There are many different offences involving the unlawful use or possession of firearms. The most common and serious offences are discussed below.
Firearms offences are treated extremely seriously in Canada.
This is reflected by the following facts:
- It is generally more difficult to get released on bail if your charge relates to a firearm
- Many firearms-related offences come with stiff mandatory minimum jail sentences
- Most firearms offences carry the possibility that you can be banned from owning a firearm for the rest of your life if you are found guilty
- Using a firearm in the commission of another offence can result in minimum jail terms of at least one year
A firearm is legally defined as: a barrelled weapon that can discharge a bullet or other projectile with enough power to cause serious bodily injury or death to a person.
The definition also includes any receiver or frame of that barreled weapon, and anything that can be adapted to be used as a firearm.
Being found guilty of a firearms offence will almost always raise the possibility that the Judge will ban you from owing, using or possessing any firearms, ammunition and other related items. These bans can last from 1 year to the rest of your life.
Bail Conditions for Firearms Offences
The police and prosecutors are extremely cautious when it comes to determining the release of someone charged with a gun crime, as they will be exposed to professional discipline if that accused commits a subsequent violent crime while on release. Many firearms offences are considered “reverse onus” – whereas the Judge will automatically rule that you are to be kept in custody unless you persuade otherwise.
Defending Firearms Offence Charge
At the outset, it is important to know that no matter the charge, the Crown must prove that a firearm was used during the offence. This usually involves the police sending the item out expert testing and reports, which take a skilled legal eye to interpret and assess. We can help!
Firearms are often discovered during a search of your home, vehicle, or other personal privacy, which triggers your constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The law surrounding searches is complex, and takes a passionate and experienced criminal lawyer to present it in a persuasive way to the Judge.
Discharge a firearm recklessly
This requires the Crown to prove simply that
- You intentionally shot a firearm into or at a place
- You knew or were reckless as to whether there was another person in that place
This offence is intended to punish those who commit “drive-by” shootings, but much less serious conduct can be caught within its scope.
This offence carries a minimum jail term of 4 years, which can be increased to 5 if you used a certain kind of firearm or did the crime on behalf of a criminal gang.
Careless use, storage, or transport of a firearm
If you are found using, handling, storing or shipping a firearm without taking reasonable precautions for the safety of other people, you may be found guilty of this offence.
This carries the possibility of up to two years incarceration for a first offence, as well as fines and a prohibition on possessing any firearms for a period of up to ten years. Police often lay this charge after a search of your personal property, which can potentially infringe on your constitutional rights.
Pointing a firearm
Guns instill such fear in Canadian society that Parliament has made it a crime to point a firearm at another person, regardless of your intent to actually discharge it. Whether or not the gun was loaded is irrelevant when a Court determines your guilt or innocence.
This offence carries a jail sentence of up to 5 years, as well as a 10 year ban on possessing any guns or related items.
Unauthorized possession of a firearm
You may not possess any firearm unless you possess a license obtained by the federal government which permits you to do so. Additional licensing is required in the case of restricted or prohibited weapons. This charge is often the end result of the police searching your car, home, or other property.
The penalty for violating any of the rules authorizing possession of a firearm is jail for a term of up to 5 years, as well as the possibility of a ban on owning any guns for up to 10 years.
Possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition, if:
- You are caught in possession of:
- A loaded restricted or prohibited gun (most commonly, a handgun)
- An unloaded prohibited or restricted gun, but have ammunition for it close by, and
- You do not have a license for that gun
You could do a maximum of 10 years in jail. It is important that you discuss your options with one of our criminal defence lawyers as soon as possible, it is possible the police violated your rights to be free from illegal arrests and searches.
Firearm Offence FAQs
- How are firearms regulated in Canada?
- What is a firearms offence?
- When can the police seize my gun?
- How can I get my gun back from the police?
- What are the best defences to a firearms charge?
- How can I get my firearms charges dropped?
- Can I bring my gun with me when I am visiting canada?
- A criminal defence lawyer’s top 5 tips for fighting firearms charges