A Comparison of Gun Laws in the US and Canada

By 19 January 2016June 22nd, 2022No Comments
Canada US Border

Canada and the United States are often perceived as culturally similar countries, however, there are many differences, including their laws. Popular culture has affected the general populace’s understanding of U.S. laws, particularly those that are firearm-related. Consequently, individuals are misguided and even confuse them with Canadian gun laws.

The differences between Canadian and American gun laws and ownership are explained below:

Gun Purchase Waiting Period

Both Canadian and American laws allow residents to purchase a gun, but both countries have different processes.

In Canada, there is a 60-day waiting period after the purchase of a gun; this period gives the state or national government time to conduct a background check, confirming the individual’s legal status to purchase a gun.

The United States does not have a waiting period. American residents can purchase a gun once a background check has been completed.

Apply Now

Background checks

The Canadian government must conduct a background check on individuals who apply for a gun licence and who buy a gun from any type of retailer. The check involves a verification of the individual’s mental health and addictions. The background check agents will communicate with the applicant’s spouse or family.

While the U.S. government also performs federal background checks, unplanned legitimate transactions, e.g., gun shows, will not be looked into.

License and Registration Requirements

A safety course is obligatory if Canadian residents want to own a gun. They must pass both sections of the exam, which is composed of a written and practical experience sections. A licence expires five years after the exam.

Canadian residents cannot own:

  • Automatic weapons
  • Handguns with a barrel shorter than 10.5 cm
  • Any modified handgun, rifle, or shotgun
  • Most semi-automatic weapons

Registration of restricted firearms—e.g., handguns and automatic weapons—must be done 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.

PAC’s Ongoing Service Commitment

Email [email protected]
Schedule a Call
My Account Dashboard


  • Fill out the form to receive a complimentary, 100% confidential email with more information on Pardon Applications of Canada services. You'll also receive a no-obligation phone consultation with an Accredited Pardon & U.S. Waiver Officer.
  • Check 1 or More that Apply.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.