The possession and use of firearms is strictly regulated in Ontario under the Canadian Firearms Act and Sections 84-117 of the Criminal Code covering firearms and other weapons. The various firearms-related regulations are exceptionally complicated and their interpretation and comprehension require a firm grasp of the law. The Canadian government and court system have deemed firearms as inherently dangerous, especially when used in the course of other criminal activity. As such, penalties for breaking firearms law tend to be severe. However, to ensure that those lacking criminal intent are not unreasonably penalized, as warranted by the Crown most firearms charges can be tried as summary conviction cases with no minimum sentencing.
Thus, anyone charged with a firearms-related offence in the Greater Toronto Area should seek out the expertise of skilled weapons and firearms charges lawyers, such as those that can be found at Mass Tsang . GTA gun lawyers are instrumental in helping those charged with firearms offences navigate the complexity of the charges. They strive to get such charges tried under the less onerous summary offence regimen, and otherwise seek out favorable outcomes such as dismissals, withdrawn charges, reduced charges, or acquittals.
Types of Firearm-Related Charges
There are literally dozens of potential firearm-related charges that Canadians can be charged with, covering everything from improper storage to using a firearm in the commission of another crime. Possession of a firearm is itself a crime, unless the possessor of the firearm has been issued a valid firearms license. The most common Firearm-related charges addressed by Ontario courts include:
- Unauthorized possession of a firearm
- Careless use of a firearm
- Improper storage of a firearm or ammunition
- Pointing a firearm at people in a threatening manner
- Possession of a firearm for a dangerous purpose
- Carrying a concealed firearm
- Trafficking firearms
- Aggravated assault with a firearm
- Committing robbery with a firearm
“Authorized” Possession, Storage and Transportation Strictly Enforced
Many people run afoul of firearms-related laws in Canada due to the strict requirements and prohibitions contained within Canada’s Firearms Act. Among other things, the Act mandates who is allowed to have possession of a firearm and under what conditions. The right to possess a firearm is granted through the government’s firearms licensing scheme, which has different license and authorization classes based on types of firearms covered, as well as on firearms sales, import/export, inter-provincial transportation, and other firearms-related activities.
The Possession and Acquisition License (PAL) is the standard firearms license anyone in Canada needs to have in order to purchase, possess, own, and/or use firearms and ammunition in Canada. Licenses are valid for five-years and possessing a firearm with an expired license is treated as unauthorized possession under the law. Stringent requirements for securing the PAL include:
- Over the age of 18
- No criminal record offences that include acts of violence or threats
- No criminal record offences that include specific drug-related crimes
- No previously issued court orders restricting communications with others or location-specific prohibitions
- No mental health issues
- Successful completion of the Canadian Firearms Safety Course
The PAL covers non-restricted long-barrelled, limited capacity firearms, such as rifles and shotguns used for hunting and target shooting. Additional licensing/authorization is required for restricted firearms, which include pistols and shorter-barrelled, higher-capacity rifles (assault-style rifles) typically restricted by name. Prohibited firearms (certain handgun calibres, short-barrelled handguns, specifically named handguns, and military weapons) can also be possessed with additional authorization, but only under grandfathering measures in the legislation applicable only to existing owners when the legislation went into effect.
The PAL allows unloaded, non-restricted firearms to be transported anywhere in the province where it is legal to do so. Restricted and prohibited firearms require an Authorization to Transport permit, which typically limits where and how transports can take place.
Storage is also strictly regulated, with storage terms of non-restricted firearms requiring that firearms be unloaded and either trigger locked or locked up in a secure container, and ammunition stored separately in a secure location or separate, difficult to access container. Restricted Firearms must be unloaded, trigger-locked, and secured in a separate container, with ammunition stored separately in a secure location or a separate, difficult to access container.
Penalties for Possession, Use, and Other Firearms Offences
Knowingly possessing a firearm or ammunition without the PAL, or with an expired PAL, is usually tried as summary conviction offences, though maximum sentences can still result in up to a year in prison depending upon the nature of possession. Other possession offences—with the exception of committing robbery or breaking and entering with the intent to steal a firearm—can be tried as either a summary conviction or indictable offence depending upon the apparent severity of the activity. Primary possession offences beyond unauthorized possession include:
- Possession of a firearm for dangerous purposes
- Carrying a concealed firearm
- Unauthorized possession of a restricted or prohibited firearm
- Unauthorized possession in a motor vehicle
- Possession in an unauthorized place
- Breaking and entering to steal a firearm
- Robbery to steal a firearm
When tried as an indictable offence, many of these charges carry maximum penalties of five to 10 years in prison. Breaking and entering or committing robbery to steal a firearm carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Firearm use offences include careless use or storage of firearms and/or ammunition, using a firearm or replica firearm during the commission of another indictable offence crime, and pointing a firearm at others. While often tried as a summary conviction offence with less severe penalties, if tried as an indictable offence maximum penalties for careless use or storage can result in a maximum penalty of two years in prison. Other use offences can result in from one to 14 years in prison for a first offence when tried as an indictable offence.
Other Firearm-related offences include:
- Unauthorized import/export
- Making an automatic firearm
- Failing to report the finding or losing of a firearm to authorities
- Firearms serial number tampering
- Making false statements to a firearms officer
As with most Canadian firearms charges, these offences can be tried under either the less severe summary offence category or as the more severe indictable offence. Indictable offence penalties run the gamut with maximum penalties ranging from one to 10 years for a first-time conviction.
Turn to Mass Tsang as your Firearms Lawyer in Toronto
With careful examination of all elements of each client’s firearms-related charge in the Greater Toronto Area, the criminal trial lawyers at Mass Tsang are dedicated to seeking the best outcome possible for those charged. Mass Tsang lawyers have successfully defended hundreds of Toronto-area firearm-related cases and have a strong record in securing withdrawn charges, dismissals, and other favorable outcomes for their clients.
If you or someone you know is facing firearm charges in the greater Toronto area, contact the expert criminal lawyers at Mass Tsang today for a free consultation.