COVID-19 Emergency Illustrates Why You Need to Act Quickly
Until March of 2020, anyone with an interest could sign up and take a Canadian Firearms Safety Course and/or Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course and expect to obtain a Possession Acquisition firearm licence (or "PAL") within 2-3 months.
The Novel Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19 is the disease caused by the virus) changed all that, and since March 21, none of the over 400 Ontario CFSC/CRFSC instructors have been permitted to deliver any safety training, and the RCMP have ceased processing PAL applications.
In the case of hundreds of people now looking to get a PAL, their hesitation has cost them dearly.
As expected in a time of crisis, people are seeking the security and reassurance of legal firearm ownership and finding that due to Canada's very strict gun laws, the shutdown caused by the pandemic has left guns out of reach for them.
From those now interested in the potential need to hunt for subsistence due to food security concerns, to those looking to add another layer to their home and family security planning in the face of uncertainty over the levels of societal protection provided by law enforcement and security institutions, many have suddenly discovered their plans to "do it later" when it comes to obtaining a legal firearm have been shifted aside.
Expect a PAL Backlog
When the RCMP does begin processing applications again, there will understandably be a large backlog as they try to keep up with a deluge of new applications. Many students of recent courses had received their safety course paperwork, and were about to or have already mailed their PAL applications. RCMP processing agents may be understaffed for months as agency priorities will understandably be required elsewhere.
Training courses will be back at full swing, as many firearms instructors (including ours) have other full-time work, or are retired and on pensions. They will be able to weather the pandemic and get back to work teaching as soon as they are permitted. But courses will likely be fully booked for months to come once classes resume.
Even simpler online renewals for existing gun owners are delayed, as no new licence cards are being produced. The 2015 amendments to the Firearms Act, which took effect in 2017, allow for a six-month extension or "grace period" for expiring licences. But what happens when the RCMP are unable to resume operations and process renewals within that time frame?
The COVID-19 situation is unprecedented, and authorities will likely be flexible and try to work diligently and responsibly to minimize the impact. But with no definite sense of how long the pandemic will impact governments and services, firearms ownership will be out of reach for new owners for months to come.
Once some sort of normality returns post-COVID-19, we highly suggest getting off the fence and taking a PAL course and applying for the licence as soon as you can. A virus originating from the other side of the globe has caused months of economic and social disruption.