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A Comparison of Gun Laws in the US and Canada

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Though Canada and the United States are two countries that can be culturally similar at times, their laws can be vastly different from each other.  Wider understanding of specific firearm-related laws can be affected by the constant stream of popular culture that comes out of the United States, and can also be misguided as a result.  It is important to remember that Canadian gun laws differ significantly from those in the United States.  ­­­­­­­­­­­­Here are the facts about gun ownership and gun laws in a direct comparison between Canadian and American laws.

  • Gun Purchase Waiting Period:

A waiting period after purchasing a gun is usually to allow the state or national government to make a background check to confirm that the person buying the gun is legally allowed to buy a firearm.  Canadian law requires a 60-day waiting period for a person to purchase a gun, whereas in the United States, there is no federally mandated waiting period. Any American resident can receive a gun any time after a background check, but that background check is done without a waiting period.

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  • Background checks:

Canadian law requires a background check be conducted that focuses on mental health and addiction, and background check agents are required to inform the applicant’s spouse or family before granting a license. The U.S. also requires a federal background check for all those buying guns from licensed dealers.  However, while Canadian law requires background checks at every retailer that sells firearms, the United States does not require one in more impromptu legitimate transactions, such as at a gun show.

  • License and Registration Requirements:

To own a gun in Canada, Canadian residents have to take a safety course and pass both a written and a hands-on exam. The license achieved after this text expires in five years.  Canadian residents are also not allowed to own automatic weapons, handguns with a barrel shorter than 10.5 centimetres, or any modified handgun, rifle, or shotgun.  Most semi-automatic weapons are banned. Residents also must register restricted firearms, such as handguns and automatic weapons, with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Canadian Firearms Program.

On the other hand, in terms of American law, the U.S. license and registration laws vary from state to state, so it is more difficult to directly compare them with Canadian federal laws.  Many states have no such requirements that Canada has and there are no mandatory courses or exams.

In fact, there is no fundamental right to possess firearms in Canada – not in the same way the right to bear arms is enshrined in the United States’ constitution.  Rather than being a constitutional right, it is considered a privilege in Canada.  The term “the right to bear arms” is a distinctly American one and does not apply to all North American countries.

Those convicted of firearm related offences in Canada can often seek a Canadian pardon in order to fully re-integrate into society. For more information, and to see if you qualify for a Canadian pardon, contact Pardons Applications Canada today.