How Are Weapons and Firearms Classified in Canada?

Weapons and firearms in Canada are given legal classifications into “non-restricted firearms”, “restricted firearms”, “prohibited firearms”, “restricted weapons”, “prohibited weapons”, “prohibited devices”, “ammunition”, “prohibited ammunition”. Each of these terms is defined in s. 84(1) of the Criminal Code. Some of the definitions include other items “prescribed to be” a certain thing; that refers to the specific lists in the Schedule to the Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited or Restricted.

What constitutes a “weapon” was discussed in “What Is a Weapon in Canadian Law?“.  The term “firearm” is also defined in s. 2 of the Criminal Code as “a barrelled weapon from which any shot, bullet or other projectile can be discharged and that is capable of causing serious bodily injury or death to a person, and includes any frame or receiver of such a barrelled weapon and anything that can be adapted for use as a firearm”.

There are two aspects to the legal classification of firearms and other weapons.  The first is the legal framework; the second is the factual determination of where in that legal framework a particular firearm or weapon fits.

The legal framework is determined by Parliament (by enacting the definitions in s. 84(2) of the Criminal Code) and by Cabinet (by promulgating the Regulations).

The factual determination of where in that legal framework a particular firearm or weapon fits is a bit more complicated.  Ultimately, that determination would be made by a Court, upon hearing evidence from both sides in a dispute.  As a practical matter, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Firearms Investigative and Enforcement Support Services Directorate employs Analysts who make the determination on behalf of the Government.  If an individual (either the manufacturer of a firearm or weapon or an individual charged with an offence) wishes to challenge that determination, they can do so with their own expert, and a judge will make the final determination.

For firearms in particular, the RCMP’s determination is recorded in the Firearms Reference Tables.  Each model of firearm is given a unique Firearm Identification Number referring to its record in the Firearms Reference Tables.  Because of the controversy over the RCMP’s purported “reclassification” of certain firearms manufactured by SAN Swiss Arms and by Ceska Zbrojovka (CZ) from “non-restricted” or “restricted” to “prohibited”, the Government promulgated the Firearms Records Regulations (Classifications) in 2014 which prevent an entry in the Firearms Reference Tables from being changed once it is over 1 year old.

With the passage of the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act, the final determination from the Government side is finally in the hands of our elected officials and not unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats at the RCMP.  Of course, the final say will always be up to a judge after hearing evidence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *