What is a firearms offence?

By Last Updated: July 26, 2022

You will be charged with a firearms offence when you fail to comply with the laws and regulations that govern the use of firearms set out in the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act. There are a range of firearms offences and penalties under the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code. Some of the most common firearms offences are:

Use Offences:

Use offences include offences such as pointing a firearm, careless use of a firearm, storing firearms in a careless manner or using a firearm in the commission of an offence.

  • You can be charged with pointing a firearm if a loaded or unloaded gun is pointed at a person without a lawful excuse. This is a serious offence for which you can face up to five years of jail time if convicted.
  • Charges for the careless use of a firearm can arise if you carry, transport, or store a firearm in a manner that fails to demonstrate reasonable precautions for the safety of other persons without a lawful excuse. In order to avoid a conviction for the careless use of a firearm, you should always comply with the Storage, Display, Transportation, and Handling of Firearms by Individuals Regulations. If convicted of careless use of a firearm, you can face up to 2 years in jail for your first offence and up to 5 years for a second offence.
  • Using a firearm in the commission of an offence is one of the most serious firearms offences. If you are convicted of using a firearm while attempting to commit an indictable offence, or during flight after committing or attempting to commit an indictable offence, you will face a minimum jail sentence of one 1 year.

Possession Offences:

A possession offence will usually be laid when a person is caught and charged with possession of a weapon for dangerous purposes or with a particular carrying offence. Particular carrying offences include carrying a weapon while attending a public meeting or carrying a concealed firearm. Possession of a firearm for a dangerous purpose is a charge that will be laid when it is found that the primary purpose for which a person holds a firearm is dangerous to the public peace.

In order to be charged with a possession offence, you do not actually need to have the gun on your person. In law, possession of a firearm can be found in three circumstances:

  1. When the firearm is found on your person, on your property, or in our immediate vicinity, you know it is a firearm, and you have some sort of control over the firearm;
  2. When you knowingly place it in the possession or custody of another person to hold for you, and you have some measure of control over what happens to that firearm; and
  3. When you put it in a place that might not be yours, but where it is kept for the use or benefit of yourself or another person, and you have some degree of control over what happens to the firearm.

Possession offences are hybrid offences that can be punished by way of summary conviction or indictment. If the Crown Prosecutor proceeds by way of indictment, the maximum penalty for a particular carrying offence is 5 years in prison, while the maximum penalty for possession for a dangerous purpose is 10 years in prison.

Handling Offences:

Handling offences include making an automatic firearm and offences relating to lost, stolen, destroyed, or defaced weapons. Making an automatic firearm is a charge that will be laid when a person is found altering a firearm so that it becomes capable of discharging bullets in rapid succession during one pressure of the trigger. This is an extremely serious offence that carries a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 1 year.

Offences relating to lost, stolen, destroyed, or defaced weapons are also hybrid offences. If the Crown proceeds by way of indictment, the maximum sentence on conviction is 5 years in jail. This charge will arise when someone fails to report the loss or finding of a firearm to the police, fails to report the destruction of a firearm to the police, makes a false statement concerning the loss, theft, or destruction of a firearm, or tampers with a serial number on a firearm.

Trafficking Offences

Under the Criminal Code it is an offence to transfer or traffick firearms. The Firearms Act sets out laws that regulate the manufacture, transfer, and sale of firearms in Canada. A failure to comply with those laws when transferring a firearm from one person to another can lead to criminal charges for transferring firearms without authorization.

The offence of “transferring” will be made out when the accused makes a genuine offer to transfer a firearm to a recipient. This is a hybrid offence, and where the Crown chooses to proceed by indictment, the accused can face up to 5 years in jail.

The offence of trafficking will be made out where an accused is found to have manufactured or transferred a firearm while knowing that they did not have the authority to do so under the Firearms Act. This is a very serious offence, and charges can be laid even if the accused sold a weapon that was not operational, or even he or she simply offered to manufacture or transfer the weapon. If a person is found guilty of possessing a trafficked firearm, or found guilty of possessing firearms for the purposes of trafficking, he or she will be liable to a jail sentence of up to 10 years.

Failing to produce a valid licence or registration:

Failing to produce a valid licence or registration for your firearm is a common offence that can result in your firearms being seized. However, if you are able to provide proof of registration and a licence within 14 days, the seized firearms can be returned to you. If you have not complied with all the licensing requirements set out for your firearm and are convicted of unauthorized possession of a firearm, you can face up to 5 years of jail time.

About The Author

Michael Oykhman

Managing Partner

Michael Oykhman is a senior lawyer and founder of Strategic Criminal Defence, a full-service criminal law firm with central law offices across Western Canada and Ontario.

My professional experience consists of countless court appearances and thousands of successful defences and satisfied clients. Over the last 10 years, I have worked to build a law office where all the lawyers share our collective experience, resources, and passion to help people. Our team approach to legal representation is client–rather than only law–centred. We look for opportunities to add value to our clients through strategic thinking and creative solutions.

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