While Canada does not have the same ‘gun-loving’ reputation the United States might have, we certainly don’t shy away from guns. Nearly 6% of Canadians are gun owners, collectively owning between 10 and 20 million firearms. With the most common reasons for gun ownership being hunting and recreational shooting. With this comes the need to know how to legally store and transport firearms.
In an attempt to manage this volume of firearms, the government has enacted stringent and complex laws for gun ownership. Although the regulations vary between provinces, they all adhere to the federal Firearms Act.
The Firearms Act
In 1995, the Firearms Act was introduced, replacing the Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC) with a more legitimate licencing process. It sets the licensing regulations for applications, revocations, and appeals. The Act forms the basis of most firearms offences in the Criminal Code.
In addition to licensing, the Firearms Act details regulations for provincial firearms officers and gun owners as well. These include aspects like firearm storage and transportation.
How To Legally Store Firearms In Ontario
Properly storing and transporting firearms is treated seriously. The firearms offence of careless storage and handling can result in up to 2 years imprisonment in Ontario. How to properly store a firearm depends on its designation. There are different regulations for restricted and non-restricted firearms.
Storing Non-Restricted Guns
For both restricted and non-restricted firearms, the regulations largely focus around the firearm not being readily usable and minimizing the risk of theft. As well, the owner must have the proper documentation available. SOR/98-209 outlines that individuals can only store non-restricted firearms if:
- It is unloaded
- It is:
- Rendered inoperable by means of a secure locking device,
Examples of locking devices, source: RCMP
- Rendered inoperable by the removal of the bolt or bolt-carrier, or
- Stored in a container, receptacle or room that is kept securely locked and that is constructed so that it cannot readily be broken open or into; and
- It is not readily accessible to ammunition, unless the ammunition is stored, together with or separately from the firearm, in a container or receptacle that is kept securely locked and that is constructed so that it cannot be readily broken open or into.
There are some exceptions to these rules. For instance, where an individual temporarily stores a firearm for the purpose of controlling predators, the second section may not apply depending on the municipal bylaws.
Storing Restricted Firearms
Storing restricted firearms and transporting them has similar but stricter regulations. Restricted firearms require an additional registration certificate and failing to register is a criminal offence. These are firearms that have the potential to have greater public risk.
Where non-restricted firearms include ordinary rifles and shotguns, restricted firearms include:
- Handguns that are not prohibited;
- Semi-automatic, centre-fire rifles and shotguns with a barrel shorter than 470 mm;
- Rifles and shotguns that can be fired when their overall length has been reduced by folding, telescoping or other means to less than 660 mm; and
- Firearms restricted by Criminal Code regulations
An individual can only store a restricted firearm if:
- It is unloaded
- It is either:
- Rendered inoperable by means of a secure locking device and stored in a container, receptacle or room that is kept securely locked and that is constructed so that it cannot readily be broken open or into, or
- Stored in a vault, safe or room that has been specifically constructed or modified for the secure storage of restricted firearms and that is kept securely locked; and
- It’s not readily accessible to ammunition, unless the ammunition is stored, together with or separately from the firearm, in either
- A container or receptacle that is kept securely locked and that is constructed so that it cannot readily be broken open or into, or
- A vault, safe or room that has been specifically constructed or modified for the secure storage of restricted firearms and that is kept securely locked.
Legal Transportation Of Firearms In Ontario
As with storing, the legal transportation of firearms is not as simple as just unloading the weapon. Although you do not require a federal permit to transport a non-restricted firearm, you must follow safe transportation as outlined in the Firearms Act, as well as municipal regulations.
Familiarize yourself with municipal and provincial regulations. In some provinces, you cannot transport a firearm out of your residence unless you are going hunting or to a gun club. Options like concealed carry are almost impossible for the majority of citizens to get.
Transporting Non-Restricted Firearms
The regulations for transporting non-restricted firearms depends on the type of weapon and the reason for transportation.
Generally, the firearm needs to be unloaded for transport. However, a muzzle-loading firearm does not need to be unloaded during transport between hunting sites. However, it does require that the firing cap or flint is removed during transportation.
If the firearm is left in an unattended vehicle there are additional restrictions. In this case, they can only transport the firearm if:
- When the vehicle is equipped with a trunk or similar compartment that can be securely locked, the non-restricted firearm is in that trunk or compartment and the trunk or compartment is securely locked; and
- When the vehicle is not equipped with a trunk or similar compartment that can be securely locked, the non-restricted firearm is not visible from outside the vehicle and the vehicle, or the part that contains the non-restricted firearm, is securely locked.
Transporting Restricted Firearms
For restricted firearms, you must get an Authorization to Transport (ATT) permit. To receive this permit, you need to apply through the RCMP with “good and sufficient reason.” Acceptable reasons are not clearly outlined and you may not receive a reason if denied.
Transporting restricted guns comes with more strict regulation. You can only transport them if:
- It’s unloaded;
- It’s rendered inoperable by means of a secure locking device;
- It’s in a locked container that is made of an opaque material and is of such strength, construction and nature that it cannot readily be broken open or into or accidentally opened during transportation; and
- If it is in a container described in paragraph (c) that is in an unattended vehicle,
- When the vehicle is equipped with a trunk or similar compartment that can be securely locked, the container is in that trunk or compartment and the trunk or compartment is securely locked, and
- When the vehicle is not equipped with a trunk or similar compartment that can be securely locked, the vehicle, or the part of the vehicle that contains the container, is securely locked and the container is not visible from outside the vehicle.
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