Policy Memorandum No.:
16 July 2019
The CCFR does not oppose licensing for firearm owners and users provided it is done in a reasonable manner, which impacts firearm owners and users as little as possible while ensuring the legitimate public safety purpose. The licence should be a mandatory-issue to any applicant who meets the clear and objective criteria, and should be for life unless sooner revoked for cause or unless the holder becomes subject to a court-ordered firearms’ prohibition.
RATIONALE AND DISCUSSION:
The CCFR acknowledges that while the possession of firearms is a right, it is not an unlimited or unqualified right. There are individuals who, for various reasons, ought not to possess firearms: criminals, those who are deemed to be a threat to public safety, those incapable of mastering the essential skill or knowledge to safely use a firearm. Having a licensing system ensures that only those individuals who can be trusted to safely use a firearm can legally obtain one. A licensing system is less intrusive than background checks at every transfer of a firearm.
The CCFR acknowledges that the available evidence shows there has been no public safety benefit anytime the Canadian Parliament has changed or increased licensing requirements. However, the CCFR appreciates that the general, non-gun owning Canadian public will not easily accept a regime without some form of firearms licensing.
An acceptable licensing system, however, must presume that individuals who meet clear and objective criteria can be trusted until the contrary is proven. This means that a licence should be for the life of the individual once obtained, unless it is revoked for cause or unless the holder becomes subject to a court-ordered firearms’ prohibition. A revocation for cause or a denial of a licence ought to be reviewable by a Court as it is currently.
The presumption that licenced individuals will behave responsibly also should extend to the privileges of the licence: the CCFR would rather see a system where individuals with licences see few restrictions on their lawful use of firearms as that strikes the proper balance between overall public safety and the rights of the individual.
The CCFR proposes that simple possession of a firearm without a licence be removed from the Criminal Code and placed instead in the Firearms Act, where it would be a regulatory offence instead of a criminal offense as it currently is. Possession of a firearm while committing another criminal offence, for the purpose of committing a criminal offence, or for a purpose dangerous to the public peace, should remain a Criminal Code offence and should be criminally punished.
Bill C-71’s expansion of the background check for licensing and renewal may place some firearm owners previously eligible into a legal limbo where previous incidents, mental health issues, or other factors long past may become a mechanism to deprive them of their license or firearms lawfully held. Infringements on lawful ownership by heretofore law abiding and responsible firearm owners would be an undue restriction.
The CCFR opposes the use of long past problems as an indication of current attitudes, health, and behaviour. The previous five-year background check provides individuals the opportunity to rectify past wrongs and move forward positively when they demonstrate legal and responsible use of firearms. The new framework should not be used to deprive currently licensed firearm owners of their rights.
The presumption should be that an individual’s current state and recent history is always the best indicator of a person’s eligibility.