How to buy a gun in canada

The short answer is, you need a license.

This site is designed to tell you in just 3 minutes what you need to know about Canadian firearms laws to get started towards buying a firearm in Canada.

Legally buying firearms in Canada isn’t complicated, or expensive. Around 2 Million Canadians already have firearms licenses. That’s about 1 in 15 adults.

Basically you just need to pass a short, and fairly easy (though very important) safety course, and then mail away for a licence . If you’re approved you’ll get it in the mail and you can go shopping.

Québec Residents: Your government has some additional requirements not described here. You should read the page you are on now, and then also the Quebec Page to find the additional information.

The PAL is a pink card that looks similar to this:

How to buy a gun in canada

Detailed steps to get your PAL (Canadian Firearms Licence)

How to buy a gun in canada

See, it isn’t really that complicated.

What about handguns?

How to buy a gun in canadaYes, handguns are legal in Canada. If you want to own a handgun, (or other “restricted” firearms such as AR-15 rifles) in Canada you will need to take some additional steps. After you have finish reading this page, use the “Handguns” section of this website to find out more.

What’s the safety course like?

The course is fun and easy, and is designed to be sufficient safety instruction for people who have no prior experience with firearms.

Most people simply take a one day class (usually a Saturday), that includes watching a video, listening to an instructor, and going over a book. You know, typical classroom sort of stuff. It’s pretty low key, and most people have a lot of fun.

The course comes with a great book. It’s an easy read, with lots of pictures and diagrams to help you learn the details.

How to buy a gun in canada

Is the test hard?

How to buy a gun in canadaNo, it’s not. At the end of the course there is a test based only on what is covered in the course. Don’t worry, it’s pretty easy. You’ll have to answer a few questions and demonstrate some knowledge of what was covered. The vast majority of people pass. Don’t let the word “test” make you nervous.

How Much Does a Canadian Firearms License Cost?

How to buy a gun in canadaIt’s really not that expensive. It only works out to a couple of bucks a month if you look at it in terms of a the cost over the time. It could even save you money! If you take up hunting, it can be an excellent source of surprisingly large quantities of inexpensive, and very high quality meats.

Here is a rough guide to the costs. However prices will vary , especially from province to province. My wife actually paid just $20 for her classes as part of a women’s retreat.

Estimated PAL Costs

Expense Low End High End
One day CFSC class $50 $225
Optional C R FSC class for restricted firearms $0 $225
Photo $0 $20
Licence application fee $61.32 $81.76
Postage $1.07 $1.07
Total $112.38 $532.38

Approximately every five years you will have to renew your license. There is a fee to renew, however it may, or may not be waived for some renewals.

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How to buy a gun in canadaZero paperwork is done when non-restricted guns are transferred between citizens in Canada

Earlier this month we published a column by Allan Harding, a competitive target shooter from B.C. who represents Canada in international tournaments. In it he brought the reader into his world, where paperwork and responsible gun ownership is crucial.

As a PAL holder (the license you need to buy guns in this country) who prides himself in responsible ownership and even stewardship, I’ve been reflecting on the issue of gun control in our country and wanted to share some thoughts.

Toronto is considering a handgun ban altogether in an effort to protect its citizens. This is an incredibly stupid idea and would easily get shot down when legally challenged. The only thing a ban in any city would do is penalize law-abiding citizens like Allan.

It’s already illegal to carry a handgun in the city, as they fall under the Restricted category of firearms the people who are licensed to own them are generally only allowed to transport them to and from a firing range. Before then, they have to be locked up securely. The only people carrying handguns in urban centres are criminals (and law enforcement, of course) and the laws around the use of weapons to commit crimes is already strong enough. Banning them from regular citizens would be a giant, ineffective political knee-jerk. It might win some votes, but it would do more harm than good, driving a wedge.

Non-restricted firearms are a different story altogether. Think hunting rifles and the like as opposed to handguns. While you’re legally required to keep trigger locks on them, you can move them around as you please. You could lock them up in your car and go into the mall for a few hours to shop, then come back and head to wherever you’re going (perhaps Crown land to shoot at targets, or game birds).

When it comes to buying and selling non-restricted rifles, when you go to a store such as Cabela’s they take your license and run it through the RCMP system, then they record the sale and the serial number and all of that.

However when it’s you and some random person who’s listed them for sale online transferring them between each other, there’s literally zero paperwork. None.

The process goes like this between private buyers and sellers:

SELLER: Hello I am here to sell you this gun.

BUYER: Okay. Here, look at my PAL card [looks like a driver’s license] and take this money.

SELLER: That photo looks like you and it doesn’t say your card is expired. Here is your rifle.

BUYER: Okay thanks bye.

When I recently bought the Remington 812 pictured above for $200, it was so easy that I felt like I was doing something wrong. It was easier than transferring ownership of a vehicle, and it felt like maybe somebody should know that I have it? According to the government, that’s not the case.

I called the RCMP to make 100% certain. The official line on their website is that “Transfers of non-restricted firearms can be conducted without contacting the CFP, as registration is no longer required for this class of firearm. The transferor may verify that the transferee has a valid PAL by calling the CFP toll-free number (1-800-731-4000) before making a sale.”

The key word here is may. You may call the RCMP and verify that someone’s PAL card is real. The RCMP tells me “it’s not a legal obligation” for a private citizen who is selling a firearm to another private citizen. “If you have a suspicion” that their card may be fake, or that they’ve had it revoked for one reason or another, then you can call it in and ask if it’s okay to sell a gun to them. You don’t have to, but if you have a sneaky suspicion then you can. And should.

There are many checks and balances in the system. To get your license you take a course, then a test, and the RCMP then does background checks on you before finally granting you a license. If you move, you immediately have to update your information with them. It’s easy for the RCMP to revoke your license for any number of reasons and the system, in my eyes, seems to mostly work. However it’s unsettling that it’s so simple for private buyers and sellers to have such ease in moving guns between each other.

The long gun registry implemented in the 1990s was a disaster, but is there a way something like it could be brought back and revised as part of a new overall strategy to help curb gun violence? Could we also maybe just have a system where the government gets a piece of paper knowing that somebody just sold somebody else a weapon, so somebody is keeping track?

We’ll see what the federal government does in the months leading up the the 2019 election, and if anyone decides to make it an issue. We’ll also see what municipal governments do, and how they decide to try and tackle it.

How to buy a gun in canada

Americans taking guns into Canada or transporting guns through Canada need to know that the Canadian government has—and strictly enforces—zero-tolerance gun control laws that must be followed by U.S. citizens taking firearms into Canada.

Most problems arise from Americans forgetting they have a handgun with them when crossing the border. This happens most often to Americans from states that allow residents to carry concealed weapons. Failure to declare any firearm will result in confiscation and probably the destruction of the weapon. A fine will be assessed and jail is a possibility.

In general, Americans are allowed to bring up to three allowed guns into Canada as long as the proper forms are filled out and fees paid. Guns must be declared at the border crossing.

Even when guns are declared and the proper forms are completed, Canadian border service officers require travelers to prove they have a valid reason for bringing a firearm into the nation.

Border officers also check to ensure that all firearms are safely stored for transportation and that the guns being transported match those described in the declaration documents.

Minimum Age

Only people age 18 years or older are allowed to bring firearms into Canada. While persons younger than 18 may use a firearm in Canada under certain circumstances, an adult must be present and will be held legally responsible for the firearm and its use.

Non-Resident Firearms Declaration

U.S. citizens bringing firearms into Canada, or taking firearms through Canada to Alaska are required to fill out a Non-Resident Firearms Declaration (Form CAFC 909 EF). The form must be presented in triplicate, unsigned, to a Canadian customs officer at the traveler’s first point of entry into Canada. The customs officer must witness the signature, so do not sign the form beforehand.

Persons bringing more than three firearms into Canada also need to complete a Non-Resident Firearm Declaration Continuation Sheet (form RCMP 5590).

Once it has been approved by the Canadian customs officer, the Non-Resident Firearms Declaration is valid for 60 days. The confirmed form acts as a license for the owner and as a temporary registration certificate for the firearms brought to Canada. The declaration can be renewed for free, providing it is renewed before it expires, by contacting the Chief Firearms Officer (CFO) (call 1-800-731-4000) of the relevant Canadian province or territory.

A confirmed Non-Resident Firearms Declaration costs a flat fee of $25, regardless of the number of firearms listed on it. It is valid only for the person who signs it and only for those firearms listed on the declaration.

Once the Non-Resident Firearms Declaration has been approved by the CBSA customs officer, the declaration acts as a license for the owner and it is valid for 60 days. For visits longer than 60 days, declarations can be renewed for free, providing they are renewed before they expire, by contacting the Chief Firearms Officer of the relevant province or territory.

Persons bringing firearms into Canada must also comply with Canadian Storage, Display, Transportation and Handling of Firearms regulations. The Canadian customs officer at the point of entry can inform firearms owners of these regulations.

Allowed, Restricted, and Prohibited

Approval of the Non-Resident Firearms Declaration allows only standard rifles and shotguns commonly used for hunting and target shooting to be transported into or through Canada.

Handguns with at least 4-inch barrels are considered “restricted” firearms and are allowed in Canada, but require the completion an approval of an Application for an Authorization to Transport Restricted Firearms. This Non-Resident Firearm Declaration costs $50 Canadian.

Handguns with barrels shorter than 4-inches, fully automatic, converted automatics, and assault-type weapons are “prohibited” and not allowed in Canada. In addition, certain knives, even those used for hunting and fishing, may be considered prohibited weapons by Canadian officials.

Related Information

In all cases, travelers must declare to Canadian Customs authorities any firearms and weapons in their possession when entering Canada.

There are often facilities near border crossings where weapons may be stored, pending the traveler’s return to the United States, but this should be done before attempting to enter Canada.

Canadian law requires that officials seize firearms and weapons from persons crossing the border who deny having them in their possession. Seized firearms and weapons are never returned.

The easiest way to transport firearms is to have them crated and shipped to your destination via a commercial carrier.

How to buy a gun in canada

Do you have questions about being a seller with GTA Guns? We’ve got answers!

How many firearms can I list in an auction?

Well, how many do you have?

At GTA Guns, we pride ourselves on helping our clients handle selling everything from single items to entire firearm collections. Simply get in contact with us and tell us what you wish to sell.

Will I need to transport firearms?

Transporting firearms can be a huge hassle, especially if you aren’t fully equipped to do so. If it’s a non-restricted firearm that needs transporting, it needs to be secured in the vehicle, ammo stored separately. If you aren’t in the vehicle at the same time, it must be secured in the trunk.

If you’re transporting a restricted firearm, things get considerably more tricky. They need to be locked in a secure, opaque storage container and individually secured with a locking device, such as a trigger lock. You’ll also need an Authorization to Transport permit.

While we prefer you to transport your sale items to our brick-and-mortar location, we understand that isn’t possible for some people. Contact us today and we can make arrangements to pick up your firearms (fees likely).

What are the GUNCHECK™ and CYCLECHECK™ programs?

These are GTA Guns proprietary gun inspection programs for every item sold through our online auctions.

With GUNCHECK™, our licensed gunsmith inspects all firearms inside and out and writes a condition report. That way, buyers will know the exact condition of the items they’re bidding on.

With CYCLECHECK™, our gunsmiths put semi-automatic firearms through rigorous testing on a range to ensure the firearms operate correctly. A video is recorded to prove to bidders that the firearms are fully-functional.

Will I need to take any photos or write anything about the guns?

Nope! As part of the GUNCHECK™ and CYCLECHECK™ programs, we take high-quality images of the firearms for their auction page. We also take fiber-optic bore pictures so bidders can see the exact condition of the firearms. We’re the only firearm auction company that provides this service!

Will I need to contact the buyers?

No. In fact, the only “contact” you’ll have with buyers is watching them bid on your firearms.

Part of the beauty of our online auctions is that we handle everything when it comes to the sale. Once you hand over your firearms to us, your job is pretty much done! From there, we contact the winner, collect the money, confirm they have a valid licence, and then transport the firearm to them.

What if I’m an executor for an estate? Can you help?

Absolutely. We have helped many executors with estates that include firearms. We can take possession of the firearms and store them in our safe storage facility until the sale. For more details on how we can help, contact us directly!

How do I handle the paperwork?

There is no major “paperwork” when it comes to selling through GTA Guns.

When we first get in contact with you, we’ll collect all of the information that we need from you, including your licence information and the information for each of your firearms. Once you sign the auction agreement, we handle everything else.

How big is your audience?

We have a massive audience of over 65,000 buyers from across North America. These are passionate firearm collectors who are always looking to acquire something new! That means they go through every new auction with a fine-toothed comb, looking for the perfect pieces to add to their collection.

Do you offer guarantees to the buyers? Am I involved?

Yes, we do, and no, you aren’t!

At GTA Guns, we offer unparalleled guarantees to our buyers. If the item they purchase is damaged at all during shipping, the buyer can simply send the item back to us—we pay—and we’ll fix it free-of-charge (30-day max). If they receive their item and aren’t satisfied with it for any reason, they can send it back, and we’ll relist it in our next auction with no seller’s fees (30-day max, +$3,000 hammer price).

Either way, you don’t have any responsibility at all for your former firearms. You’ve been paid! Taking care of the buyer is our job!

What other services do you offer for sellers?

If you have a specific high-value firearm or collectors’ item, you might wish to list it in our online Silent Auction. You can see the items that we’re silent auctioning right now on the website.

While auctioning your items usually brings in higher prices, you also have the option to list your item on the “Buy Now” section of our website.

If you have any other questions about how we treat sellers here at GTA Guns, please contact us today! And if you have any questions about GTA Guns auctions and our other services, we’d be happy to answer!

By Adriel
Post date

If you’re new to firearms, the fact that you can order them online might be new to you. Nevertheless, it is legal and convenient. You can often get great prices and have a new rifle shipped to your home in a week. In general, only the biggest stores can have both low prices and decent availability. Availability at times can be spotty. Here are some of the online stores I’ve used and what I’ve used them for. Interested in used guns? Check out my “Where to buy used guns in Canada” post.

Bullseye North – Prices are usually really decent and they do sales once in a while that are excellent. Lots of specialty selection for aftermarket stuff like MCarbo trigger parts, etc.

Wolverine Supplies – Mainly tactical focus. Great website, prices are a bit higher than average, but they’ve also got a lot of products that no one else has. Excellent customer service.

Tenda’s is one of my new favorites. Their shipping isn’t the fastest, but their prices are frequently the best.

CanadaAmmo – Fairly new, but with a modern website, good customer service, and unique product offering, they’re worth a look. They’ve got an email mailing list that I’d encourage you to sign up to.

Frontier Firearms – General inventory is OK, but what really sets Frontier apart are their screaming deals that pop up every once in a while.

SFRC – SFRC has some great deals that come up every now and again. Pretty solid for tactical supplies as well.

CanadianGunNutz.com – The Equipment Exchange on CanadianGunNutz is a great place to buy and sell all sorts of stuff. It’s also easily the largest Canadian firearms forum, so you should be a member anyways.

Lever Arms – More tactical than hunting, but sometimes there’s crossover. Prices vary, with some being a bit more than average, where others are quite a bit lower.

Trade Ex Canada – Almost all used or surplus firearms and mostly European. If you want to hunt with a Mosin Nagant, SVT-40, a straight-pull Swiss K31, a Mauser, or a classy Husqvarna, they’re the guys to talk to. Very friendly guys, and they have an incredible amount of stock. A fantastic source if you’d like an inexpensive over under or side by side shotgun. I’ve always thought that a Husqvarna in 9.3×57 would be a great little inexpensive moose rifle. A little hard to get ammo for though ? They come across some very interesting handgun deals every once in a while too.

Ellwood Epps – Very good stock availability and generally decent prices.

P & D Enterprises – local to me, P & D has an OK selection of firearms, but excellent inventory of everything else. My favourite place for reloading components, and all sorts of other stuff.

Sail – I haven’t bought anything from SAIL, but my Quebec and Ontario readers are big fans.

Supplies

Higginson Powders has everything you need for reloading and generally has it for the lowest price. Not much for a website, but easy enough if you’re looking for LEE, Hodgdon, or Bushnell products.

Mystic Precision has a few mostly unique product lines. Jerry is definitely the guy to talk to if you want ultra high accuracy or long range.

They’re not from Canada, but orders from this Brownell’s link help us pay for bandwidth. So if you were going to buy something from them anyways, use our link and help us pay for faster website hosting!

By Adriel

Adriel has been hunting all his life, enjoys shooting 3 gun, is a trainer for Project Mapleseed and tries to apply a practical point of views to his reviews. Find the Hunting Gear guy on YouTube

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TORONTO — A look at firearm regulations in Canada:

Types of firearms

Canadian law separates guns into three different categories: non-restricted, restricted and prohibited. A licence, obtained through a process that includes background checks and safety training, is needed to own any type of gun in Canada.

Non-restricted guns include regular rifles and shotguns.

Prohibited guns, which include automatic weapons as well as sawed-off shotguns and rifles under a certain length, handguns under a certain length and handguns that fire 25- or 32-calibre bullets, can be possessed by licensed owners who acquired them before current laws came into place. Those dates vary depending on the type of gun. There are some exceptions, however, such as guns made before 1946 and registered on Dec. 1, 1998.

Restricted firearms include any non-prohibited handgun, any gun that can still be fired when folded or telescoped below a certain length, and any semi-automatic gun with a barrel shorter than 470 mm and the capability of shooting centrefire bullets — a type of ammunition that is fired by striking a firing pin or hammer against a cap or primer at the centre of the bullet’s base.

You must have a licence to possess or acquire a restricted gun or its ammunition. You must also register your restricted gun and have it “verified” by RCMP-approved experts.

Gun licences

You have to be at least 18 years old to get a full Possession and Acquisition Licence for restricted firearms.

People under 18 can, however, use a restricted gun if they are under the “direct and immediate supervision” of an adult who has a licence, while kids aged 12 to 17 can get a Minors’ Licence to borrow a non-restricted rifle or shotgun for activities like hunting or target shooting.

You need a licence to possess a firearm, even if you are not the gun’s owner and have never handled it, the RCMP says.

You must have your firearms licence and registration certificate on hand any time you have your restricted gun with you. If a peace officer asks you for your documents and you cannot produce them, they are authorized to seize your gun.

How to qualify for a licence

To get a firearms licence you have to participate in the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course, which covers basic safety practices, handgun operation and firing techniques, and how to safely handle, store, display and transport restricted guns. Licence applicants have to pass multiple tests to complete the Safety Course.

Getting a licence also entails personal reference checks and a “variety of background checks (and) in some cases, in-depth investigations,” the RCMP says. Applicants must provide information on their mental health, employment and marital status when getting or renewing a licence.

Based on that information, the Chief Firearms Officer may decide to interview the applicant, their references or, with the applicant’s consent, their doctor. Once you get a licence, you are subject to continuous screening for criminal behaviour.

People getting a licence for the first time must also undergo a minimum 28-day waiting period.

You can download licence application and renewal forms on the RCMP’s website. Licences cost $80, and must be renewed every five years.

Accepted reasons for owning a restricted gun

The RCMP only accept a handful of reasons for owning a restricted gun, including target shooting and collection.

Target shooters have to show they practise or compete at an approved gun club or range, while collectors must prove they “know the historical, technical or scientific features” of the guns in their collection, consent to occasional inspections and comply with regulations on practices like storage and record keeping.

In a limited number of situations, a person can get legal authorization to have a restricted gun as part of their profession or to “protect life.”

Carrying and transporting a restricted firearm

Once you have a licence to possess a restricted gun, you can get authorization to carry the gun outside of locations it is licensed for if you can prove to officials that you use it as part of your profession, or that you need it to protect your own life or the lives of others.

To transport a restricted gun from one location to another, you must get an authorization from your province or territory’s Chief Firearms Officer.

Storing guns

The RCMP has rules for storing even non-restricted guns safely. Owners of non-restricted guns must put a lock on the gun or remove the bolt, so it cannot be fired, or else keep the gun locked in a container or room that is difficult to break into.

Owners of restricted and prohibited guns must do both.

This is a corrected story. An earlier version erroneously said licences are not required for non-restricted guns. Also, an earlier version incorrectly suggested all gun owners must put a lock on the gun or remove the bolt as well as keep it locked in an area difficult to break into.

How to buy a gun in canada

Patrick Deega aims a rifle at a shooting range in Calgary, Sept. 15, 2010. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

There are three legal classifications of firearms in Canada: Non-Restricted, Restricted, and Prohibited. In order to purchase and/or possess a firearm of a particular legal class, you must have a firearms licence with the appropriate privileges for that class of firearm.

Standard PAL licence

If you wish to own a rifle or shotgun that can be used for hunting, you require “Non-restricted” privileges attached to your firearms license. A pre-requisite for this class of licence is to take the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC) and exams.

Restricted PAL licence

If you wish to purchase a firearm that is intended for target shooting (only at an approved shooting range), or for collection purposes (most handguns and many rifles and shotguns) then you require “Restricted” privileges attached to your firearms licence. The requirement for these privileges on your firearms license is to take the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC) and exams. The CRFSC course is also a requirement for many law and security employment applications.

Can I get a PAL licence to own Prohibited firearms?

No firearms licenses with “prohibited” firearm privileges are issued to new licence applicants. There is an exception if the new applicant is inheriting specific prohibited firearms from an immediate relative. As a general rule, the firearms licence with the maximum ownership and possession privileges that a new applicant can obtain in Canada is the Possession Acquisition Licence (PAL) with restricted privileges, frequently called an “RPAL licence” or “Restricted PAL”.

Remember that all firearms, regardless of legal classification, must be stored, transported and displayed in accordance with very strict guidelines spelled out in the Firearms Act and its Regulations.

Firearm owner’s need to be aware of, and abide by, the laws at all levels of government including Federal, provincial and municipal laws. For example, some provincial hunting regulations have requirements that firearms being transported be unloaded and encased after sunset and a 1/2 hour before sunrise.

For more information about the history of firearms and licencing in Canada, the RCMP has a very informative web page dedicated to the subject called the “History of Firearms in Canada“, which lays out licensing milestones in a concise timeline format.

Non-restricted firearms

These include all shotguns and rifles that can legally be used for hunting. You need a firearms licence (PAL) to buy, own, or possess them. Air rifles achieving a muzzle velocity of at least 500 feet per second also fall into this category.

Restricted firearms

These can include handguns, rifles, or shotguns. Hunting with restricted firearms is not allowed in Canada. Some firearms may be classified as restricted based on one, or a combination, of physical attributes such as: barrel length, overall length, the ability to fold below a certain length, the ability to be aimed and fired with one hand, and the method of operation. Certain rifles and shotguns are deemed to be restricted firearms in the Criminal Code of Canada and its Regulations, regardless of any of the above physical attributes. Air pistols achieving a muzzle velocity of at least 500 feet per second also fall into this category.

An Authorization To Transport (ATT) is required to transport a restricted firearm from the location where the firearm is registered to any other location. An ATT is only issued for certain approved circumstances and limits the conditions (specific dates, times, and locations) that it can be transported. In addition to the ATT the firearm owner must also possess an RPAL licence and the registration certificate for the firearm being transported.

There is a very strict provision for individuals who have a demonstrated need for restricted firearms for protection against predators in the wilderness that they may obtain an Authorization To Carry (ATC). This is usually limited to licensed trappers and other professions that involve remote wilderness work.

How to buy a gun in canadaRestricted firearms are called so because their use is primarily restricted to target shooting at approved ranges and collecting. Many handguns are restricted and many are prohibited based on short barrel length or illegal calibres.

Prohibited firearms

These include certain handguns, rifles, and shotguns, as well as all assault rifles, sub-machine guns, and machine guns. Some firearms are classified as prohibited based on physical attributes such as: barrel length, illegal physical modifications to barrel or overall length, calibre, and the method of operation. Certain rifles and shotguns are deemed to be prohibited firearms in the Criminal Code of Canada and its Regulations, regardless of any of the above physical attributes.

This classification includes all fully automatic firearms, converted automatic firearms, “sawed-off” firearms that have barrel cut down in length, handguns with a barrel length less than or equal to 105 mm, handguns in .25 or .32 calibre, and other firearms which have been deemed to be “prohibited firearms” in the Criminal Code of Canada and its Regulations.

Firearms privileges for “prohibited” firearms on a firearms license are issued only to individuals who have owned particular firearm that was not prohibited at the time they originally purchased or acquired the firearm, but then became prohibited at a later date through legislation. These individuals are commonly referred to as “grandfathered” individuals, and their license will have the specific privileges for their specific prohibited firearm. The immediate relative of “Grandfathered” individuals may inherit this privilege in certain circumstances.

Next of kin of grandfathered individuals

12(7) A particular individual is eligible to hold a licence authorizing the particular individual to possess a particular handgun referred to in subsection 12(6.1) that was manufactured before 1946 if the particular individual is the spouse or common-law partner or a brother, sister, child or grandchild of an individual who was eligible under this subsection or subsection (6) to hold a licence authorizing the individual to possess the particular handgun

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Author

PhD Candidate, Political Science, Carleton University

Disclosure statement

Noah S. Schwartz receives funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

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Carleton University provides funding as a member of The Conversation CA.

Carleton University provides funding as a member of The Conversation CA-FR.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a surge in gun sales. Estimates based on background checks show that an estimated 2.6 million guns were sold in the United States in March. That is an 85 per cent increase over the same period last year.

While there are no official numbers, gun stores in Canada have also reported increased sales. This has spurred some news media to draw comparisons between the two nations’ gun-sales spikes, potentially stoking the fears of the Canadian public.

This angst has been echoed by gun control groups in Canada that have expressed concerns regarding the impact of “increased access to guns” on public health.

But few have noted the three key differences between the American and Canadian COVID-19 gun-sales spike.

No. 1: Why are they buying?

Canadians and Americans buy guns for different reasons. Over the past few decades, the United States has witnessed a transformation in its civilian gun culture. While in the past, gun ownership was mainly related to hunting and sports shooting, changes in laws and gun advertising have led to a rise in gun ownership for self-defence.

How to buy a gun in canadaGun ownership in the United States used to be mostly related to hunting and sports shooting. (Austin Pacheco/Unsplash)

In the 1970s, only 20 per cent of gun owners indicated self-defence as their primary reason for gun ownership. In the 1990s, following the explosion of laws that allowed Americans to carry guns outside the home, 46 per cent listed self-protection.

More recent studies have shown that 76 per cent of gun owners now report protection as their primary motivation for gun ownership.

The surge in first-time buyers suggests that many Americans buying guns during the pandemic are doing so due to concerns about self-defence, given fears of looting, violence and the government’s capacity to deal with the crisis.

With the absence of a gun-carry movement in Canada, this same shift has not taken place. The conditions under which guns can be used for self-defence in Canada are narrow, and the government stringently regulates not only firearms ownership, but the discourse surrounding guns.

Self-defence is not a legal reason to acquire a firearm in Canada, and cannot be listed as a reason for firearms ownership on a Possession and Acquisition License (PAL) application.

Though no research exists at this time, owners of gun stores who were interviewed by the media noted that Canadians are likely panic-buying due to a fear of shortages rather than a fear of violence, since the Canadian supply chain is heavily dependent on the United States.

That means gun owners who might have waited to buy firearms and ammunition for target shooting over the summer or hunting this fall are buying them now.

No. 2: How are they buying them?

Another key difference between the bump in sales in Canada versus the U.S. is the requirements to purchase guns and ammunition. South of the border, most firearms legislation is made at the state level, with big differences in gun laws across the country.

In many states, the only requirement to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer is a federal background check, though states like California and Massachusetts have much stricter laws.

In Canada, the bump in sales is limited to those who have already passed through the RCMP’s extensive licensing regime. This process often takes up to six months and includes a weekend-long course, passing a written and practical test and reference checks. Canadian gun owners are subject to continuous automatic background checks as long as they hold the licence.

So if somebody is legally purchasing a gun in Canada, it means the RCMP could find “no reasons why, in the interest of public safety, they should not possess a firearm.”

No. 3: Who is buying what?

Many of the people buying guns in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic reported that it was their first time purchasing a gun. Furthermore, the majority of guns sold during the current boom have been handguns rather than long guns.

Though it’s a bit early to speculate, this could very well lead to even less support for gun control in the U.S., given that gun owners are unsurprisingly the least likely group to support gun control.

How to buy a gun in canadaMost first-time gun buyers in the United States during the pandemic have purchased handguns. (Kenny Luo/Unsplash)

In Canada, on the other hand, it is likely that only a small minority of gun purchases during the Canadian spike were first-time buyers given the time frame required to acquire a firearm licence in Canada.

Statistics on the breakdown of handguns versus long gun purchases during the Canadian pandemic spike don’t exist, but we can guess that most of the new guns purchased in Canada were long guns being used for hunting or sports shooting.

That’s because gun owners wishing to own handguns must have a special Restricted Possession and Acquisition License (RPAL) and maintain a membership at a shooting club, which can cost hundreds of dollars per year and limits handgun ownership to serious target shooters.

Of Canada’s 2.2 million licensed gun owners, only about a quarter have licences that allow them to purchase handguns.