ARCHIVED — Vol. 146, No. 41 — October 13, 2012

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Regulations Amending the Firearms Marking Regulations

Statutory authority

Firearms Act

Sponsoring department

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

REGULATORY IMPACT
ANALYSIS STATEMENT

(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)

Executive summary

Issues: This proposal to amend the Firearms Marking Regulations (Regulations) is required to ensure that firearms are permanently marked to distinguish them from other firearms, independent of any other conditions, without imposing an unnecessary burden on firearms businesses and owners.

Currently, prohibited and restricted firearms must be registered. In order to be registered, they must bear identifying information such as a serial number. Since April 2012, non-restricted firearms or long guns (which account for about 90% of all firearms in Canada) are no longer required to be registered, thus removing any requirement for markings. This proposal addresses the gap which has emerged with the abolition of the long-gun registry. The proposal would ensure that all firearms continue to be marked to facilitate firearms identification, including crime gun tracing by law enforcement.

Description: The proposed amendment to the Regulations would require that firearms manufactured in, or imported to, Canada be permanently stamped or engraved, on the frame or receiver, with a serial number, name of manufacturer and any other markings as required to distinguish them from other firearms, with certain exceptions.

Cost-benefit statement: The proposed Regulations are not expected to have cost implications since reputable firearms manufacturers, both in Canada and in most other countries, currently mark firearms in the proposed manner. The proposed markings would benefit public safety by facilitating law enforcement investigations when the markings can be linked to the last legal owner of the firearm.

Further, the proposal removes the requirement for imported firearms to bear “Canada” (or “CA”) and a mark indicating the year of import. Such an import mark, in the absence of centrally recorded information for non-restricted firearms, provides limited assistance to tracing and could expose importers and firearms purchasers to additional costs to mark.

“One-for-One” Rule and small business lens: The proposed Regulations will not result in any administrative or financial demands on those affected, as reputable firearms manufacturers currently mark in the proposed manner. Furthermore, the requirements do not place an administrative burden on businesses and individuals since there is no requirement under the proposed Regulations to submit reports showing compliance with having marked the firearm.

Domestic and international coordination and cooperation: Canada has signed, but not ratified, the United Nations Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition (UN Firearms Protocol) [2002] and the Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials (CIFTA) [1997]. The proposed amendments to the existing Regulations meet some of the specifications of these two treaties. The proposed requirements are not expected to have trade implications, since most firearms producers mark with the requisite information.

Background

Canada has signed, but not ratified, the United Nations Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition (UN Firearms Protocol) [2002] and the Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials (CIFTA) [1997]. The marking of firearms is one of several requirements of these international treaties. In order to comply with these agreements, Canada requires regulations for the marking of firearms. In addition to the treaty imperatives, firearms markings have value for domestic and international law enforcement as they, when coupled with records, can be used to trace crime guns.

The Firearms Marking Regulations, drafted to respond to the international treaties, were approved by the Governor in Council in 2004 but not implemented. The Regulations stipulate the markings that need to be permanently stamped or engraved on the frame or receiver of all firearms imported into, or manufactured in, Canada. Domestically manufactured firearms must bear the name of the manufacturer, serial number and “Canada” or “CA”; imported firearms must be marked with “Canada” or “CA” and the last two digits of the year of import, e.g. “12” for 2012.

In response to requests by businesses for additional preparatory time, the coming into force of the Regulations was amended to April 1, 2006, deferred to December 1, 2007, and deferred again to December 1, 2009. During the 2009 deferral period, an independent study was undertaken to examine the usefulness of markings from a law enforcement perspective, the various marking technologies available, and the implications for the Canadian firearms industry and users. The study found that markings help to expedite law enforcement tracing efforts by focusing investigations. The study further determined that the cost to stamp or engrave markings would be low for Canadian manufacturers and large importers, although it was not possible to determine the financial impact on individuals and small importers.

The Regulations were deferred until December 1, 2010, to allow consideration of a proposal from the firearms industry to place the information required by international treaties on adhesive metallic strips. The Regulations were subsequently deferred to December 1, 2012, to permit examination of program design and implementation issues associated with the current (e.g. permanent stamping or engraving) and alternative (e.g. adhesive metallic strip) marking options in order to determine a marking scheme that would contribute to public safety, meet international obligations, minimize costs to the Canadian firearms industry and firearms owners, and facilitate law enforcement tracing efforts.

Consequently, in 2011, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) conducted a study examining the industry proposal to mark firearms with adhesive metallic strips. Working with industry, the RCMP identified adhesive technologies known to use among the strongest binding agents available for testing. The RCMP subjected these adhesives to conditions (e.g. extreme temperature variations) and elements (e.g. cleaning solvents) to which firearms are commonly exposed. It was concluded that the marking of firearms with adhesive metallic strips is not practically viable given the challenges in ensuring adequate adhesion under a range of conditions.

In Canada, the Criminal Code and its associated regulations establish the legal framework governing the classification of firearms. There are three classes of firearms: (1) restricted (e.g. some handguns); (2) prohibited (e.g. automatic firearms); and (3) firearms that are neither a prohibited firearm nor a restricted firearm, generally referred to as non-restricted or long guns (e.g. ordinary rifles and shotguns).

Currently, all restricted or prohibited firearms must be registered with the Canadian Firearms Program of the RCMP. In order to be so, the firearm must bear a serial number or alternate (e.g. be described in a prescribed manner with make, class, type, action and calibre or gauge). Since April 2012, non-restricted firearms are no longer required to be registered, thus removing any requirement for markings on this class of firearms.

Consequently, the proposed regulatory amendment would address the gap created and require that every firearm manufactured in or imported into Canada after the coming into force of these Regulations be marked, with the exception of rare firearms or firearms that are of a value that is unusually high for that type of firearm.

Issue

The proposal to amend the Firearms Marking Regulations (Regulations) would require firearms to be permanently marked to distinguish them from other firearms.

Currently, prohibited and restricted firearms must be registered. In order to be registered, they must bear identifying information such as a serial number. Since April 2012, non-restricted firearms or long guns (which account for about 90% of all firearms in Canada) are no longer required to be registered, thus removing any requirement for markings. This proposal addresses the gap that has emerged with the abolition of the long-gun registry and ensures that all firearms continue to be uniquely marked to facilitate firearms identification, including crime gun tracing by law enforcement, when the markings on the firearm can be linked to records of ownership.

Objectives

The objective is to require firearms to be permanently marked to distinguish them from other firearms so as to facilitate the identification of firearms and contribute to public safety while minimizing cost and administrative burdens on legitimate firearms businesses and owners.

Description

The proposed Regulations would require that firearms manufactured in, or imported to, Canada be permanently stamped or engraved, on the frame or receiver, with a serial number, name of manufacturer and any other markings as required to distinguish them from other firearms, with the exception of rare firearms or firearms that are of a value that is unusually high for that type of firearm. The markings are to be visible without disassembly using tools or implements, legible and of a specific depth and height. The proposal also removes the requirement for firearms to be marked with “Canada” (or “CA”) and, in the case of imported firearms, the year of import.

Regulatory and non-regulatory options considered

The Firearms Marking Regulations were approved by the Governor in Council in 2004. Section 118 of the Firearms Act requires the Minister of Public Safety to lay proposed regulatory amendments before each House of Parliament for consideration. The existing Regulations were not considered to be an option since the requirement for an import mark, in the absence of recorded registration information for the majority of firearms in Canada, would provide limited assistance to tracing and entail a cost to those importing firearms requiring marking after manufacture.

Benefits and costs

The regulatory amendment is not expected to result in any administrative or financial impacts on those affected, as reputable firearms manufacturers currently apply such markings. Furthermore, the requirements would not place a cost or administrative burden on businesses and individuals, since there is no requirement under the proposed Regulations that exceeds standard business practices or calls for the submission of reports showing compliance with having marked the firearm.

When a serial number and other markings can be matched to registration information, law enforcement has the capability to employ firearms tracing to bring resource and time efficiencies to investigations. With registration no longer required for non-restricted firearms, opportunities for the conclusion of a successful trace for this category of firearm are limited, since the markings on a firearm could not be linked to registration records. Further, while the proposal would fill a gap in Canadian law, there is no requirement or means of determining if non-restricted firearms have been marked in accordance with the proposed Regulations, since they are no longer subject to registration and no offence and penalties are being imposed for not doing so (however, there are Criminal Code penalties for tampering with a serial number).

“One-for-One” Rule

The “One-for-One” Rule does not apply to this proposal, as there is no change in administrative costs to business.

Small business lens

The small business lens does not apply to this proposal, as there are no costs to small business.

Consultation

Several meetings were held with the Minister of Public Safety’s Canadian Firearms Advisory Committee (CFAC) to consider various issues, including the need for essential identifying information to describe firearms, which would not be costly to businesses or gun purchasers. Following the discussions, CFAC confirmed that the firearms community would be supportive of the requirement for serial numbers to be marked on all firearms, with the exception of rare firearms or firearms that are of a value that is unusually high for that type of firearm. They also are of the view that all other marking requirements should be removed, including the requirement to mark Canada and the year of import, as in the absence of records, such markings provide limited assistance for tracing, while adding a cost to importers.

Law enforcement representatives have expressed support for the existing Firearms Marking Regulations, from the perspective of public safety and national security. They are of the view that the markings, in conjunction with the availability of records identifying the last legal transaction relating to the firearm, could expedite investigations through firearms tracing to assist in solving a specific gun crime or to detect firearms trafficking, smuggling and stockpiling. However, with the repeal of the registration of non-restricted firearms and the loss of the ability to link markings with public ownership records (i.e. registry data) and the absence of business record-keeping requirements, the markings are only of limited use in the tracing of non-restricted firearms used in crimes.

Regulatory cooperation

The multilateral agreements to which Canada is a signatory, namely the United Nations Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition (UN Firearms Protocol) and the Organization of American States Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials (CIFTA) require, among other things, member states to adopt specific firearms markings, record retention and sharing systems to facilitate police crime gun investigations. Canada has not ratified these treaties.

The Government is of the view that the proposed amendment to the existing Regulations, similar to its decision to repeal the long-gun registry, will not impede Canada should it decide to take steps to ratify these agreements.

Rationale

The proposal would establish basic marking requirements to facilitate the identification of firearms and to contribute to public safety, by facilitating law enforcement investigations when the markings can be linked to information on the last legal owner of the firearm. The proposal also meets the concerns of firearms businesses and owners through an approach to markings that is consistent with standard business practices and minimizes administrative and cost burdens.

Implementation, enforcement and service standards

These Regulations come into force on December 1, 2012. Communication efforts will focus on informing stakeholders of the amendments to the existing Regulations, with a news release and information provided by the RCMP Canadian Firearms Program. Other media relations will be handled on a responsive basis.

Since there is no requirement under the Regulations to report compliance, no other implementation, enforcement or service standard issues have been identified.

Contact

Lyndon Murdock
Director
269 Laurier Avenue W
Law Enforcement and Policing Branch
Public Safety Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0P8
General inquiries: 613-944-4875
Fax: 613-954-4808
Email: firearms/armesafeu@ps-sp.gc.ca

PROPOSED REGULATORY TEXT

Notice is given that the Governor in Council, pursuant to paragraph 117(k.2) (see footnote a) of the Firearms Act (see footnote b), proposes to make the annexed Regulations Amending the Firearms Marking Regulations.

Interested persons may make representations concerning the proposed Regulations within 30 days after the date of publication of this notice. All such representations must cite the Canada Gazette, Part Ⅰ, and the date of publication of this notice, and be addressed to Lyndon Murdock, Director, Firearms and Operational Policing Policy Division, Law Enforcement and Policing Branch, Public Safety Canada, 269 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0P8 (tel.: 613-944-4875; fax: 613-954-4808; email: firearms/armesafeu@ps-sp.gc.ca).

Ottawa, October 4, 2012

JURICA ČAPKUN
Assistant Clerk of the Privy Council

REGULATIONS AMENDING THE FIREARMS MARKING REGULATIONS

AMENDMENTS

1. Section 2 of the Firearms Marking Regulations (see footnote 1) is renumbered as subsection 2(1) and is amended by adding the following:

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to

  • (a) a rare firearm; or

  • (b) a firearm that has a value that is unusually high for that type of firearm.

2. Subsection 3(2) of the Regulations is amended by striking out “or” at the end of paragraph (d) and by adding the following after paragraph (e):

  • (f) a rare firearm; or

  • (g) a firearm that has a value that is unusually high for that type of firearm.

3. (1) Subsection 4(1) of the Regulations is replaced by the following:

4. (1) The firearm shall be marked by permanently stamping or engraving on the firearm’s frame or receiver the firearm’s serial number, the name of the manufacturer and any other markings that are required to distinguish it from other firearms.

(2) Paragraph 4(2)(c) of the Regulations is replaced by the following:

  • (c) subject to subsection (3), be visible without the need to disassemble the firearm using tools or implements.

(3) Subsection 4(3) of the Regulations is amended by adding “or” at the end of paragraph (b) and by repealing paragraphs (c) and (d).

COMING INTO FORCE

4. These Regulations come into force on the day on which they are registered.

[41-1-o]

Footnote a
S.C. 2003, c. 8, s. 54(2)

Footnote b
S.C. 1995, c. 39

Footnote 1
SOR/2004-275