When I heard the news that there was new legislation on the way to govern firearms use and licensing in Canada I was of course very interested. Looking at the government press releases, reactions from various interest groups and news reports a variety of catch phrases such as standing up for law abiding gun owners, simplify and provide clarity to the firearms regime and reduce administrative burdens, reduce the heavy load of paperwork and red tape and as the title to the legislation suggested it would be more common sense.
So with this in mind I looked at the substantive statements that were made about the new act. They are as follows:
- Create a six-month grace period at the end of the five-year licence period to stop people from immediately becoming criminalized for paperwork delays around license renewals;
- Streamline the licensing system by eliminating the Possession Only Licence (POL) and converting all existing POLs to Possession and Acquisition Licences (PALs);
- Make classroom participation in firearms safety training mandatory for first-time licence applicants;
- Amend the Criminal Code to strengthen the provisions relating to orders prohibiting the possession of firearms where a person is convicted of an offence involving domestic violence;
- End needless paperwork around Authorizations to Transport by making them a condition of a licence for certain routine and lawful activities;
- Provide for the discretionary authority of Chief Firearms Officers to be subject to limit by regulation;
- Authorize firearms import information sharing when restricted and prohibited firearms are imported into Canada by businesses; and,
- Allow the Government to have the final say on classification decisions, following the receipt of independent expert advice.
So, to me it doesn’t look like much has really changed, really just a few minor adjustments. Despite this though the majority of fish and game, and firearms organizations all have come out in favour of it, so I guess this is good. It is interesting that you can’t challenge the test so now no matter how much you know or how safe you are, you still have to take the Canadian Firearms Safety Training Course!
So this is how it still goes.
- First you have to take the course from an instructor like myself
- then you have to complete an application form which includes the attachment of a form from the instructor that says you passed, two references, signatures of your conjugal partners and a fee
- then you have to get a picture taken, and a person to certify that the picture is actually you, which you also include with the form
- All of this is used to do a background check and make a card that is your Possession Acquisition Licence (PAL) which you have to renew every five years granted now there is a grace period but you still have to eventually apply for a new one and get a new picture taken.
- Several months later it arrives in the mail.
Overall this is the major paperwork that nine out of ten people face when trying to get a PAL. Nothing here has changed. What I was hoping for myself is that the course materials and exams would get updated and the application process would get modernized. So I guess I have to say “I am underwhelmed”.
I have contacted the Chief Firearms officer for the NWT and Alberta (based in Edmonton) and he said he would let me know about the act when there was more to report. So I expect once it is enacted I will post another blog with the details. So again I say stay tuned.