In Quebec, gun control is a subject that is unfortunately sensitive. The majority of people who fear firearms often do so out of ignorance. After the media releases of anti and pro firearms groups, many are still asking legitimate questions about gun control in Quebec. Here are some answers.
But before going into details, I invite you, whether you are for or against firearms, to visit your shooting club or your local shooting range during an open day. Come meet some enthusiasts and try target shooting. You will certainly be surprised but you can at least say that you have tried it and that you knowingly speak, not out of ignorance. I will not hide that the majority of the people I invite to join me for a shooting session leave with a smile even if at the beginning they were more or less interested. Ladies, you also have your place on the line of fire, several clubs hold a “Ladies Night”, inform yourself.
While the responsibility for controlling firearms is a federal jurisdiction, provinces and municipalities have the power to enact laws and regulations to regulate the use of firearms on their territory. In this text, Quebec will be in the forefront of demonstrating the reality of Quebec firearms owners.
First, in Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is managing of the Canadian Firearms Program, or simply CFP. The CFP is the entity that governs the control of firearms across Canada with the help of provincial Chief Firearms Officers (CFO). In Quebec it is the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) that acts as the CFO. So it is the RCMP and the SQ, in collaboration, that will determine whether you are eligible to hold a firearm or not.
It is the CFP that manages the Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) applications and the restricted and prohibited firearms registrations.
It should also be known that firearms in Canada are divided into three broad categories, either prohibited, restricted and non-restricted.
Prohibited firearms are the firearms that are prohibited from owning for the common mortals in Canada. This class contains in particular the automatic firearms but also other firearms having certain technical specifications for example a barrel too short. Some collectors however have a vested right for possession of certain firearms in this category. The laws concerning the possession, use and transport of these firearms are rather similar to restricted-category firearms. It is impossible to obtain the prohibited class on a PAL via a new application, a member of your family must bequeath to you the right of possession.
Restricted firearms are mainly handguns and revolvers. This category also includes some long firearms such as modular firearms. Strict laws govern the storage, transportation and use of those firearms of this category. These firearms can only be used for target shooting in an accredited shooting club. It is also noted that these firearms are still registered to the CFP in the restricted firearms register.
Non-restricted firearms are long guns, rifles and shotguns that do not fall into the two categories above and are used primarily for hunting but also for target shooting and skeet shooting.
How to buy and legally possess a firearm?
It is a process that can be long, complex and costly depending on the type of license you want and the activities you want to practice.
The first step is to follow the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC). Without this course, you cannot apply to obtain your Possession and Acquisition license (PAL), you must pass the exams at the end of the training. The Quebec Federation of Hunters and Fishermen who offers the CFSC training of one day also offers you the possibility to follow the additional training of a day of initiation to hunting with firearm (ICAF). The ICAF is the training that is required to practice hunting with firearms.
Once the training is completed and you passed the exams, you get a hunter certificate with the code corresponding to each training followed. You will still get this certificate if you do not follow the ICAF, the CFSC is indicated with the code “L”.
When you obtain your hunter certificate, you can now complete the application form for your Possession and Acquisition licence (PAL). You need to provide a multitude of information, including details about your current or past relationship. You must also have two respondents who needs follow a list of criteria. Your spouse, your former spouses and your two respondents must sign your application and may be contacted by the RCMP or the CFO of your province to validate your request information. Following your background check, a PAL will be issued to you if you meet all the conditions. It may take several weeks before you get a response, sometimes even several months.
A quick tip: if you want to practice target shooting with restricted firearms, wait until you have completed the training for this category of firearm to limit the costs and make only one application for a PAL to the RCMP.
In summary, to practice hunting, you must therefore take a safety course in the handling of firearms, follow a second training specific to hunting activities with firearm and finally get your PAL.
It is when you get your PAL that you can go to your favorite shop to purchase your first non-restricted firearm.
You want to practice handgun and revolver shooting? You have to start by following the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC). The CRFSC is a copy of the CFSC but focuses on the specifics of restricted firearms. You have to take the one day training and pass the exams.
Now that you’ve passed the CRFSC, can you buy a pistol? No. You must first apply for a Restricted Possession and Acquisition license or RPAL. And so go through a background check on your person even if you already have a PAL. The RPAL application process is the same as for the PAL.
You received your RPAL, can you now buy your first handgun? No. In Quebec, you must, in addition to the CRFSC, undergo specific training called Bill 9: “An act to promote the protection of persons with respect to an activity involving firearms and to amend the Sports Safety Act”. This training of about 4 hours will teach you the basics of this law. After the success of the theoretical test, you will also have to pass a practical test of manipulation in which you will have to shoot some ammunition while the instructor evaluate you.
Now that you have your RPAL and you have passed the aptitude test of Bill 9, you still cannot buy a restricted firearm. As you learned in Bill 9 class, in Quebec you must be a member of a shooting club before you get the requirements on your RPAL to purchase your restricted firearm. You must now contact your local shooting club and register. Do not forget to go practice at least once a year and to fill the register properly, so you will not have to follow the Bill 9 training again. If you do not renew your RPAL or pass the one-year deadline for Bill 9, it is possible for the police to go to your house to pick up your firearms until the situation is resolved.
Finally, you have your RPAL, your Bill 9 and your local shooting club membership card. Now you can buy your first restricted firearm. However, you will not be able to take it home immediately. Since restricted firearms are still registered, the dealer or individual who sells you a restricted firearm must apply for a transfer to the RCMP. The RCMP will then make a new background check before approving or denying this transfer request. It is even possible that your respondents or your spouse, indicated in your last RPAL application, might be contacted prior to approval. You will receive your restricted firearm registration certificate by mail when the transfer is authorized.
In the specific case, in Quebec, the firearms controller will contact you to get a copy of your shooting club membership card if it is not up to date in the files. A series of conditions will then be added to your RPAL to allow the transport of your restricted firearms between the place of purchase, the shooting club, the gunsmith and your home. For any other destination, you will need to apply for transportation authorization to the RCMP.
To compare, in Ontario, where Bill 9 is not applicable, you are not required to be an annual member of a shooting club to carry a firearm to a club. You can therefore practice target shooting as a “daily visitor” for a lesser cost if you do not show up regularly for a shooting session.
Now, following the approval of your PAL or RPAL application, you must renew your license every 5 years to have the right to keep your firearms. Renewal is exactly the same process as your first request including a background check, respondents and relationships.
How much does it cost?
Becoming a target shooter or hunter can be an expensive experience. You have to count the trainings, the licence applications as well as the related fees such as photo and subscriptions to the shooting club. Next comes the cost of firearms, accessories (Safety cabinet, transport box, locks…), maintenance and ammunition. The secret is passion. In fact, only to start target shooting, you can count more than $1000. Target shooting and hunting are an integral part of our province’s economy. Every year, thousands of enthusiasts spend huge sums of money to practice their favorite sports.
The law and the Shooters
Target shooters and hunters are respecting the current laws. It should be known that the practice of these activities with the smallest irregularity can result in a sentence of several years in prison. The mere fact of holding ammunition without a valid PAL is punishable by a prison sentence of up to 5 years.
It is probably because of these strict laws that Canada have very good firearms safety statistics. Although governments are proposing new, more restrictive laws, target shooters should not be the target of government.
Criminals should be the priority. In order to do so, the government must invest large sums in the police forces to support the hunting of contraband firearms. It is these firearms that are found on the street in contravention of the transportation, storage and safe use of firearms laws.
Unfortunately, honest citizens are an easy target, so why not create a false sense of security in the population that unfortunately does not know the severity of the process that the target shooters have to follow to the letter to practice a most interesting activity.
The discussions on mental health are also to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, despite a tightening of laws, tragedies will occur with or without firearms. It is better health and education services that will make a difference. This difference will be noticeable for the tragedies in general, not only for those committed with firearms. Remember, a blunt object, a knife or a car can also make dozens of victims before the police force can neutralize the threat.
And the new Quebec register? You really think has a magic solution? What are his faults?
Verification of a valid PAL or RPAL does not protect the population or police from illegal firearms. Do you really imagine that criminals are following the steps to get a PAL? Now will they register their firearms? I don’t think so, since these firearms are imported illegally or stolen.
What very few people know is that in Quebec the firearms are already partly registered, because the government is already asking business to keep a record of the firearms sold in their shop, yet no one mentions it since I do not believe that it avoided one drama. Go to a shop to complete the purchase of a firearm and you will see the seller entering your personal information in the register including your app number.
When buying a firearm via Internet from a business or an individual established outside Quebec, if it is not registered voluntarily by the new owner, it will be under the radar.
A firearm owner will have 45 days to register a new firearm acquired and stored in Quebec. He will also have 45 days to make it “move” to Ontario.
A firearm duly registered in Quebec may be “sold” outside Quebec to remove it from the register.
A firearm can also be borrowed. A person with a pal who holds no firearms may borrow a firearm from a friend for example and may commit a gesture while in the register there is no indication that the individual possesses a firearm.
Someone who wish to commit a crime can also buy a gun on the black market or even make a craft one. A simple 3d printer is enough to make a firearm.
Basically, I think you see where I’m getting at, there are several shortcomings in this project that will create nothing more than a false sense of security in the population. The funds invested in the new register should be routed to find real solutions such as mental health care and help police forces to eliminate illegal firearms from our streets.
And the safety of children and women?
Education is the best way. When you are 12 years old, register your children to follow the CFSC training. It’s a very nice Christmas or birthday gift. They will learn the safe handling of firearms with experts. Even if you don’t have one, this knowledge might be useful to them someday. To imagine being a character of a movie or a video games, poses a great danger for all when the handling of a firearm is not done in a safe way.
Then the women. Although my girlfriend does not really practice shooting, in fact she accompanied me only twice, I still paid her a CFSC training. As education is the basis of safety and firearms are present at home, I preferred to have her to attend the course simply so that she could see by herself everything that a gun owner is required to follow to preserve her privilege. You know what? She was surprised to see that I was not content to follow the minimum but that I do more than the law demands.
Many myths still persist in people’s minds. Here are some:
- Automatic firearms should be banned in Canada for the safety of citizens. This is already the case, these firearms fall into the class of prohibited firearms.
- Why apply for a PAL, I can buy a hunting firearm without a license. The reality is that even if you pay your firearm without having your license in your pocket, you cannot take possession of it without having provided proof to the trader or individual that you have the right to own a firearm. Remember, possess or carry a firearm without a permit and the right class is a criminal act. The seller must also verify that you have a PAL/RPAL or else he or she is also exposed to accusations.
- A permit is not required for the purchase of ammunition. This is not true, business or individuals need to ask you for your possession and acquisition license before they sell ammunition.
- Although silencers are prohibited in Canada, these devices do not completely eliminate the noise of a firearm. But the films show the opposite.
Get in the way!
You are invited to upgrade your knowledge on the subject, to make you an enlightened and free idea. The media often convey incomplete or false information from a lack of knowledge on the subject. My recommendations for you:
You can also contact CFP by phone for questions or report inappropriate firearms behavior at 1-800-731-4000.
Owning firearms is not as simple as many people believe. There is a rigorous process in Canada and even more rigorous in Quebec. If you don’t believe me, I invite you to follow the process and get your RPAL and tell me how fast and easy it was.
My wish now is to see the Quebec population questioning our government on issues that really should be asked about gun control. For example, why are firearm charges often reduced or cancelled when a sentence is negotiated in large cases in court? If the law is not applied to criminals then why make it more severe for honest citizens? How much will the new register actually cost and will it be eliminated if its efficiency is zero or if its cost is excessive? Will the amounts dedicated to the new register be allocated in mental health if the register is eliminated?
Looking forward to reading your comments!
* If you have not found any statistics or examples of events in this text, it is because I would like to see you do your own research. The two clans, pro or anti firearms, have made parts of their version of the same statistics and the same stories, so it will be up to you to create your own version of the facts.