What Should I Know About a Gun Possession Charge?
In Canada, firearms are defined in Section 84(1) of the Criminal Code which prescribes three firearm categories:
(1) Prohibited Firearm
A handgun that either has a barrel equal to or less than 105mm in length, or is designed or adapted to fire a 25 or 32 calibre bullet. However, handguns of this type that are used for international sporting competitions (governed by the rules of the International Shooting Union) are not prohibited.
Prohibited firearms also include those that are adapted from a rifle or shotgun, whether by sawing, cutting, or any other alteration such that when adapted they are less than 660mm in length or have a barrel of less than 457mm in length.
Automatic firearms, whether or not they have been altered to discharge only one bullet with a single pull of the trigger, are also prohibited.
(2) Restricted Firearm
A handgun that is not a prohibited firearm, or is not a prohibited firearm and has a barrel of less than 470mm in length, and has a semi-automatic firing rate. Firearms that are designed to be fired when reduced to a length of less than 660mm by folding or telescoping are also restricted
(3) Non-Restricted Firearms
Guns that are neither prohibited nor restricted. Such firearms are typically used for hunting; for example, rifles and shotguns.
Section 84(3) of the Criminal Code defines weapons deemed not to be firearms, which include:
- Antique firearms
- Any device that is designed exclusively for signalling or notifying of distress (flare gun), or for firing blanks (starter's pistol), stud cartridges, explosive-driven rivets, or other industrial projectiles
- Any shooting device designed exclusively for the slaughtering of domestic animals, the tranquilizing of animals, or the discharging of projectiles with lines attached to them
- Any other barrelled weapon where it is proved that the weapon is not designed or adapted to fire a shot, bullet, or other projectile at a muzzle velocity reaching/exceeding 152.4 metres per second
Firearm Possession Offences
Though there are numerous firearms-related possession offences, including "possession of weapon for dangerous purpose", "carrying weapon while attending public meeting", and "carrying concealed weapon" (Sections 88(1), 89(1), and 90(1) of the Criminal Code, respectively), it is beyond the scope of this blog to review them all.
However, one of the most common firearm possession offences is unauthorized possession of a firearm (Section 91(1) of the Criminal Code) which means that you commit an offence if you possess a prohibited firearm or a restricted firearm without a registration certificate, or a non-restricted firearm without a licence to possess it. The Firearms Act provides details for obtaining such documents (licences, registration certificates, authorizations) and can be found online at www.laws-lois.justice.gc.ca.
Unauthorized possession of a firearm is a hybrid offence which means that the Crown Attorney can elect to prosecute you by way of indictment (serious offence) or summary conviction (minor offence). If you are charged with unauthorized possession of a firearm (or prohibited weapon or restricted weapon; (Section 91(2) of the Criminal Code) and are ultimately convicted, then you may be sentenced to an imprisonment term of no more than 5 years.
The punishments for unauthorized possession of a firearm increase significantly under various aggravating circumstances which include, but are not limited to:
- Possession of a firearm knowing its possession is unauthorized - imprisonment of up to 10 years for the first offence (Section 92(3) of the Criminal Code)
- Unauthorized possession in a motor vehicle - imprisonment of up to 10 years (Section 94(2) of the Criminal Code)
- Breaking and entering to steal a firearm - life imprisonment (Section 98(4) of the Criminal Code)
The criminal justice system is a complicated and intimidating landscape; particularly, when your liberty is in jeopardy. Jeff Mazin knows the lay of the land and is here to help you navigate your way to the best possible outcome. If you have a question or need assistance, reach out and book a free consultation.