The federal government has briskly moved Bill C-71, an Act to amend certain Acts and Regulations in relation to firearms through the various legislative stages and it has recently reached third reading, with a referral to the Senate, in late September.
Firearms owners, and prospective firearms owners, should know and understand the changes being proposed under this new law.
First, some background. The former government amended several pieces of firearms legislation which were intended to reduce some of the regulatory red tape surrounding firearms ownership in Canada.
A licenced owner who has a registered restricted firearm, such as a handgun, is now automatically issued an "ATT" (authorization to transport) when their licence is issued to them as a "special condition" attached to the licence. There are limited circumstances in which this "automatic ATT" applies, such as for travelling to an authorized shooting range within their province, and only with their own firearms.
Anything outside of these conditions would still require the owner to apply for a traditional ATT that is issued per use, for example, to temporarily store a restricted firearm at another location other than where registered.
Bill C-71 Changes
The current government introduced Bill C-71 in response to firearms crime, and in support of a key promise made during the 2015 election.
Some key changes include:
- Removal of most "automatic ATT" provisions, except for the target shooting and transfer for collection purposes provisions
- Extension of licence background checks beyond the last five years
- Require verification of a licence by the Registrar of Firearms for the transfer of any non-restricted firearms
- Removes authority for the government itself to classify firearms as non-restricted
- Restores the applicability of Privacy and Access to Information legislation in relation to firearms record keeping
In short, Bill C-71 will remove the automatic ATT's that have been in place since 2015, except in cases of target shooting. There is no requirement that a firearm owner maintain a membership in a particular gun club, but at all times the automatic ATT would only be applicable when transporting a restricted firearm to a shooting range approved under the act, within the province of residence.
Firearms licences are renewable every five years currently, and so the existing five-year background check was sufficient to cover this period for renewals. However, the new law will extend the background checks to a firearm owner's lifetime, meaning adverse information predating the first licence will now be considered.
For transfers of non-restricted firearms, the recipient's licence will now have to be verified presumably through the RCMP, who are the designated Registrar of Firearms.
In 2015, the government had added language into the Criminal Code that allowed a regulation, called an "order in council", to designate any named firearm as "non-restricted", even if it had already been classified as another category based on the legal framework in place. This was used to effectively "un-ban" two popular models of rifles. Bill C-71 will remove the authority to re-designate a firearm as "non-restricted" and reinstate the prohibition on the two models of rifles, with a provision for "grandfathering" existing owners.
The CZ and Swiss Arms firearms owned by current owners would become prohibited once again, reverting to their original classification. These firearms may be retained by existing owners under certain circumstances, as described in an RCMP bulletin.
In short, there are a number of changes proposed by Bill C-71, which will effect all firearm owners at least in some way, and certainly owners of restricted firearms moreso.
We will keep you updated on Bill C-71 changes as we learn more.