Regulations Amending Certain Regulations Made Under the Firearms Act: SOR/2022-219
Canada Gazette, Part II, Volume 156, Number 23
SOR/2022-219 October 21, 2022
P.C. 2022-1144 October 20, 2022
Whereas, under section 118 of the Firearms Act footnote a, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness had a copy of the proposed Regulations Amending Certain Regulations Made Under the Firearms Act, substantially in the annexed form, laid before each House of Parliament on May 30, 2022, which date is at least 30 sitting days before the date of this Order;
And whereas subsection 119(1) of that Act provides that no proposed regulation that has been laid under section 118 of that Act need again be laid, whether or not it has been altered;
Therefore, Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness makes the annexed Regulations Amending Certain Regulations Made Under the Firearms Act under section 117footnote b of the Firearms Act footnote a.
Regulations Amending Certain Regulations Made Under the Firearms Act
Conditions of Transferring Firearms and Other Weapons Regulations
1 The Conditions of Transferring Firearms and Other Weapons Regulations footnote 1 are amended by adding the following after section 4:
4.1 The chief firearms officer may authorize the transfer of a handgun to an individual only if the individual needs the handgun
- (a) to protect the life of that individual or of other individuals;
- (b) for use in connection with his or her lawful profession or occupation; or
- (c) to train, compete or coach in a handgun shooting discipline that is on the programme of the International Olympic Committee or the International Paralympic Committee, and the individual provides a letter to a chief firearms officer from a provincial or national sport shooting governing body indicating
- (i) that the individual trains, competes or coaches in such a discipline,
- (ii) the specific discipline in which the individual trains, competes or coaches, and
- (iii) that the handgun that the individual seeks to acquire is necessary for training, competing or coaching in that specific discipline.
2 Section 4.1 of the Conditions of Transferring Firearms and Other Weapons Regulations does not apply in respect of the transfer of a handgun to an individual if the transferor sought the authorization of the chief firearms officer, as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Firearms Act, to transfer the handgun under paragraph 23.2(1)(d) of that Act before the day on which these Regulations come into force.
Authorizations to Transport Restricted Firearms and Prohibited Firearms Regulations
3 The Authorizations to Transport Restricted Firearms and Prohibited Firearms Regulations footnote 2 are amended by adding the following after section 1.1:
1.11 Despite section 1.1, the chief firearms officer may issue to an individual an authorization to transport a handgun from a port of entry only if
- (a) the individual holds a registration certificate for the handgun that was issued on the basis of an application that, before the day on which this provision comes into force, was made in accordance with section 54 of the Act;
- (b) the individual possesses an authorization to carry the handgun under section 20 of the Act;
- (c) the individual requires the handgun to train, compete or coach in a handgun shooting discipline that is on the programme of the International Olympic Committee or the International Paralympic Committee, and the individual provides a letter to a chief firearms officer from a provincial or national sport shooting governing body indicating
- (i) that the individual trains, competes or coaches in such a discipline,
- (ii) the specific discipline in which the individual trains, competes or coaches, and
- (iii) that the handgun that the individual seeks to transport is necessary for training, competing or coaching in that specific discipline; or
- (d) in the case of a non-resident individual, a customs officer confirms, under section 35 of the Act, the declaration and authorization to transport referred to in that section in respect of the handgun.
Coming into Force
4 These Regulations come into force on the day on which they are registered.
REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT
(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)
Firearms violence is a complex issue affecting Canadians in both urban and rural settings and implicates various types of firearms. In 2020, handguns were used in approximately half of all violent crimes involving a firearm in Canada. Evidence from industrialized countries around the world shows that where there are more guns, there are more gun deaths, injuries, and crimes.footnote 3
In May 2022, the government introduced An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms) [Bill C-21] which, in broad themes, aims to control certain firearms and components; arm law enforcement with more authorities to reduce gun trafficking and criminal use within Canada and at the border; and give Canadians more access to tools to protect themselves and others. One element of the proposed legislation would create a national freeze on handguns. Until these measures can be put in place, there is a need for regulatory action to immediately minimize the acquisition of handguns by individuals domestically and from outside of Canada.
The 2021 Speech from the Throne and mandate letters for the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General acknowledged the deleterious effects handgun violence is having on Canadian communities, and committed to a comprehensive agenda to keep Canadians safe from gun violence. Handguns in Canada are classified as restricted or prohibited firearms, with the majority currently classified as restricted. All restricted and prohibited handguns are registered via a certificate issued by the Chief Firearms Officers (CFO). The registration certificate identifies each firearm and links it to its owner. In 2020, there were approximately 1.1 million registered handguns in Canada, with 1 million registered to individuals. This represents a 74% increase since 2010. An estimated 45 000 to 55 000 handguns were registered annually to individuals between 2010 and 2020. The average number of transfers of handguns (both new handguns being purchased and individuals purchasing existing handguns second-hand from other licensed owners) per year to individuals is 48 000.
At present, there are approximately 1.2 million registered handguns in Canada, and prior to the introduction of Bill C-21 there were approximately 276 000 individuals in Canada who owned about 1.1 million handguns. Following the introduction of Bill C-21 there was an increase in the number of requests to transfer the registration certificates for existing handguns in Canada, though only a modest increase in transfer requests to register newly imported or manufactured handguns. From May 23 to September 27, 2022, there were 246 058 requests to transfer the registration certificates of handguns, a significant increase in the volume of applicants from previous periods which far exceeded the Canadian Firearms Program’s (CFP) capacity to process within their normal timelines.
Of note, the high number of transfers is not an indication of a significant amount of newly imported or manufactured handguns, but an exchange between individuals, businesses and museums within Canada.
Pursuant to paragraphs 117(a) and (k) of the Firearms Act, the Governor in Council has the authority to make regulations to restrict the issuance of registration certificates and the transfer of handguns.
On August 19, 2022, the Government introduced new, temporary import control measures related to restricted handguns. These temporary restrictions mean that individuals and businesses are no longer able to import handguns into Canada, subject to narrow exceptions that mirror those in Bill C-21 and the regulations. These restrictions will remain in force until the national freeze comes into force through Bill C-21.
The objective of these amendments is to minimize expeditiously the acquisition of handguns by individuals domestically and from outside of Canada.
The amendments introduce a national freeze on handguns via amendments to the Conditions of Transferring Firearms and Other Weapons Regulations and the Authorizations to Transport Restricted Firearms and Prohibited Firearms Regulations.
The amendments permit specific exempted individuals to import or receive a domestically transferred handgun after the coming into force of the amendments. These exempted individuals include those who have an Authorization to Carry (ATC) handguns as part of their lawful profession or for protection (roughly a combined 6 000 individuals in Canada, the overwhelming majority tied to the lawful profession criterion). In addition, individuals who are training, competing, or coaching in disciplines recognized as Olympic and Paralympic sport shooting activities and who are recognized as such by the national or provincial-territorial sport shooting governing body will continue to be permitted to acquire or import handguns. This includes approximately 8 000 athletes.
Under these amendments, current handgun owners will continue to be authorized to possess and use their handguns. Businesses currently authorized to sell restricted firearms (including handguns) will also continue to be authorized to import and sell handguns to law enforcement and other authorized businesses (e.g. security companies, film and television), as well as the aforementioned groups of individuals. Finally, domestic manufacturers will continue to be able to produce and export handguns.
The amendments also contain a transitional provision that permits CFOs to authorize the transfer of a handgun for requests that were submitted prior to the day these regulations come into force.
Extensive public engagement on the issue of banning handguns and assault-style firearms, led by then Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, took place between October 2018 and February 2019 with the provinces and territories, municipalities, Indigenous groups, law enforcement, community organizations, and industry. The intent of this engagement was to hear from a wide range of stakeholders, which included those both in support of and in opposition to limiting access to firearms. The engagement process included a series of eight in-person roundtables, an online questionnaire, a written submission process, and bilateral meetings with a range of stakeholders. The roundtables were held in four cities across the country (Vancouver, Montréal, Toronto and Moncton), and 77 stakeholders participated in these sessions. In addition, 134 917 online questionnaires were received, as well as 36 written submissions, and 92 stakeholders were consulted in the bilateral meetings.
Many participants expressed their views that a ban on handguns was needed in order to protect public safety. Other participants expressed more mixed opinions, and others still were strongly opposed to limiting access as they believed it would not address handgun crime or keep handguns away from criminals while putting undue pressure on responsible handgun owners.
Public positions of stakeholders remain aligned with these views. Some stakeholders continue to advocate for a national ban on handguns, while others are strongly opposed to any measures that would further control firearms, including handguns. After considering the perspectives from each side, the Government determined that limiting the ability to acquire handguns was the preferred way forward to ensure public safety.
In light of the exceptional circumstances, including potential safety risks should amendments not be made expeditiously to implement the national freeze on handguns, an exemption was granted from the regulatory policy requirement to officially publish draft amendments in the Canada Gazette, Part I. Although exempted from prepublication, as noted above, previous consultations were undertaken on the issue of banning handguns between October 2018 and February 2019.
Pursuant to requirements of the Firearms Act, the amendments were tabled on May 30, 2022, in both the House of Commons and the Senate and referred to the appropriate committees. No comments were received. A transitional provision was added following tabling to enable the processing of transfer requests that were properly submitted prior to, but not processed by, the coming-into-force date of the amendments. The transitional provision aligns with the intent of the proposed legislative amendments contained in Bill C-21.
Modern treaty obligations and Indigenous engagement and consultation
In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Federal Approach to Modern Treaty Implementation, a preliminary assessment has been conducted for this proposal and there do not appear to be any implications on Canada’s modern treaty obligations. There are no anticipated impacts on Indigenous firearms license holders as a result of this change.
Given that the Regulations, which are proposed for amendments, specify the conditions to which individuals who are acquiring or importing a handgun in Canada have to adhere, amendments to the Regulations are required to make alterations to these rules. No non-regulatory options were considered.
Benefits and costs
Public Safety Canada officials conducted a preliminary consideration of the costs and benefits to examine the potential socio-economic impact of the proposed amendments. This analysis assumes that the impacts associated with these amendments are only in effect prior to the coming into force of permanent legislation. An analysis of the available data follows.
In 2020, there were approximately 1.1 million registered handguns in Canada, with one million registered to individuals. This represents a 74% increase since 2010, an annual increase of 4.7%. An estimated average of 48 000 handguns were registered annually to individuals between 2010 and 2020. While the retail price of a handgun in Canada is impacted by a number of factors including where it is purchased and the make and model, the average cost of a handgun in Canada is estimated to be $750–$1,000.
Both industry and government track the current status of the economic market for firearms. According to the most recently available information (2020), Statistics Canada reported that firearms exportation was valued at $2,379,037. A 2019 Conference Board of Canada study determined that the sports shooting industry contributes $1.8 billion to Canada’s economy, $868 million in labour income, and supports approximately 14 500 jobs.
Small businesses make up the majority of the 4 500 licensed firearms businesses in Canada. The Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association 2018 business survey found that 76% of sports arms businesses currently sell handguns. Of these, 18% noted that handgun sales represent 30%–40% of their annual firearm sales, while 39% noted it made up 10%–20% of firearm sales. According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s (RCMP) Canadian Firearms Program, in 2021 there were 699 businesses in Canada that were licensed to sell restricted firearms (of which handguns make up the majority under this classification).
Taken together, the above data suggests that the amendments will have an economic impact. However, they will be transitory in nature and limited in scope:
Baseline scenario: Under the baseline scenario transfers of handguns would legally continue until the national handgun freeze proposed in Bill C-21 would come into force. On August 19, 2022, the Government published the Notice to Importers No. 1090 - Temporary requirements for importing restricted handguns into Canada until the coming into force of the proposed amendments to the Firearms Act under Bill C-21. As a result of the notice, all shipments of handguns now require a valid import permit issued by the Minister of Foreign Affairs to enter Canada. This measure is intended to reduce the number of handguns entering the country until such time as the national handgun freeze comes into force. Presently, the majority of remaining handgun transfers are those that are taking place between entities (individuals and businesses) in the domestic market. As a result of the temporary importation ban, limited numbers of new handguns would be imported into the Canadian market even in the absence of these amendments. Further, the recent increase in registration of handgun firearms is an indication that domestic stock of handguns in retail stores has diminished significantly. However in the baseline scenario it would be expected that transfers of handguns would continue domestically until the coming into force of the legislation.
Regulatory scenario: The amendments will limit the transfer of handguns in Canada to certain exempted individuals. To the extent that some handgun stock remains in retail stores prior to the coming into force of these amendments, a degree of lower sales and profits (producer surplus) to restricted arms retailers and manufacturers who produce for the domestic market may occur. The value of this loss can be approximated by the loss in sales that these amendments will cause.
The introduction of Bill C-21 on May 30, 2022, and its proposed restrictions on the importation and transfer of handguns, have caused an increase in the number of requests to transfer handguns that is in excess of the capacity of officials with the Canadian Firearms Program (CFP) to process within their normal timelines. As a result, the CFP is experiencing significant delays in processing times and has many requests that are awaiting a decision. The amendments will provide provisions to allow transfer requests received prior to the coming-into-force date to continue to be processed, limiting the impact on these individuals.
The economic impact of the amendments may also be partially mitigated by the exemptions built into these amendments and the proposed legislative regime. Businesses that are currently licensed to sell restricted firearms would still be permitted to sell their existing stock of handguns, as well as import and transfer new stock for sale, to law enforcement and other authorized businesses (e.g. security companies, film and television). They would also be permitted to continue selling to authorized individuals (i.e. elite-level sport shooters; roughly 8 000 individuals, and individuals who hold an ATC for protection or as part of their lawful profession; roughly 6 000 individuals). Finally, domestic handgun manufacturers would also be permitted to continue to produce and export handguns.
To the extent that some stock of handguns are still available in Canadian retail stores, these regulations will prevent their transfer to anyone but a small number of exempted individuals. It will also prevent the transfer of handguns among individuals (e.g. private sales, gifting). Qualitatively, evidence in industrialized countries supports that the increased availability of firearms is associated with an increase in firearm injuries. In 2020, handguns were used in approximately 54% of firearms-related violent crime in Canada, including gang homicides. Handgun ownership is disproportionately represented in urban areas, and handgun use in firearms crime in urban areas is similarly distributed (i.e. roughly 70% of firearms-related violent crime in urban areas were committed with a handgun). Of note, handguns were also used in 23% of firearm-related violent crimes in rural areas, suggesting that restricting acquisition of handguns in these areas should also have a positive impact.
Indirect long-term impacts of more expeditiously implementing a national handgun freeze may also be expected. Studies of intimate partner violence (IPV), including intimate partner homicides, indicate that the possession of a firearm is a risk factor, as they can be used to threaten, intimidate and injure victims. Furthermore, firearms-related IPV is five times more likely to be lethal than types of IPV not involving a firearm. Mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety can contribute to unsafe use of firearms, particularly firearms-related suicide. Alcohol use has also been demonstrated to increase the likelihood that individuals would misuse firearms with harmful results. Limiting the availability of handguns may decrease these incidents. Additionally, public mass shootings in Canada using handguns have been used to deadly effect, for example in Québec City and Nova Scotia, and handguns are also used in intimate partner violence within private settings (e.g. domestic settings).
Small business lens
Businesses, including small businesses are not expected to incur any administrative costs as a result of these amendments. There will be no change to the requirements and processes for businesses to follow when transferring handguns to a now smaller pool of eligible individuals. Nevertheless, small businesses that sell handguns will experience a net loss of sales, as discussed above, that would not have occurred without these amendments. As indicated, this could represent up to 40% of sales for some businesses. However, due to recent temporary import ban and under the assumption that current available stocks of handguns available in small retail businesses are low, these impacts will be low. Some of these sale losses may be compensated by consumers substituting purchases of restricted with non-restricted firearms.
The amendments will, however, give small businesses the flexibility to continue to sell handguns to exempted individuals, law enforcement and other authorized businesses (e.g. security companies, film and television). Small businesses will also be allowed to export these firearms, and if possible, return stock to manufacturers. This will limit the negative impact to small businesses.
In terms of flexibility for compliance with the amendments, no additional measures were considered appropriate. The amendments intend to reduce, with as little delay as possible, the acquisition of additional handguns in Canada. Any additional flexibility for businesses or small businesses would jeopardize this goal.
The one-for-one rule does not apply since the proposed amendments would not result in an incremental increase in administrative burden on businesses as it would narrow the eligibility for individuals to acquire handguns. The amendments would not create any new administrative requirements for businesses to follow when transferring handguns to a now smaller pool of eligible individuals.
Regulatory cooperation and alignment
The amendments relate to restricting the acquisition and importation of handguns to certain individuals within Canada. This is a modification of the existing approach to firearms regulation in Canada and not an amendment to existing international agreements or obligations.
Strategic environmental assessment
In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals, a Preliminary Scan was conducted for the proposed firearms legislation. The Preliminary Scan indicated that the proposal is unlikely to result in important environmental effects. While no formal strategic environmental assessment was conducted for the amendments proposal, there are no anticipated environmental impacts resulting from the amendments as handgun owners will be allowed to continue to possess their existing handguns.
Gender-based analysis plus
A gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) was conducted to support development of the legislative and regulatory amendments to the Firearms Act proposed in the firearms legislation. The Firearms Act applies equally to all Canadians. However, the vast majority of registered handguns owners (96%) in Canada are men. As such, any regulatory burden that the amendments may impose on individuals is likely to predominantly impact men.
Registered handgun ownership saw an overall increase of 71% between 2010 and 2020, with the highest rates of ownership being in Ontario (36%), Alberta (19%), British Columbia (18%) and Quebec (10%; as of May 11, 2020). The distribution of these firearms over rural and urban areas differs regionally. In 2018, nearly twice as many registered handguns were registered in urban areas, with approximately 70% of handguns possessed by individuals registered in urban areas. Rural per capita ownership, however, was higher than urban per capita ownership (4 500 per 100 000 vs. 2 500 per 100 000). Provincially, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Alberta, and Newfoundland and Labrador’s urban-rural registration rates were closer to equal. Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and British Columbia’s urban registration rates were higher at 80%. Imposing further restrictions on the acquisition of handguns would disproportionately affect regions with the highest amount of registered handguns.
Nationally in 2020, successfully traced handguns used in crime were predominantly foreign-sourced (72%). However, interprovincial differences in sourcing location were also demonstrated. For several provinces, to varying degrees, successfully traced crime handguns were primarily from foreign sources. In contrast, the foreign-domestic distribution of successfully traced handguns in other provinces was closer to equal. This demonstrates a need to further regulate the existing market and restrict the ability for handguns to be obtainable in Canada.
Implementation, compliance and enforcement, and service standards
In conjunction with Public Safety Canada, the RCMP will communicate the coming into force of the regulatory amendments to the public via the CFP website. Information will also be made available via telephone through the CFP Contact Center. Furthermore, the RCMP will use communication products (e.g. proactive emails to licensees to raise awareness) to help firearms licence holders and businesses understand the regulatory change. The CFP website will also provide guidance to all licensees (individuals and businesses) to support the transition. Contact information will be included in the communication materials, should individuals or businesses require additional support.
At coming into force, it is expected that most individuals will comply with the amendments and will not attempt to acquire handguns. The requirements for acquiring a registration certificate for a restricted firearm, including handguns, will remain unchanged. Individuals who are not authorized to acquire a handgun but nonetheless apply to the Chief Firearms Office for an Authorization to Transport will not be granted authorization.
Current owners can continue to possess and use their handguns. Businesses that are currently licensed to sell restricted firearms, including handguns, can continue to import and sell to law enforcement and other authorized businesses (e.g. security companies, film and television). Domestic manufacturers can continue to produce and export handguns.
The Regulations come into force on the day they are registered. Those individuals who acquire handguns without the proper authorization could be subject to offences under the Firearms Act and criminal liability under the Criminal Code.
Requests for transfers made before the coming into force of these amendments will be processed under the regulations as they existed when the requests were submitted.
Firearms Policy Division