from Statistics Canada), near the bottom.
- Journalists: See our handbook for Media.
- Reference: See our Reference guide on topics such as: Gun Laws, Self-Defence, Chief Firearms Officers, and more.
- For info on the Liberal Party’s work to suppress gun users and the firearm industry: Liberal Gun Bans.
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Numbers at a Glance
- $8.5 Billion. Spending on hunting and sporting shooting in Canada each year.
- Over 20 Million. Guns owned by individuals for protection, hunting, recreation, competition, collecting, predator control, and other beneficial uses. (Estimate)
- 4 Million. Gun owners, with or without a licence. (Angus Reid Estimate)
- 2,264,755. Men and women with a firearm licence authorized by the RCMP at 31 Dec. 2022.
- $1 million+. Value invested each day by Canadian gun owners for guns, ammo and shooting gear.
- 1 Million+. Number of rounds of ammunition fired each day by Canadian recreational shooters, competitors and hunters. (Estimate)
- 300,000. Adults with a federal firearm licence who own at least one police-registered handgun. (Estimate)
- 90,000. Canadians (mainly police, law-enforcement and military) allowed or required to carry loaded guns in daily life for personal or public safety. (Estimate)
- 90,000. AR-15 target rifles registered to individuals.
- 50,000. People who work in the firearm industry.
- 2,400. Federally licensed firearm businesses in Canada.
- 3,000. Guns bought and sold every day by police-approved individuals. (Estimate. Roughly 1/3 new and 2/3 used.)
- 1,245. Target-shooting ranges in Canada. (Almost the same as the number of McDonald’s restaurants.)
- 365. Days each year that people with gun licences get a police screening.
- 13. Percent of Canadian men who have a firearm licence, or almost one in seven.
- 13. Percent of Canadian firearm-licence holders who are women.
- 10. Potential years in jail for not renewing your gun licence on time.
- 3. Arbitrary legal classifications for firearms in Canada.
- 2. Team Canada shooters in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Both were women.
- 0. Number of violent attackers with guns and ammo who obey the law.
Canada Gun Laws
Are guns legal in Canada?
Yes and no. It’s complicated.
It’s legal for you to buy, sell, and own certain approved firearms if and only if you follow the required steps and get government approval for a firearm Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL).
- Personal firearm ownership falls under criminal law.
- You could be charged with serious crimes and go to jail if you buy, sell, or have any firearm without a government-issued gun permit.
- More than 2.2 million Canadian adults and 2,400 businesses have a licence.
- Even with a licence, it’s a crime to buy, sell or have many of the world’s most-popular or iconic firearms, and it’s a crime for most of us to wear a loaded gun for personal protection.
- Estimates suggest most gun owners don’t have a licence.
Values and Culture
What values do Canadian gun owners share?
Canadian firearm owners come from all backgrounds and have diverse values and viewpoints.
- We share a commitment to safety, responsibility, and good citizenship.
- We value our family and friends, community and nature and strive to be of good character.
- We demand and defend liberty, privacy and security.
- Some of us prefer to keep quiet about our guns, and our hunting and sport shooting. We keep it private.
- Some of us are worldwide celebrities with TV shows, books, websites, and support from major brands.
- If you share our values and goals, the shooting community will welcome you with open arms. You’ll make friends for life.
What if you don’t share our values?
- If you aren’t of good character or you don’t share our culture of safety, responsibility and good citizenship (and most of the time, fun), we don’t want you in the shooting community. Period.
- Just think about it: Which gun owner, gun store or gun club wants anything to do with someone they don’t trust to be responsible, safe, and sound? Nobody has more at stake than we do.
How We Contribute
- Canadian firearm culture favours good individuals and responsible citizens:
- We aim to be good neighbours who serve our communities.
- We respect the law. We vote. We pay our taxes on time.
- We know our rights and responsibilities, and we take them seriously. After all, nobody has more at stake than we do.
- Hunters provide valuable leadership, expertise and hundreds of millions of dollars each year for nature conservation, wildlife protection, habitat restoration and outdoor education.
- Recreational and competitive shooters promote good marksmanship and good sportsmanship. Visit any target range and you’ll see lots of smiles.
- Firearm collectors are fountains of information on history, engineering, design, manufacturing, and craftsmanship.
- Farmers and ranchers protect their crops and livestock from predators so they can feed the country and the world.
- The shooting community raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for families and individuals in need.
- Shooting associations run programs for youth, including poor kids and teens. They get outdoors, learn skills, make friends, and stay out of trouble.
- Men and women across the country buy gear and get trained to protect themselves, their families and their communities.
Did You Know?
- You are visiting the most-popular page at TheGunBlog.ca, and the only page of its kind on the Internet.
- Tens of thousands of people consult this page every year.
- It’s an important resource for politicians, policymakers, the press, PAL holders, and the public.
How popular are guns in Canada?
- Hunting, shooting and guns are at the heart of Canadian culture, heritage and tradition, and the economy.
- More Canadian adults have a firearm licence than play golf, hockey, soccer or baseball.
- Hunting and shooting contribute billions of dollars to the economy every year.
- The firearm and ammunition industries employ almost 50,000 people.
How many Canadians own guns?
- Estimates suggest about 4 million.
- A survey by Angus Reid Institute published May 1, 2020, showed 13% of respondents, representing almost 4 million adults, said they own at least one gun. See Question QG6.
- 2.26 million men and women had gun licences at Dec. 31, 2022.
- That’s 7.2% of the country’s 32 million adults.
- Not all of them own guns, but all of them are allowed to.
- Politicians changed the criminal law effective 01 January 2001, requiring a licence to buy, sell or own guns. Many long-time owners view that as an expensive, invasive and unjust restriction on good citizens, and opt out of the licensing regime. They risk criminal charges and jail, but enforcement is almost impossible.
How many guns are in Canada?
- Individuals own more than 20 million guns, according to estimates based on police records, domestic firearm manufacturing and import and export data. But it’s impossible to know exactly.
- We own more than 1 million revolvers, pistols, AR-15 target rifles and other firearms registered with the RCMP as of 31 December 2020.
- Canadians used to buy more than 1,200 “Restricted” handguns and rifles each week on average. (The government-controlled market for AR-15 rifles closed on 01 May 2020, and the government-controlled market for handguns closed on 21 October 2022. The free market is unaffected.)
- The military, police and law-enforcement own hundreds of thousands more shotguns, rifles and handguns.
How many shooting ranges are in Canada?
- Canada has an estimated 1,245 shooting ranges.
- For comparison, that’s almost identical to the number of McDonald’s restaurants and the number of hospitals.
- The difference is that McDonald’s and hospitals are located for easy and prominent access, while most target ranges are out of the way.
- In addition to official regulated ranges, many people shoot on their properties (e.g. back of the farm or ranch) or on public land (e.g. abandoned quarry, in the woods) after ensuring it’s safe.
Which big cities have the most shooters?
- Montreal has the highest number of licensed shooters among Canada’s five-biggest cities, but Calgary has the highest rate of gun owners per capita.
- The City of Toronto was home to 36,832 men and women with gun licences in May 2019.
Which laws regulate Canadian gun owners?
- Canadian politicians designed the policy regime to criminalize and control gun users, to destroy their firearms, and deter the use of firearms.
- They invented paper crimes that target the known “Good Guys” (home defenders, hunters, sport shooters, …) while pretending to go after the “Bad Guys.”
- It’s bad policy that wastes a lot of money and resources.
- You can be charged with a crime and go to jail, even if you did nothing immoral or harmful (e.g., by missing a paperwork deadline or taking a detour on the way to the target range).
- The Criminal Code and the Firearms Act are the main federal laws that apply. (The Firearms Act is a giant amendment and add-on to the Criminal Code.)
- Having and using guns in Canada is hyper-regulated by about 24 federal laws and regulations, plus many more provincial and municipal restrictions.
- The Department of Public Safety in 2021 published a good overview of:
- Canada’s gun-policy framework (Legislation + regulation)
- Institutional framework (Who does what)
- How the government of 2021 views gun policy
- The government of 2021’s priorities for new criminalizations
- Source: Public Safety Canada 2021 Transition Book – Issues Book: Firearms
- The City of Toronto published these in 2019:
Who is allowed to own guns?
- To legally buy and own guns, and to buy ammunition, you must be at least 18, have a firearm Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL).
- A PAL doesn’t allow you to carry loaded guns on your person for safety or self-defence, and doesn’t allow you to use guns for hunting. You need additional permits.
Who manages firearm licensing?
- The RCMP Canadian Firearms Program manages firearm licensing for individuals and businesses.
How do you get a gun licence in Canada?
- Take mandatory RCMP-designed firearm-safety course.
- Pass written exam and in-class practical exam with minimum score.
- Submit licence application and payment to RCMP.
- Pass background check (including mental health, spouse approval, criminal-record check) and reference checks.
- Obtain licence card with photo.
- Pass automatic daily criminal-record screening.
How long does it take to get a gun licence in Canada?
It typically takes three or four months to obtain the licence and costs $250-$500.
- How Long and How Much for a Gun Licence in Canada?
- How to Buy a Handgun in Canada: Regulatory and Procedural Steps
Is it true that you are monitored daily by police if you have a gun licence?
- Yes. The RCMP calls this “continuous-eligibility screening.”
- Your name is cross-checked against the list of people facing violent criminal charges or court-ordered firearm prohibitions. If you are one of them, you’ll probably lose your licence and your guns.
- Having a gun licence in Canada is proof that you don’t have active charges or convictions for violent crimes.
Do you need a gun licence to go target shooting?
- No. Millions of men, women, teenagers and children shoot without a licence, under the direct supervision and control of licensed family, friends or range staff.
- If you visit your local target range that allows drop-in customers, you’ll see everything from families … to couples on a date … to bachelorette parties … to businesses and community associations hosting a shooting night.
What’s special about a gun licence?
- A firearm licence is one of only a few federally issued documents (e.g. PAL, passport, pilot licence, maritime licence).
- You don’t need a background check to get a passport, but you pass one every day to have a firearm licence.
Firearm Licensing: Interactive Charts
What is Canada’s classification system for firearms?
Note: The governing Liberal Party is working a new classification system to expand the definition of “Prohibited” firearm.
- Canadian law and a May 1, 2020, cabinet confiscation order assign guns to one of three arbitrary and made-up classes, roughly:
- A: “Prohibited” — rifles, shotguns and handguns
- B: “Restricted” — handguns
- C: “Non-restricted” — rifles and shotguns
- People who own any firearm from any class are highly monitored, regulated and restricted, and must have the class of licence that matches the class of firearm.
- Many of the world’s most-popular or iconic firearms and standard gear is off-limits to Canadians, e.g. AK-47 rifle (automatic and semi-auto), FN-FAL rifle (auto and semi-auto), Glock 19 pistol (except in its Canadian version), Walther PPK pistol, standard pistol and rifle magazines, …
Who classifies guns?
- Parliament passes laws that regulate gun ownership and classifications, and the courts and police interpret the law.
- The law sometimes uses measurable or observable criteria such as barrel length, overall length, design and function, and sometimes uses arbitrary decisions. The government made up a list of makes and models it banned by name. It expanded the list on 01 May 2020.
- The RCMP gives its opinion on gun classifications based on the law. It sometimes confiscates firearms and jails people based on its own opinions.
- RCMP: Classifying and Re-Classifying Firearms
Are there different rules for each class?
- Yes. The law sets out different rules to use, buy, own, store and travel with different classes of firearm.
- For example, you aren’t allowed to hunt with a handgun or AR-15 in Canada. If you want to legally take a handgun (or AR-15 before 01 May 2020) to the range, the guns must be unloaded, disabled with a trigger lock (or equivalent) and must be in a locked container. You also have to follow a “reasonably direct” route. You could be charged with a crime and go to jail if you take a detour.
Is it legal to use a firearm for personal protection and self-defence?
- Section 34 of the Criminal Code covers the legitimate “use or threat of force” for self-defence and protection in certain situations.
- Many factors are considered to assess if a response to a threat is justified. Section 34 doesn’t specify the tools or techniques that may or may not be used. See also the Technical Guide for Practitioners.
- See our articles on self-defence.
How many Canadians carry guns in daily life for safety?
- One private individual in Canada has police permission to carry a loaded handgun for safety:
- Many others carry without police permission, and it’s impossible to tell how many.
- More than 90,000 professionals and others, mainly police, law-enforcement, military and armoured-car guards, are required or authorized to carry guns for personal or public safety.
How active are women in shooting?
- Women are active in shooting and rising, especially handguns, but less numerous than men.
- Team Canada sent two shooters to the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Both were women.
- The only Team Canada shooter who qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo was a woman. (Event delayed for Covid-19 virus until 2021.)
- Women occupy leadership positions in several Canadian shooting organizations.
- The president of the Shooting Federation of Canada, the only government-recognized body for sport shooting, has been a woman for several years.
- Many gun stores and shooting ranges are owned and/or managed by women.
Industry & Economy
How big is Canada’s firearm industry?
- Canada had 4,154 RCMP-licensed firearm and ammunition businesses at the end of 2020, including 2,414 for guns. A few are large corporations, like Canadian Tire Corp. and Cabela’s Inc. Most are independent small businesses.
- Almost all guns, ammo and related gear sold in Canada are imported, so the best/only measure of the firearm market is Statistics Canada data on firearm, ammunition and parts imports.
- Companies brought in almost 360,000 guns in 2020, with an import value exceeding $145 million. At a hypothetical 25% markup plus tax, that would retail for more than $200 million.
- Canadians buy roughly 1,000 new guns and 2,000 used guns every day.
- We estimate they fire about 1 million rounds of ammo every day, seven days a week, in an average year. (A lot less with the Covid-19 shutdowns on hunting and sport shooting activities.)
- See our latest reports on firearm imports
- Guns are one small part of shooting and hunting. You also need ammunition, bags, cases, locks, safes, ear and eye protection, cleaning supplies, targets, sights and scopes, holsters, slings, extra cartridge magazines and other parts and accessories. Add range membership, course tuition, match fees, hunting permits, insurance, fuel, plus money for coffee, restaurants and hotels, hotels, etc. It can be quite a personal investment.
- Canadians spent $8.5 billion on hunting and sport shooting in 2018, the Edmonton Journal reported in August 2019, citing the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association.
- Hunters Invest $300 Mln/Year in Saskatchewan, StarPhoenix Says
Firearm Imports: Interactive Charts
Crime and Violence
What is the relation between guns and crime?
The lawful shooting community of “Good Guys” (hunters, sport shooters, farmers, ranchers, collectors…) is completely separate from the criminal community of violent street gangs and individuals, the “Bad Guys.”
- It’s like if someone asked: “What’s the relation between parents who drive their kids to school and carjackers?” Or, “What’s the relation between people who use phones to say, ‘I love you,’ and people who use phones to plan attacks?” Both use cars and phones, but that’s about it. It would be absurd to regulate car users and phone users under the Criminal Code because of a few “Bad Guys.”
- Many laws try to reduce violence by criminal “Bad Guys” (who disobey the law) through restrictions on “Good Guy” hunters, farmers and target shooters (who obey the law). It doesn’t work, so more restrictions are added, which still don’t work, and so on.
- Street crime tends to be committed by individuals and gangs who get shotguns, rifles and handguns on the free market illegally. It’s almost unheard of for a licensed gun owner to be involved with violent criminals.
- Recommended: Dangerous Fallacies at the Heart of the Gun Debate
- 459,538 Canadians have court-ordered prohibitions on possessing guns.
- Homicide: (This is 2017 data.) Fatal stabbings exceeded fatal shootings in 7 of the past 10 years. Shooting overtook stabbing as the leading method of homicide in 2016, led by gang murders in Toronto and Vancouver. Note: StatsCan includes flare guns, nail guns, pellet guns and other non-firearms in its totals for “firearm-related homicide.” Canada had 266 “firearm-related” homicides in 2016, according to Statistics Canada.
- Suicide: The leading methods of suicide are (1) hanging (44%), including strangulation and suffocation; (2) poisoning (25%) and (3) shooting (16%).
- Compare: Doctor and nurse errors: Almost 30,000 deaths per year. Vehicles: 2,000 killed, 10,000 seriously injured, 160,000 total injured per year.
- 2018 Nov: Gang Shooting Homicide Rate Doubles Since Liberals Took Office
Data Source: Toronto Police Service
Why do so many people oppose gun bans?
- Prohibitions and confiscations (“bans”) don’t stop “Bad Guys.” If someone wants to hurt you, they will find a way to do it with or without guns. Murder and violence are already illegal, right? Bans prevent the “Good Guys” from protecting ourselves.
- Canada has one of the world’s most-restrictive, convoluted and complex legal frameworks for firearm owners. As some countries simplify their rules, Canada is going the other way.
- All guns are banned already for everyone without a firearm licence authorized by the RCMP. Buying, selling, or having any gun without a licence can land you in jail.
- Licensed owners are “Good Guys” who take our moral and legal responsibilities seriously.
- Any new bans would affect only lawful, licensed, legitimate men and women who hunt and shoot safely and responsibly.
- The existing bans don’t affect the “Bad Guys,” and new ones wouldn’t either. Street gangs, drug dealers, murderers and terrorists disobey the law. They go out of the way to avoid the law. They don’t ask for police permission to own guns, and they don’t turn in their guns to the police for bans.
Public Sources and Resources
Much of the info and analysis on this page is based on our original research. Most government documents focus only on crime and have almost zero data or statistics on the lawful use of firearms.
Here are some sources and resources:
Statistics Canada (Focuses on Crime Only)
- Firearms and Violent Crime in Canada, 2021
- Homicide in Canada, 2021
- Police-Reported Crime Statistics in Canada, 2022
- Firearm-Related Crime in Canada: Presentation to a Senate Committee reviewing Bill C-71, February 2019 (En français)
- Gun and Gangs: Presentation to Summit on Gun and Gang Violence. Ottawa, March 2018.