The Firearms Act is a federal law in Canada that regulates the possession, acquisition, storage, and use of firearms to promote public safety and reduce gun-related crime. The Act was introduced in 1995 in response to high-profile shootings, including the École Polytechnique massacre. The Act includes strict rules for obtaining a firearms license, registering firearms, and safe storage requirements. It also created the Canadian Firearms Registry, managed by the RCMP, to keep track of all registered firearms in the country. While the long-gun registry was abolished in 2012, the rest of the Act remains in place and is primarily enforced by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
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What is the Firearms Act?
The Firearms Act is legislation enacted by the federal government in 1995, setting out regulations for the possession, acquisition and use of firearms in Canada.
The Firearms Act covers all types of firearms, including:
Replicas of firearms
Airguns and pellet guns above a certain velocity
Other firearms that discharge a projectile with a muzzle energy exceeding a certain threshold
In addition, the Act regulates all parts and components of firearms, including magazines, barrels, and triggers.
What Is the Purpose of the Firearms Act?
The primary goal of the Firearms Act is to promote public safety and reduce gun-related crime in Canada. It aims to achieve this in four ways.
Regulating the possession, acquisition and use of firearms: The Act sets out strict rules for obtaining a firearms licence and requires gun owners to register all the firearms they own.
Imposing restrictions on certain types of firearms: The legislation prohibits the possession of certain types of firearms, including automatic weapons, and sets out strict rules for possessing other firearms, such as handguns.
Implementing safe storage requirements: The Act requires gun owners to store firearms safely and securely to prevent unauthorized access.
Creating a national firearms registry: The legislation established the Canadian Firearms Registry to keep track of all registered firearms in the country.
History of the Firearms Act
The federal government introduced the Firearms Act in 1995 following a series of high-profile shootings in Canada. In particular, it was in response to the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal, in which 14 women were killed by a man with a legally purchased Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic rifle.
The initial version of the Act, which included a long-gun registry, was passed in 1995. However, the registry was met with significant opposition from gun owners and some politicians, who argued that it was costly and ineffective.
In 2012, the federal government abolished the long-gun registry. The rest of the Act remains in place, and Canadian gun owners are still required to obtain a firearms licence and register their weapons.
How is the Firearms Act Enforced?
The Firearms Act is a complex piece of legislation consisting of multiple parts and regulations. It is primarily enforced by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, with law enforcement agencies across Canada also able to lay charges.
The legislation includes provisions for obtaining a firearms licence and rules about registering, transferring and importing/exporting firearms. It also sets out penalties for violators, including fines and prison sentences for as long as 10 years.
In addition to the Act, other federal and provincial laws and regulations govern the possession and use of firearms in Canada, including the Criminal Code, which sets out firearms-related offences. There are also provincial and municipal laws that govern hunting and other activities involving firearms. For example, provinces can restrict when hunting can be carried out in provincial parks. Some municipalities also ban the use of firearms within their borders.