Weapon charges are vigorously pursued by courts in Canada because of the significant increase in weapons-related crimes. According to a Toronto lawyer, weapons charges fall under the Criminal Code and Firearms Act. Anyone who has a weapon that can be used to cause bodily harm or to threaten and use on another person can be charged with a weapon-related crime.
It is legal for licensed civilians to own a firearm in Canada but there are several restrictions to usage. The Criminal Code defines the major categories of firearms as restricted, prohibited, and non-restricted. Restricted firearms include certain handguns and some semi-automatic long guns including rifles that can be fired when “telescoped” or folded to shorter than 660 millimetres.
Meanwhile, prohibited firearms include most 32 and 25 calibre handguns and handguns that have a barrel length of 105 mm or shorter. Also prohibited are fully automatic firearms, converted automatics, firearms with sawed-off barrels, and military rifles like AK47. Non-restricted firearms include ordinary shotguns and rifles like those used for hunting.
The Firearms Act regulates the possession, transport, and storage of firearms. Although the rates of firearm ownership in Canada are much lower than in the United States, ownership regulations are quite strict. A person must have a valid license to possess and acquire firearms including ammunition.
Gun crimes have different penalties depending on the nature of the crime. For example, careless storage or handling of a firearm has less severe penalties. The maximum penalty is between 6 months plus a $5,000 fine and two years. For subsequent offenses, the maximum penalty is 5 years.
Meanwhile, if a person points a gun to another person, the maximum sentence will be 6 months plus a $5,000 fine to 5 years jail time. Carrying a concealed weapon has a non-severe penalty. The maximum sentence is 6 months plus a $5,000 fine to 5 years jail time.
Severe penalties are associated with crimes where the perpetrator knowingly disobeys the firearms laws. A person can be charged for possession of a weapon for dangerous purposes when he has a weapon, imitation of a weapon, or an unauthorised weapon with the intention of using the weapon to harm another person. The weapon can be used in a murder, assault, harassment, and robbery. The maximum sentence is 6 months plus a $5,000 fine to 10 years in prison.
When a person knowingly possesses an unauthorized firearm, it can be construed that there is an intent to commit a crime or any illegal activity. The minimum penalty is 1 year for the 2nd offence while a maximum penalty is 10 years imprisonment.
The Supreme Court of Canada has recently abolished the severe 3 to 5-year minimum penalty for the possession of a restricted firearm with ammunition; however, sentencing ranges from 1 year with a $5,000 fine to 10 years in prison.
There are also proposed changes to gun laws that will limit the transport of weapons, enhance background checks, tighten gun licensing regulations, and closer scrutiny of buyer credentials. The goal of the proposed changes is to make the purchase, storage, and transport of weapons more difficult within the country.