Vol. 148, No. 14 — April 5, 2014

Regulations Amending the Firearms Licences 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 or the Order.)

Issues

The Regulations Amending the Firearms Licences Regulations (i.e. the Possession Only Licence renewal measure) and the Order Declaring an Amnesty Period (2006) both expire on May 16, 2014. The proposed amendments would extend these two firearms compliance measures until May 16, 2015, which would, collectively, help to maintain and increase compliance with federal firearms legislation. Not extending these measures may deter some firearms owners from complying with federal firearms legislation, thereby undermining public safety.

Background

The proposed amendments to the Firearms Licences Regulations and the Order Declaring an Amnesty Period (2006) would renew measures intended to maintain and increase compliance with the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code.

The purpose of firearms licensing is to ensure, in the interest of public safety, that individuals are properly trained and screened to possess firearms. Licences are valid for five years and specify the privileges to possess and/or acquire a specific class of firearm (i.e. non-restricted, restricted, prohibited). To remain lawfully entitled to possess firearms, individuals must renew a licence prior to its expiry.

For adults, there are two types of licences:

As of November 30, 2013, there were 1.9 million valid firearms licences (1.3 million PALs, 600 000 POLs).

On May 17, 2006, the Government introduced a two-year licence renewal fee waiver, so that individuals applying to renew or upgrade their firearms licences (e.g. from non-restricted to restricted) were not charged any fees. (see footnote 1) Also in 2006, a one-year Amnesty Order was introduced. (see footnote 2) The effect of the amnesty was that non-restricted firearms owners who did not meet registration or licensing requirements, and who were taking steps to comply with these requirements, were protected from criminal liability.

On May 10, 2007, the Amnesty Order was extended until May 16, 2008. (see footnote 3)

On May 8, 2008, the Government

Prior to the introduction of the POL renewal measure, firearms owners could only renew their POLs if these had not expired. Otherwise, to legally retain their firearms, they were required to pay for and complete the CFSC as a prerequisite to obtaining a PAL. (see footnote 5) This POL renewal measure was set to expire on May 17, 2009.

On May 7, 2009, the three compliance measures were extended until May 16, 2010, (see footnote 6) and on May 13, 2010, the compliance measures were extended until May 16, 2011. (see footnote 7)

On March 25, 2011, the POL renewal measure and the Amnesty Order were extended for two years, until May 16, 2013, (see footnote 8) while on May 16, 2011, the licence fee waiver was extended only one year, until May 16, 2012. (see footnote 9)

On May 11, 2012, the fee waiver for firearms licences, regardless of the associated privileges, was extended to September 17, 2012; the fee waiver for licences with non-restricted privileges only was extended to May 2013. (see footnote 10) The fee waiver in its entirety was not extended and has expired.

Since the POL renewal measure and the Amnesty Order have been in effect, the licence compliance rates of individuals whose licence is scheduled to expire, who continue to possess at least one firearm and who take steps to renew their licence have increased from 82% in 2006 to 86% in 2012. While it is not possible to establish a causal relationship, the compliance measures have been regarded as relieving in nature and help to maintain favourable conditions for compliance with the Firearms Act.

POL holders are mostly experienced firearms owners who are over 50 years old and who often live in rural or remote regions. Having these individuals pay for and complete the firearms safety training course to obtain a firearms licence has been described by firearms owners and advocates as a disincentive to compliance. Firearms owners who are currently not in compliance with federal firearms legislation are unlikely to return to compliance without steps being taken to encourage their doing so. In 2008, there were approximately 197 000 individuals with expired POLs. Between May 2008, when the POL licence renewal measure was introduced, and December 31, 2013, over 61 000 individuals took advantage of the opportunity to come back into compliance with the Firearms Act by applying for a new POL.

With the coming into force of former Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (“Ending the Long-gun Registry Act”), on April 5, 2012, the requirement to register non-restricted firearms and the associated penalties for failing to do so have been repealed. As a result of the stay granted by the Supreme Court of Canada in Attorney General of Quebec v. Attorney General of Canada, et al., Canada must continue to register non-restricted firearms in Quebec until the case is decided.

Objectives

The POL renewal measure, together with the Amnesty Order protecting individuals who are taking steps to comply with federal firearms legislation, is relieving in nature and helping to maintain favourable conditions to encourage compliance with the licensing and registration requirements of the Firearms Act.

The proposal is consistent with the main objective of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Canadian Firearms Program (CFP), which is to enhance public safety. This is achieved, in part, by maximizing the number of firearms owners who comply with the licensing and registration requirements set out in the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code. Such individuals are subject to Continuous Eligibility Screening as a condition of possessing a firearms licence.

Continuous Eligibility Screening recognizes that an individual’s circumstances, including the appropriateness of ongoing firearms possession, change over time. Such screening ensures that certain interactions with law enforcement on the part of firearms owners who are complying with the legal requirements for licensing or registration are brought to the attention of chief firearms officers, if they are recorded in the Canadian Police Information Centre. This allows the authorities to take appropriate action, as required, including revoking a licence and seizing a firearm. When firearms owners become non-compliant (i.e. do not renew a licence), they are no longer within the ambit of the CFP’s jurisdiction. As a result, the Privacy Act, among other legislation, prevents the RCMP from conducting further Continuous Eligibility Screening, thereby withdrawing a meaningful tool that enables the CFP to take pre-emptive measures in dealing with higher-risk firearms owners.

Description

The regulatory amendments and the Order would extend, for one year, until May 16, 2015,

“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

Previous consultations undertaken by the Government have focused on all three compliance measures (POL renewal, Amnesty Order and fee waiver). The following summarizes the comments received in previous consultations on compliance measures.

In 2007, a proposed Order Amending the Order Declaring an Amnesty Period (2006), which sought to extend the amnesty for one year, to 2008, was prepublished in Part I of the Canada Gazette to invite public commentary for 15 days, from April 7 to 21, 2007. This was the first prepublication of one of these compliance measures. During this period, 566 comments were received: 558 from individuals, 7 from organizations and one from the Attorney General of Ontario in correspondence with the Minister of Public Safety. There were 452 respondents that supported the proposal, 72 opposed it, and 42 did not take a position on the proposal itself but provided general comments. The Attorney General of Ontario commented primarily on Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (non-registration of firearms that are neither prohibited nor restricted), which he considered inconsistent with the purpose of the amnesty.

In 2008, the regulatory amendments were prepublished in Part I of the Canada Gazette for a 30-day comment period (March 1 to 31, 2008). During this period, 131 comments were received via email, fax, telephone message, and letters concerning the proposed implementation of the compliance measures. Almost all of the input on the three regulations came from individuals rather than organizations: 126 individuals, 4 organizations and one provincial government commented on the proposal. There were 103 respondents that supported the proposal, 9 opposed it, and 19 did not take a position. Some of the respondents indicated that they thought the initiatives were a positive compliance incentive. The majority of those in favour also noted there was a need to focus legislative measures to control firearms on criminals rather than law-abiding Canadians, while also expressing concern over the amount of money spent on the CFP.

The nine respondents (one province, four organizations and four individuals) that did not support the combined initiatives in 2008 expressed specific concern about the amnesty extension. The Attorney General of Ontario was of the opinion that repeated extensions to the amnesty would lead to a deterioration of the data available to police in the Canadian Firearms Information System. Other opponents felt that individuals had had sufficient time (since 1995) to familiarize themselves with the requirements of the law and expressed views critical of how the Government was handling the CFP. Those who self-identified as being licensed owners with registered firearms in compliance with the law were concerned that non-compliant individuals were being given too many opportunities to comply when information had been readily available for so long.

In 2009, the regulatory amendments were prepublished in Part I of the Canada Gazette to invite public comment for 30 days (March 28 to April 26, 2009). During this period, four comments were received, two from organizations and two from individuals. Of the respondents, two supported the proposed extension of the firearms compliance measures, while two opposed the extension of the amnesty. Those who supported the proposed regulations expressed their belief that these measures were part of the Government’s commitment to repeal the long-gun registry, while opponents expressed concern that the amnesty was reducing the effectiveness of the firearms registry and providing immunity to long-gun owners from complying with federal firearms legislation.

In 2010, regulatory amendments to extend the suite of measures to increase compliance were prepublished in Part I of the Canada Gazette to invite public comment for 15 days (March 20 to April 3, 2010). During this period, 15 comments were received from 12 individuals and 3 organizations, namely the Coalition for Gun Control, the National Council of Women of Canada and the Ad Hoc Coalition for Women’s Equality and Human Rights. Of the respondents, all opposed the extension of the amnesty, expressing concern that the amnesty was reducing the effectiveness of the firearms registry and providing immunity to long-gun owners from complying with federal firearms legislation. There were no comments directed towards the fee waiver.

In 2011, regulatory amendments to extend the firearms licence renewal fee waiver were prepublished in Part I of the Canada Gazette to invite public comments for 15 days (April 9 to 24, 2011). No comments were received.

On April 13, 2013, regulatory amendments to extend the POL renewal measure and the Amnesty Order were prepublished in Part I of the Canada Gazette, followed by a 15-day public comment period. The Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement indicated that the remaining fee waiver would not be extended. During this period, 13 comments were received from 9 individuals and 4 organizations (i.e. various chief medical officers, the Coalition for Gun Control). All those who responded opposed a further extension of the Amnesty Order, given concerns that the amnesty could compromise the accuracy and reliability of licence information. Other comments suggested that the continuance of the amnesty could serve as a disincentive for some firearms owners to comply with existing legal requirements as there would be no consequences for failing to do so. While there were no comments received regarding the POL renewal measure, some expressed concern that allowing the fee waiver to expire could serve as a disincentive to comply with federal licensing requirements. As part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan, the fee waiver for non-restricted firearms was not extended.

Rationale

The purpose of the Amnesty Order has been to protect noncompliant owners of non-restricted firearms from criminal liability while they are taking steps to comply with the legal requirements for licensing or registration. Collectively, these measures are intended to encourage compliance with the licensing and registration provisions of the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code. Firearms owners who are compliant with firearms legislation are subject to Continuous Eligibility Screening, which contributes to enhancing public safety.

Extending the amnesty for an additional year will protect firearms owners from criminal liability for possession of a non-restricted firearm without a licence in all provinces, and for possession of an unregistered non-restricted firearm in Quebec only, provided these owners are taking steps to come into compliance with licensing and registration requirements. Further, by extending the amnesty, the status quo with respect to non-restricted firearms in Quebec will be maintained.

The POL renewal measure, together with the Amnesty Order protecting individuals who are taking steps to comply with federal firearms legislation, is relieving in nature and helping to maintain favourable conditions to encourage compliance with the licensing and registration requirements of the Firearms Act.

Implementation, enforcement and service standards

Communication efforts would focus on who can avail themselves of these measures, how to do so, and the period during which these measures would be in effect. In an effort to increase voluntary compliance, communication efforts would emphasize the Government’s commitment to improving public safety through effective gun control and tackling the criminal use of firearms, while reducing unnecessary administrative requirements on firearms owners.

Under federal firearms legislation currently in force, to be in lawful possession of a firearm, an individual must at minimum hold a licence issued under the Firearms Act and, in the case of a restricted or prohibited firearm, a registration certificate. In Quebec, non-restricted firearms must also be registered.

Owners are expected to take positive steps to comply with the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code, as set out in the Order Declaring an Amnesty Period (2006).

Contacts

Lyndon Murdock
Director
Firearms and Operational Policing Policy Division
Community Safety and Countering Crime Branch
Public Safety Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0P8
Telephone (general inquiries): 1-800-830-3118 or 613-944-4875
Fax: 613-954-4808
Email: firearms@ps.gc.ca

Paula Clarke
Criminal Law Policy Section
Department of Justice
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0H8
Telephone: 613-957-4728
Fax: 613-941-9310
Email: paula.clarke@justice.gc.ca

PROPOSED REGULATORY TEXT

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

Interested persons may make representations concerning the proposed Regulations within 15 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, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, 269 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0P8 (tel.: 1-800-830-3118 or 613-944-4875; fax: 613-954-4808; email: firearms@ps.gc.ca).

Ottawa, March 27, 2014

JURICA ČAPKUN
Assistant Clerk of the Privy Council

REGULATIONS AMENDING THE FIREARMS LICENCES REGULATIONS

AMENDMENTS

1. (1) Paragraph 7(1)(b) of the Firearms Licences Regulations (see footnote 11) is replaced by the following:

(2) Subsection 7(4) of the Regulations is replaced by the following:

(4) For the purposes of subsections (2) and (3), an individual remains eligible to hold a possession licence despite the expiry, before May 17, 2015, of a possession licence held by the individual.

COMING INTO FORCE

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

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