What firearms are being prohibited, and how did the government make the changes?
Through an Order in Council (Cabinet decision), Criminal Code regulations (SOR/98-462) have been amended to prohibit approximately 1,500 models of firearms, including nine principle models and known variants of those models that have been deemed by the federal government as ‘assault-style firearms’. This has resulted in a list of firearms. All current and future variants of these listed firearms are prohibited whether listed or not. The amendments also include two new categories of firearms characterized by the following physical attributes: 1) a 20 mm bore or greater; and, 2) the capacity to discharge a projectile with a muzzle energy greater than 10,000 joules. The firearms in these two new categories aren’t listed in the amended regulations (see next question for more details). Although the total number of firearms and owners affected is unknown, it does include about 105,000 restricted firearms.
For more details on the amended regulations (SOR/2020-96) and the available list of newly prohibited firearms, click here.
If my gun isn’t on the ‘list’, how do I know if it is included in one of the two new prohibited categories?
Normally, the quickest way for you to directly check would be through the RCMP’s Firearms Reference Table (FRT). The public FRT is available, but it is not clear if all newly prohibited firearms have been updated yet. We have been assured by Public Safety Canada that the list will be updated as quickly as possible. If you are unsure about whether your firearm is now prohibited, you should check with an authoritative source before using, transporting or attempting to sell the firearm. Contact the Saskatchewan Chief Firearms Officer (CFO). The CFO will be under significant demand following the prohibition announcements, as well constraints because of COVID-19, so expect delays in getting a response.
Are 10-gauge and 12-gauge shotguns included in the 20mm+ bore prohibition?
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Bill Blair, clarified that 10- and 12-gauge shotguns (even those with a removable choke) are not captured in the new bore diameter prohibitions. Although this has been confirmed by the Canadian Firearms Program of the RCMP (see bore measurement question below), there remain questions and concerns on how some specific models, older firearms, bore thinning, back boring (the practice of opening full choke shotguns to shoot steel shot shells)and other considerations could affect the classification of some 10 gauge and 12 gauge shotguns.
Can you clarify what the standard is for bore measurement on my shotgun?
The RCMP’s Canadian Firearms Program has released the following clarification on the 10 and 12 gauge classification:
“The Canadian Firearms Program (CFP) of the RCMP adheres to the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners’ (AFTE) definition for bore diameter measurements. “The interior dimensions of the barrel forward of the chamber but before the choke.” (Glossary of the Association of Firearm & Tool Mark Examiners by the AFTE Standardization Committee, 1st Ed. 1980). This is reflected in the RCMP’s Firearms Reference Table (FRT) which clearly states that “…in shotguns, diameter of the barrel forward of the chamber but before the choke.” The CFP also recognizes the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI) standards regarding firearms and ammunition. The SAAMI chamber specifications for 10ga and 12ga shotguns do not include chokes therefore indicating that chokes are not part of the bore. Accordingly, it is the CFP’s view that, in accordance with acceptable firearms industry standards for shotguns, the bore diameter measurement is considered to be at a point after the chamber, but before the choke.
Further, in making classification assessments of firearms which are reflected in the FRT, the CFP relies on recognized industry standard measurements. With respect to 10ga and 12ga shotguns, the CFP recognizes the SAAMI standard specifications which establish that the nominal (i.e. standard) bore diameter measurements for 10ga and 12ga shotguns are below the 20mm threshold (19.69mm for 10ga, 18.42mm for 12ga).”
Can you clear up some of the misconceptions about what the government is actually trying to do?
Even among firearms owners there are questions about what type of firearms the government is trying to ban. The government’s stated intent is to ban what they’ve deemed ‘military-style assault firearms’. There is no definition of ‘assault style firearms‘ in Canada, and most of the firearms captured under the federal government’s ban are modern sporting firearms with a semi-automatic action. Fully automatic firearms have been banned in Canada since 1977. The calibre, magazine capacity, and many other features of these now banned firearms often resemble non-restricted firearms used by SWF members during hunting or shooting activities.
How were newly prohibited firearms selected?
The government has stated that “firearms were chosen through the following principles: 1) semi-automatic action with sustained rapid-fire capability (tactical/military design with large magazine capacity); 2) modern design; and, 3) are present in large volumes in the Canadian market.” These are relatively broad categories with unclear specific rationale, and seemingly inappropriate ‘criteria’ that are intended to capture characteristics already restricted in Canada. As a result, the SWF is asking the government for further clarification on the rationale used. There needs to be a more clear, transparent, and evidence-based firearms classification system to justify prohibitions.
Why is the government prohibiting firearms based on bore diameter and muzzle energy maximums?
The government has concluded that “the potential power of these firearms exceeds any safe civilian use”. The government has cited ‘grenade launchers’ as an example of what the bore diameter maximums are intended to prohibit, and ‘rifles chambered for .50 BMG’ for what the 10,000 joules muzzle energy maximum is intended to prohibit. There is no list of firearms for this, so the SWF is looking into what firearms (e.g. .460 Weatherby Magnum) fall under theses categories to identify concerns with the new prohibition thresholds.
How can the SWF support or be an advocate for these firearms?
This isn’t about a single firearm or type of firearms. This is about advocating for sound, evidence-based, and transparent firearms policy development. This is particularly important for firearms classification.
How can the SWF oppose the federal government’s decision to ban these firearms?
Hunters and recreational shooters want to see a reduction in criminal activity, gang-related violence and violence associated with firearms as much as other Canadians. The SWF has publicly stated this on many occasions. We are opposed to the way the government is attempting to prevent criminal activity and address public safety concerns by targeting law-abiding firearms owners.
Shouldn’t the priority with firearms legislation be focused on public safety?
Absolutely. Public safety has always been a priority of the SWF and the firearms community. The SWF continues to be a strong leader and champion for responsible firearm use and hunter education and firearms safety training. The most significant and meaningful enhancements to public safety will be achieved through government investment and action on illegal firearm use and the root causes of gun violence, not by taking firearms away from law-abiding citizens.
Where should resources intended to enhance public safety be focused, instead?
Government needs to tackle the root causes of gun violence and criminal activity by allocating resources and developing policies that assist police services and the justice system (i.e. ensure full prosecution and stiffer penalties for violent firearm offenses) in addressing the many gaps related to criminal use of firearms that plague our society. Government also needs to invest in the social issues that are determinants of violence and organized crime. The SWF will continue to push hard for governments to allocate resources appropriately to prevent gun violence and enhance public safety.
What will happen if these much-needed resources aren’t properly focused?
- Illegal firearms and criminal activity will continue; 2. we will fail to actually keep the public safe from illegal firearms, and; 3. the firearms community will continue to bear the brunt of policy action as society looks for quick fixes for complex issues that are not solved by taking firearms away from law-abiding firearms owners. We have seen the firearms community be scapegoated several times over the years with the long gun registry and other gun control measures. This erosion of our interests will not lead to the firearms future we want or the increased public safety we need.
Will grandfathering be considered for existing owners of prohibited firearms?
The Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement in the Canada Gazette states that “An option to participate in a grandfathering regime would also be made available for affected owners. Further public communications on the buy-back program and the grandfathering regime will follow later.” The SWF has clarified with government that grandfathering is still being considered as an option for currently owned firearms that are now prohibited. A grandfathering option for prohibited firearms would need to go through Parliament. It is expected that buyback and/or grandfathering programs for the newly prohibited firearms would need to occur before the two-year amnesty period ends, meaning that the introduction of a Bill to deal with this would occur in the very near future. The most important thing is for the firearms classification system to be standardized, evidence-based, transparent, and clear. A system that makes sense will prevent the need to even talk about grandfathering, but given the clear track the government is on, it is also important to maintain all possible options to protect the lawfully purchased property interests of firearms owners.
The government has said they will be offering ‘fair compensation’ as part of a buy-back program with the banned firearms. What is the opposition to that?
The government intends to implement a buy-back program during the amnesty period “to compensate affected owners for the value of their firearms after they are delivered to a police officer”. If mandatory (no grandfathering), then it not only means that firearms will be taken away from law-abiding citizens, but also create a false sense of security, and siphon critical taxpayer-funded resources away from actions that could significantly enhance public safety.
Why should hunters and the SWF care about a ban on these newly prohibited firearms?
Hunting and non-hunting firearms are often lumped together in uninformed policy discussions because of similar characteristics. Although many of the recently banned firearms aren’t used for hunting because they were already classified as restricted in Canada, there were some non-restricted firearms included on the list that have been used by hunters. In addition, gun control advocates often oppose firearms capable of ‘one shot per trigger pull without manual rechambering‘, which describes all semi-automatic hunting rifles and shotguns.
Will this realistically have an impact on my hunting firearms?
There are firearms used for hunting that are now prohibited (e.g. .460 Weatherby Magnum) and questions remain about how some 10 gauge and 12 gauge shotguns may be included in the prohibitions (see explanation about 10 gauge and 12 gauge shotguns above). Additionally, opposition to semi-automatic firearms has led to the banning of popular hunting firearms in other jurisdictions. Some .223 calibers (previously legal in Saskatchewan) are now prohibited. For example, some .223 calibers (refer back to RCMP’s Firearms Reference Table ) which were previously classified as a legal firearm in Saskatchewan and a preferred firearm of the predator hunting community, are now on the prohibited list.
Vigilance and public education remain very important to prevent unnecessary gun control measures.
If the government has stated they are not prohibiting firearms used for hunting, then why are hunting firearms included?
The SWF continues to seek clarity on this. The government maintains that the newly prohibited firearms “are not reasonable for hunting or sporting purposes”. The explanation for why some non-restricted (previously) hunting firearms are now prohibited is that the government has based prohibitions on what the firearms were ‘designed’ to be used for, as opposed to what they may be actually used for. This is a relatively subjective criteria that the SWF will be scrutinizing further and included in our advocacy for a standardized, evidence-based, transparent and clear firearms classification system that makes sense.
When do the changes come into effect, and what is the amnesty period?
The regulations and Amnesty Order came into effect immediately. The government’s stated intention of the amnesty is to “protect individuals, who were in lawful possession of one or more of the newly prohibited firearms… on the day the Regulations came into force, from criminal liability for unlawful possession for the purpose of allowing individuals to come into compliance with the law.” The Amnesty Order expires on April 30, 2022.
What can I do with my firearms during the amnesty period?
The government has outlined the following rules and recommendations for the newly prohibited firearms:
- may not be used for hunting or sport shooting, either at a range or elsewhere, unless provided in the amnesty.
- Prohibited firearms may not be bought, sold, lent, or imported.
- They may not be transported, unless provided in the amnesty.
- They must be stored in accordance with the storage regulations for the firearm class prior to prohibition.
- Lawful owners may export a prohibited firearm if they have proper export authorizations.
- Lawful owners may contact police of jurisdiction to arrange disposal without compensation
- Owners must not bring the firearm to a police station unless they have made an appointment to surrender it.
Why has SWF not been more involved in this conversation before now?
The SWF has been actively involved in this conversation since 1964, and have worked with the Recreational Firearms Community (RFC) since 1996. We have been engaged in political meetings, government standing committee hearings, policy submissions, public communications and dialogue with our membership in an effort to bring together hunting groups from across the country to advocate for firearms under the banner of the National Fishing and Hunting Collaborative.
We have also recently formed partnerships with the Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights. Canadian Sporting Arms & Ammunition Association.
Why is the SWF involved in these discussions?
The SWF gets involved in all firearms policy discussions because it is often difficult to completely separate the firearms used in one activity from another. This is because of similarities in some characteristics, as well as a lack of understanding by the public and many decision makers. We want to make sure that all conversations about firearms policy are evidence-based. Emotionally- or politically-driven decisions on classification of one ‘type’ of firearm can have a ripple effect on all policy discussions and public perception of firearms in general. Many SWF members and clubs are actively engaged in shooting sports that use firearms directly involved in these discussions.
Why would you support weak firearms laws?
The SWF is not seeking weaker gun laws; we are asking for the government and others to stop pretending that we don’t have strict firearms laws in Canada. The government is purposely misleading people to believe that our existing laws are responsible for the public safety issues they are trying to solve.
Why do you advocate being more like the United States when it comes to firearms laws?
There are many misconceptions, even among licensed firearms owners, about the laws governing ownership and use of restricted firearms in Canada. The terminology (i.e. military-style assault rifles) and misinformation that has been perpetuated by government, media and gun control advocates causes many people to support stricter gun laws under the false pretense that it will address things that are already restricted or even prohibited in Canada. Canada has strict firearms laws, which far exceed restrictions in the United States. Automatic firearms are already prohibited. Concealed carry is already illegal. Magazine capacity is already restricted. Barrel length is already restricted. Transportation of restricted firearms is closely regulated (with authorization and locked). Restricted firearms can only be fired at a Chief Firearms Officer (CFO) approved range.
Why is there an exemption for Indigenous hunters?
“The Amnesty Order permits the use of any of the newly prohibited firearms, if previously non-restricted, to hunt for the purposes of sustenance or to exercise a right recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution.” The exemption is intended to be temporary to allow for continued use by Indigenous hunters during the amnesty period ‘until a suitable replacement can be obtained’. This suggests that firearms on the list are used for hunting, despite the government’s unwavering messages that the newly prohibited firearms are not “reasonable for use in Canada for hunting or sporting purposes,” and the regulations are intended to “address gun violence and the threat to public safety by assault-style firearms“. The government has indicated the apparent discrepancy is related to the fact that these firearms are being used by Indigenous hunters in Canada even if they are not ‘designed’ to be used for hunting in Canada (see question above for more details about the government’s rationale for including hunting firearms). Therefore, a prohibition on use would impact their S. 35 Constitutional harvesting rights and why they have granted an intendedtemporary exception.
What can I do?
You can start by having respectful and constructive dialogue on social media, inside and outside of the firearms community, that helps eliminate unproductive infighting among firearms owners and presents a positive image of the firearms community to all Canadians. You should also consider writing your local MP with your concerns; signing petitions(here and here) that challenge the prohibitions and the way they were enacted.