Gun Control Legislation in Canada


In Canada, gun control is implemented most directly in legislation.

The first type of legislation discussed on this site is not, in fact, firearms specific. Constitutional law has been described as “law for the lawmakers”. It is the supreme law of the land. Ordinary legislation, whether federal or provincial, that does not comply with the Constitution is of no force and effect. Similarly, state action (police conduct, for example) that contravenes the Constitution is subject to a wide range of sanctions.

The constitutional instrument which most concerns ordinary citizens is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It restricts the power of government and police and recognizes many of our key fundamental freedoms.

Canadian firearm owners are tightly regulated by a combination of legislation, regulation and government policy. In Canada, the regulation of firearms falls under the “criminal law” power, which the Constitution Act, 1867 grants exclusively to the federal government.

Accordingly, the great majority of legislation which regulates firearms is promulgated by the federal Parliament. There are exceptions, of course, such as municipal firearm discharge by-laws and provincial hunting legislation.

The backbone of firearms regulation is the Firearms Act. This legislation was passed in 1995 and was the centrepiece of Bill C-68. It created the scheme for safety tests and licensing as well as enacting numerous additional classes of prohibited firearms.

However, the majority of the modern firearms regulation framework is implemented in the Criminal Code of Canada. The significance of this is two-fold.

First, firearms offences, even purely administrative issues, such as safe storage or registration, are considered “criminal offences” and are approached accordingly by the authorities. Consequently, offenders of these provisions are dragged into the criminal law arena. The hunter who forgot to trigger lock his duck gun treated no differently than the urban gangster with a pistol shoved in his waistband.

The answer to the question – “why would a law-abiding gun owner like me ever need the services of a criminal lawyer? – should by now have become self-evident.

Finally, this site discusses the Explosives Act. On its face, this legislation seems to have little bearing on firearms owners.

However, as Natural Resources Canada puts it:

The Explosives Act covers much more than just dynamite. It covers propellant powder for ammunition and the ammunition itself…

The Act regulates ammunition cartridges, primers, gunpowder and blackpowder. It also mandates storage and assembly of ammunition components.

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