Vol. 148, No. 17 — August 13, 2014
SOR/2014-182 July 23, 2014
Order Amending the Order Declaring an Amnesty Period (2014)
P.C. 2014-881 July 22, 2014
His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice, pursuant to subsection 117.14(1) (see footnote a) of the Criminal Code (see footnote b), makes the annexed Order Amending the Order Declaring an Amnesty Period (2014).
ORDER AMENDING THE ORDER DECLARING AN AMNESTY PERIOD (2014)
1. Subsection 2(2) of the Order Declaring an Amnesty Period (2014) (see footnote 1) is amended by adding the following after paragraph (d):
- (e) use the firearm in target practice or at a target shooting competition, under the auspices of a shooting club or shooting range that is approved under section 29 of the Firearms Act, and, for that purpose, transport the firearm in accordance with,
- (i) in the case of a firearm referred to in any of paragraphs 1(a), (b), (e), (h) and (k) to (o), the requirements set out in section 10 of the Storage, Display, Transportation and Handling of Firearms by Individuals Regulations or section 11 of the Storage, Display and Transportation of Firearms and Other Weapons by Businesses Regulations, as applicable, or
- (ii) in the case of a firearm referred to in any of paragraphs 1(c), (d), (f), (g), (i) and (j), the requirements set out in section 11 of the Storage, Display, Transportation and Handling of Firearms by Individuals Regulations or section 12 of the Storage, Display and Transportation of Firearms and Other Weapons by Businesses Regulations, as applicable.
COMING INTO FORCE
2. This Order comes into force on the day on which it is registered.
REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT
(This statement is not part of the Order.)
On February 26, 2014, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) determined the Ceská Zbrojovka 858 Tactical 2 and 4 rifles (the CZ858) and the Swiss Arms Classic Green rifles and its variants (the Swiss Arms), previously imported and sold in Canada as non-restricted and restricted firearms, are prohibited firearms pursuant to subsection 84(1) of the Criminal Code.
On March 13, 2014, an Order in Council (see footnote 2) (the Previous Order) was made to declare an amnesty period until March 14, 2016, to permit persons to do certain activities that otherwise would be an offence under the Criminal Code. The Previous Order permits the person to continue to possess, but not use, the affected firearms and be protected from criminal liability for being in unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm. The Previous Order also permits the person to deliver the firearm to a peace officer, firearms officer or chief firearms officer, to sell or give it to a business or museum authorized to possess prohibited firearms, and to transport the firearm for these purposes.
The activities specified in the Previous Order did not include use for target shooting at approved ranges and transportation for that purpose.
There are three categories of firearms: non-restricted (ordinary hunting rifles and shot guns), restricted (most handguns and certain long guns) and prohibited (certain handguns, full and converted automatics and other firearms).
Part III of the Criminal Code (see footnote 3) (the Code) and the Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited or Restricted (see footnote 4) (the Regulations) establish the legal framework governing the classification of firearms in Canada. Firearms are classified as prohibited or restricted either by way of definition in the Code or through the Regulations. The Regulations list specific models of firearms (e.g. AK-47 rifle, Beretta, M16) as restricted or prohibited, and include “variants and modified versions” of those named models (e.g. any version of the Beretta BM59 is prohibited). The term “variant” is employed as a means to capture future firearms that differ (e.g. barrel length, cartridge size) from those specifically listed in the Regulations, but are generally the same make and type; however, there is no legislated definition of “variant.” Firearms not defined in the Code or prescribed by regulation as restricted or prohibited are, by default, non-restricted.
The RCMP Canadian Firearms Program (CFP) is responsible for the administration of the Firearms Act, (see footnote 5) which includes providing the technical expertise to interpret and determine the classification of firearms. To aid in this process, the RCMP has created the Firearms Reference Table (FRT), an administrative Web-based database that contains determinations regarding the classification of all known firearms in Canada. Before a firearm can be imported or registered in Canada, an FRT record must be generated.
Occasionally, it comes to the attention of the CFP that a firearm has been incorrectly described, or that a FRT record generated for a specific firearm describes an incorrect classification. Following physical inspection of the firearm by the CFP, the FRT record may be updated to properly reflect the appropriate classification of the firearm based upon the established criteria in the Code. Such amendments can affect the registration status of the firearm (e.g. a restricted firearm becomes prohibited). It is important to note that this is not a form of reclassification, but rather an update of an earlier determination based on new information. However, the impact on otherwise lawful firearms owners is serious and must be acknowledged.
Ceská Zbrojovka 858 Tactical 2 and 4 rifles
In 2005, the RCMP identified the CZ858 as non-restricted (in the case of longer barreled versions) or restricted (in the case of shorter barrelled versions) based upon manufacturer provided information that was subsequently confirmed by a physical inspection of samples at that time. FRT records were generated and the firearms were subsequently permitted to be imported, registered and sold in Canada.
In March 2013, the RCMP inspected and provided an expert opinion on the classification of a series of CZ858 proof marked 2007 or later. Following an internal review, the RCMP determined that at some point in 2007, the CZ858 rifles being imported into Canada differed from the inspected version and were in fact fully automatic firearms that had been converted to be semi-automatic firearms, rather than being the semi-automatics purported by the exporter. Converted fully automatic firearms are prohibited firearms under the Code given the possibility that they can be converted to fully automatic. Fully automatic firearms pose a significant public safety threat given their fast reloading action and their ability to discharge multiple shots each time the trigger is pulled. On February 26, 2014, the RCMP determined that the CZ858s were in fact prohibited firearms.
The Canada Border Services Agency estimates that more than 8 700 CZ858 rifles have been imported into Canada. There are 406 formerly restricted CZ858 rifles in Canada and 423 formerly non-restricted CZ858 rifles registered in Quebec based upon registration data. The estimated value of these firearms is between $500 and $1000 each.
Swiss Arms Classic Green rifles and its variants
In 2001, a Canadian importer requested a classification opinion of the Swiss Arms rifles in order to authorize their importation and registration in Canada. The RCMP reviewed documentation provided by the importer and the manufacturer which portrayed the Swiss Arms rifles as semi-automatic variants of the Swiss Arms SG 540. Based upon these documents, the RCMP created FRT records naming the firearms as non-restricted or restricted, depending on the barrel length. They were subsequently imported, registered and sold in Canada.
Following a complaint in December 2012 alleging that prohibited variants of the Swiss Arms rifles were being imported under the guise of being non-restricted or restricted, the RCMP inspected three of these firearms. The RCMP also sought additional information from the manufacturer and previous importers who had represented to the RCMP that the Swiss Arms rifles were non-restricted or restricted (depending on the barrel length). On February 26, 2014, the RCMP determined that all of the Classic Green rifles and its variants are descendants of the prohibited Swiss Arms SG 550 firearms and are prohibited firearms under the Criminal Code.
According to media reports, there are more than 2 000 Swiss Arms rifles in Canada. There are currently 310 formerly restricted Swiss Arms rifles in Canada and 42 formerly non-restricted Swiss Arms rifles in Quebec based upon registration data. The estimated value of these firearms is between $3,000 and $4,000 each.
The Previous Order permits the person to continue to possess, but not use, the affected firearms and be protected from criminal liability for being in unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm. The Previous Order also permits the person to deliver the firearm to a peace officer, firearms officer or chief firearms officer, to sell or give it to a business or museum authorized to possess prohibited firearms, and to transport the firearm for these purposes.
The objective of this Amending Order is to protect persons from criminal prosecution if they use the firearm for target shooting at approved ranges or transport them for that purpose while the Government is undertaking the necessary steps to allow affected persons to continue to possess, use and transport their firearms.
The Order Amending the Order Declaring an Amnesty Period (2014) amends the Previous Order to add, as a permitted purpose, the use of the firearms in target practice or in a target shooting competition under the auspices of a shooting club or shooting range that is approved under section 29 of the Firearms Act, which requires that clubs and ranges have the approval of the provincial minister of the province.
The Amending Order also specifies which models of firearms must be transported in accordance with the requirements for the safe transportation of non-restricted firearms, and which models must be transported in accordance with the requirements for restricted firearms, contained in the Storage, Display, Transportation and Handling of Firearms by Individuals Regulations, or in the case of businesses, in the Storage, Display, Transportation and Handling of Firearms and Other Weapons by Businesses Regulations.
This Order does not apply to hunting, transportation and use of a prohibited firearm for this purpose which falls within provincial jurisdiction.
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 on small business.
The Government of Canada wants to ensure that firearm owners who acquired the firearms before they were determined to be prohibited firearms are permitted to transport them, in the same fashion as before they were determined to be prohibited firearms, for use in target shooting at approved ranges without fear of facing criminal liability under the Criminal Code while a permanent solution is implemented.
There are no cost implications associated with this Amending Order.
Implementation, enforcement and service standards
Communication efforts will focus on the Government’s efforts to prevent a reoccurrence of this problem via proposed regulations under the Firearms Act, and ensuring that firearm owners can continue to transport the firearms for use in target shooting without facing criminal liability while the Government is undertaking the necessary steps to allow affected persons to continue to possess, use and transport their firearms beyond the amnesty period. These will include bulletins, news releases and notices on Government Web sites.
Acting Senior Counsel
Criminal Law Policy Section