The RCMP recently released the 2015 Commissioner of Firearms report, an annual summary of firearms program statistics and information the police service publishes each year. We break down the key points and what they mean for the Canadian firearms community.
1. Firearms licencing is on the rise
Canada now has over 2 million firearm licence holders. In 2015, about 500,000 "possession only" licences were converted to full "possession and acquisition" type licences, as a result of the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act (commonly known as Bill C-42). Nearly 400,000 licences were newly issued or renewed in 2015.
With 2,026,011 licenced individuals in Canada, including over 10,000 licenced minors (aged 12-17), the rate of firearm licencing in Canada is about 1 in 20. While not all licence holders own firearms or participate in shooting sports or hunting regularly, it is interesting to note that this figure is higher than the estimated number of golfers in Canada (1.5 million in 2010), which is generally regarded as the most popular sport played by Canadians (source: StatsCan - PDF).
2. Licence refusals are declining
The report indicates that 688 licence applications were refused in 2015 (about 0.172% of all applications). This figure has declined since 2013, when it was 886 refusals. The vast majority of refusals were as a result of judicial intervention (court prohibition or probation), followed by a reported risk of self-harm.
3. Like refusals, licence revocations are also on the decline
The Commissioner of Firearms report cited 2,347 licence revocations in 2015, also a steady decline from a 2013 high of 2,497. Again, the figure is a fraction of the total 2 million valid licences. The low number of refusals and revocations suggest a healthy law-abiding firearms community in Canada, where the overall compliance rate with current firearms laws remains very positive.
Canada has robust firearms laws, and judicial review is available for refusals and revocations.
4. Declining numbers of firearms businesses and shooting clubs
The total number of licenced businesses and approved shooting ranges has declined from 2014, according to RCMP estimates. With 1,320 estimated shooting ranges in Canada in 2015, the ratio of licence holders to clubs is about 1,535:1, compared to 2014's ratio of 1,413:1. If the trend of more licence-holders and fewer clubs continues, shooting clubs will become busier and possibly more expensive in an attempt to limit range use.
For a list of Ontario clubs and businesses, click here.
5. Restricted and prohibited firearms are rapidly growing in popularity
There have not been any significant changes in the numbers of firearms which are classified at either restricted or prohibited in Canadian law. In fact, some popular models of firearms were removed from the restricted and prohibited lists and placed in the non-restricted list (e.g. CZ858 and Swiss Arms models with a barrel over 470mm in length) as a result of legislation imposed under the previous federal government.
However, the number of restricted and prohibited firearms registered to Canadian licence holders continues to rise significantly, going up each year since 2012. As of 2015, there were 978,347 registered restricted and prohibited firearms legally owned by Canadian licence holders.
Ownership of restricted firearms, such as "AR-15" variant rifles, are growing by leaps and bounds, as more and more people get involved in sports shooting and collecting, and various gunsmiths and businesses specialize in customization of these popular rifles. This popularity led to a petition, E-111, being presented to the House of Commons recently, which is calling for the AR-15 rifle to be reclassified as non-restricted in order to allow its use for hunting, and for wider use as a target shooting rifle.