Penalties for Firearm Offences in Canada

By 5 January 2016July 17th, 2023No Comments

Are you aware of the severe consequences that come with firearm offenses in Canada? Understanding the legal framework surrounding firearm-related crimes is crucial for anyone facing such charges or wanting to stay informed. This comprehensive article delves into the intricacies of firearm offences in Canada, shedding light on the penalties and legal ramifications individuals may face. Stay informed and safeguard your rights by exploring this insightful resource.

Owning a firearm in Canada is legal for licensed civilians, but there are severe restrictions on their usage. Legislation regarding their purchase and storage is always a hot topic in Ottawa, but nevertheless, the rates of ownership in Canada are much lower than in the USA and about the average for most OECD nations.

The most recent statistics show that guns are often used in murder, assault, harassment, and robbery, which have made regulations on their owners very strict. Below is a summary of the penalties for firearm offences in Canada.

Non-severe Penalties

Gun crimes carry different penalties depending on the nature of the crime. Non-severe penalties for firearm offences include:

  • Careless storage or handling – the maximum penalty is between six months plus a $5,000 fine to two years, depending on whether or not it is a summary or indictable offence. The maximum penalty for subsequent offences is 5 years.
  • Pointing a firearm – pointing a firearm at another person carries a maximum sentence of six months plus a $5,000 fine to five years in prison.
  • Carrying a concealed weapon – a maximum sentence of six months plus a $5,000 fine to five years in prison.

Severe Penalties

More severe penalties are associated with offences where the perpetrator knowingly disobeys the law. This includes:

  • Weapons for dangerous purposes – possession of a weapon for dangerous purposes is a situation when one has a weapon, imitation of a weapon, or unauthorized weapon that they intend to do harm with. This carries a maximum sentence of six months plus a $5,000 fine to ten years in prison.
  • Possession of a firearm knowing possession unauthorized – knowingly possessing a firearm that is unauthorized will be seen as an intention to commit a crime or engage in other illegal activity. This crime comes with a minimum penalty of one year for the 2nd offence and a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
  • Possession of restricted weapon with ammunition – the Supreme Court of Canada recently struck down the severe 3-5 year minimum penalty, but the sentencing still ranges between one year plus a $5,000 fine to 10 years in prison.

Staying up-to-date on changes

The new Canadian government is proposing changes to legislation in regard to gun laws. Some proposed bills would limit the transport of weapons, enhance background checks, tighten licensing legislation and make sellers scrutinize buyer credentials. These regulations will be intended to make purchasing, storing and transporting weapons even more difficult within the country.

Although firearm possession is legal in Canada under certain circumstances, breaking these laws will result in fines, jail time (or both) and a criminal record as a result. For those convicted of a firearms-related crime and living with a criminal record as a result, obtaining a Canadian pardon can help with getting life back to normal.

Weapons Offences Identified Under Canada’s Criminal Code

Firearm offences in Canada covers a range of offences outlined in the Criminal Code. These offences encompass the illegal possession, use, and trafficking of firearms. Understanding the specific laws surrounding weapons offences is essential to navigate the legal landscape and ensure compliance with firearm regulations in Canada.

Use Offences

  • Using a firearm (or a replica firearm) while committing a crime that is punishable by law is prohibited.
  • Careless handling of a firearm and failure to follow storage standards
  • pointing a weapon.

Even if a person does not intend to injure another person, they might be convicted of “using a weapon.” Ammunition is included in the careless use or storage of a firearm. Furthermore, a loaded firearm is not required to commit one of these crimes. The penalties for these offences range from up to 2 years in jail for “careless use of a firearm” to 1 to 14 years in prison for a first offence if convicted as an indictable offence.

Possession Offences

  • Possession of a weapon for a potentially lethal purpose
  • Attending a public meeting with a firearm on your person
  • Having a firearm hidden in one’s person
  • Possession of a weapon without authorization
  • Possession of a banned or restricted firearm without authorization
  • Possession of an unlawful firearm, weapon, or ammunition (knowingly).
  • Possession of a controlled substance in a prohibited location
  • Possession of a controlled substance in a motor vehicle without authorization
  • Possession of an ammo-loaded restricted or banned weapon
  • Possession of a firearm obtained through criminal activity
  • Breaking with the intent of stealing a weapon
  • Robbery with the intent to take a firearm

If found guilty of any of these possession offences, the following sentences apply:

  • When charged as an indictable offence, carrying a hidden firearm carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in jail.
  • When charged as an indictable offence, unlawful possession of a motor vehicle carries a maximum sentence of ten years.
  • For breaking or robbery with the intent to take a firearm, the maximum sentence is life in prison.

The Crown may seek to try the case as a summary conviction for less serious ‘use’ or ‘possession’ charges, which has a much reduced potential sentence: up to 6 months in jail for ‘use’ crimes; and up to 6 months or 1 year in prison for less serious possession offences. Breaking or robbery with the intent to take guns, on the other hand, are only prosecuted as indictable offences, which entail the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence.

Trafficking Offences

  • Trafficking in weapons
  • Possession with the intent to deal in firearms
  • Without permission to do so, transfer to another individual.

If convicted, weapons trafficking offences entail sentences ranging from three to ten years in jail, except transfer without authorization, which has a maximum term of five years if prosecuted as an indictable offence.

Assembling Offence

  • Making a fully automated weapon.

Anyone convicted of modifying a firearm to manufacture an automatic weapon might face a term of up to ten years in prison, depending on how the Crown decides to try the case.

Import/ Export Offences

  • knowingly importing or exporting unlawful goods
  • Importing and exporting without authorization

If the accused was aware that they were performing an unlawful act, the sentence for import/export of a firearm is increased to 3 to 10 years for a first offence.

Lost, Damaged, or Destroyed Weapons Offences

The loss or recovery of a firearm (and failing to immediately report it to an officer)

  • Disposing of a firearm
  • Making false statements to a police officer
  • Attempting to tamper with a serial number

These offences, like other weapons charges, can be prosecuted as a summary offence (with lower maximum sentences) or as an indictable offence (with a maximum penalty of 5 years for a first offence).

Classification of Firearms as per the Court of Canada

Generic weapons, such as firearms, are divided into three groups.


Ordinary shotguns and rifles typically used for hunting are not limited.


Most.32 or.25 calibre pistols, as well as handguns with a barrel length of 105 mm or less, are prohibited. Fully automatic guns, modified automatic firearms, firearms with a sawed-off barrel, and several military rifles, such as the AK-47, are also outlawed.


Certain pistols and semi-automatic long weapons are outlawed (not all of the latter are restricted or prohibited). Rifles that can shoot when telescoped or folded to less than 660 mm (26 in) in length are likewise prohibited.

All of these firearms (including the “restricted” and “prohibited”) can be lawfully purchased and owned, but the criteria for ownership are highly stringent, as detailed in the “Licensing and Permits” part of Canada’s Firearms-Control Legislation and Policy.

When is it a crime to possess and store a firearm in Canada?

To purchase or possess weapons or ammunition, everyone needs a license. While possessing non-restricted weapons necessitates passing several safety exams, possessing restricted or forbidden firearms necessitates passing yet another set of examinations.

  • In Canada, you are not allowed to own a gun (firearm) unless you have a valid weapons license.
  • Your license authorizes you to own a weapon and purchase ammunition.
  • For as long as you own a firearm, your gun license must be valid (active). If you have an expired license and your firearm(s) are still in your possession, you may be charged with a crime.
  • To be eligible for the Possession and Acquisition License, you must be a Canadian citizen and over the age of 18 (PAL).
  • Every five years, your license must be renewed.
  • The Canadian Firearms Safety Course must be completed by applicants.

What Do Firearm Offences in Canada Entail?

  • Use of a firearm carelessly
  • pointing a weapon.
  • Possession of a weapon with the intent to cause harm
  • Having a firearm hidden in one’s person
  • Possession of a weapon without authorization
  • Storage of a weapon incorrectly
  • Possession of a firearm obtained through criminal activity
  • Weapons trafficking
  • Assault on a high level (using a weapon)
  • Assault with a dangerous weapon is a serious offence.
  • Thievery (along with weapons)

Rules for the Possession of Firearms for Non-Residents Aged 18 and Older

Non-residents can legally own weapons in Canada, but they must first file a non-resident firearms declaration. A temporary license is provided once the declaration is approved by a customs officer and is valid for up to 60 days.

Non-residents who have completed the Canadian Firearms Safety Course are eligible to apply for a PAL.

Rules for the Possession of Firearms for Minors

  • Licensed youths between the ages of 12 and 17 can borrow a non-restricted rifle or shotgun for lawful purposes such as sports or hunting.
  • Possession of a non-restricted weapon (s) by a juvenile is the responsibility of a licensed and authorized adult.
  • Although the minimum age limit is 12, exceptions can be made for younger people who need to hunt to feed themselves and their families.
  • Minors must complete the Canadian Firearms Safety Course before applying for a license.
  • When the kid turns 18, the license expires, and they must reapply for PAL.
  • It is a criminal offence to find a juvenile in illegal possession of a firearm.

Except in specific circumstances when someone requires these weapons for their employment, restricted and forbidden guns cannot be carried around (either openly or hidden), and even then, a license is required. These deadly weapons should be stored at home and only carried outdoors for very particular purposes, such as target practice or working in the woods with dangerous wild animals.

The Legality of Firearm Possession

  • Possessing a firearm in Canada is strictly restricted, with most of the rules outlined in the Firearms Act (1995), as well as the Criminal Code of Canada. The legality of weapons in Canada has been a heated subject in recent decades, especially after the revised list of restricted firearms was published in the Firearms Act, and even more so with the establishment of the gun registry in 2002. A forbidden firearm is a pistol with a barrel length of less than 105mm or designed to fire.25 or.32 calibre ammunition, according to the Criminal Code.
  • Any rifle or shotgun that is less than 660mm long or has a barrel that is less than 457mm long, as well as any automatic firearm that has not been “altered to discharge just one bullet with one push of the trigger” (Criminal Code, s. 84(1)) is illegal. Unless you are a police officer or fit into one of the other exempt categories, you may only possess a restricted firearm if it was registered at the time it became illegal under the act, subject to various “grandfathering” provisions.
  • A person who does not notify a peace officer after losing or finding a firearm that does not belong to them may be prosecuted under section 105 of the Criminal Code. Transporting guns necessitates permission from the Chief Firearms Officer (CFO) of the province in which the firearm is kept. Failure to follow the Firearms Act’s rules, as well as using the firearm in a prohibited way, can result in criminal charges, some of which are listed below.

Understanding the severe repercussions of firearm offences in Canada is crucial for both individuals accused of such crimes and those seeking to protect their communities. By staying informed about the legal consequences, you can take proactive steps to safeguard your rights and future. For comprehensive information and guidance on navigating firearm offencses in Canada, visit our website today.

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