Definition of Firearms

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General Principles

See also: Definition of Weapons

Firearms are a type of weapon. They are designed to kill or wound and so are less likely to have legitimate purposes. Thus, unlike knives and clubs which do have more varied purposes, firearms are always considered weapons.[1]

2. In this Act,
...
“Firearm” means a barrelled weapon from which any shot, bullet or other projectile can be discharged and that is capable of causing serious bodily injury or death to a person, and includes any frame or receiver of such a barrelled weapon and anything that can be adapted for use as a firearm;


CCC

Further definitions — firearms
2.1 In this Act, “ammunition”, “antique firearm”, “automatic firearm”, “cartridge magazine”, “cross-bow”, “handgun”, “imitation firearm”, “prohibited ammunition”, “prohibited device”, “prohibited firearm”, “prohibited weapon”, “replica firearm”, “restricted firearm” and “restricted weapon”, as well as “authorization”, “licence” and “registration certificate” when used in relation to those words and expressions, have the same meaning as in subsection 84(1).
2009, c. 22, s. 1.


A firearm can include many types of barreled weapons. It is not significant whether there is ammunition available.[2]

All firearms are weapons regardless of the intention of the holder.[3]

A BB gun may not be a firearm only unless it has been established that it is "capable of causing serious bodily harm or death".[4] It may be a weapon where it is "used or intended to be used for a dangerous purpose".[5]

A paint-gun has be considered a "firearm".[6]

Generally speaking, firearms can be classified into two types:

  • Long Guns (rifles, carbines, and shotguns) and
  • Handguns (revolvers, pistols)

A handgun is defined under s. 84(1):

84
...
“handgun” means a firearm that is designed, altered or intended to be aimed and fired by the action of one hand, whether or not it has been redesigned or subsequently altered to be aimed and fired by the action of both hands;
...
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 84; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), ss. 185(F), 186; 1991, c. 40, s. 2; 1995, c. 39, s. 139; 1998, c. 30, s. 16; 2003, c. 8, s. 2; 2008, c. 6, s. 2; 2009, c. 22, s. 2; 2015, c. 3, s. 45, c. 27, s. 18.


CCC

  1. R v Felawka, 1993 CanLII 36 (SCC), [1993] 4 SCR 199 (“A firearm is expressly designed to kill or wound. It operates with deadly efficiency in carrying out the object of its design...A firearm is quite different from an object such as a carving knife or an ice pick which will normally be used for legitimate purposes. A firearm, however, is always a weapon. No matter what the intention may be of the person carrying a gun, the firearm itself presents the ultimate threat of death to those in its presence.”) See also: R v Formosa (1993), 79 CCC (3d) 95(*no CanLII links)
  2. R v Covin, 1983 CanLII 151, [1983] 1 SCR 725 at p. 728
    R v Cheetham, (1980), 53 CCC (2d) 109(*no CanLII links) - unloaded rifle was a firearm
  3. R v Felawka ("A firearm, however, is always a weapon. No matter what the intention may be of the person carrying a gun, the firearm itself presents the ultimate threat of death to those in its presence.")
  4. R v Seyed-Nabian, 2008 ABPC 219 (CanLII) at paras 30 to 35
    R v James, 2011 ONCJ 125 (CanLII)
  5. Labrecque, 2011 ONCA 360 (CanLII)
  6. R.H.S., 2007 ONCA 311 (CanLII)

Firearm Action

The "action" of the firearm refers to the speed at which the firearm can fire.

Firearms can have:

  • Single vs. Double Action (revolvers)
  • Pump action (Shotguns)
  • Break action (Shotguns)
  • Lever action (Shotguns, Rifles)
  • Bolt action (Rifles)

Section 84(1) states:

“automatic firearm” means a firearm that is capable of, or assembled or designed and manufactured with the capability of, discharging projectiles in rapid succession during one pressure of the trigger;


CCC

Section 1 of the Regulations, SOR/98 98-462 462 states:

“Semi-Automatic Automatic”: a firearm that is equipped with a mechanism that, following the discharge of the cartridge, automatically operates to complete any part of the reloading cycle necessary to prepare for the discharge of the next cartridge


Certain weapons can be adapted to be both semi-automatic and fully automatic.

Prohibited Firearm

Restricted Firearm

Other Categories of Firearms

Ammunition

Definitions
84. (1) In this Part,
...
“ammunition” means a cartridge containing a projectile designed to be discharged from a firearm and, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, includes a caseless cartridge and a shot shell;
...
"cartridge magazine" means a device or container from which ammunition may be fed into the firing chamber of a firearm; (chargeur)
...
"prohibited ammunition" means ammunition, or a projectile of any kind, that is prescribed to be prohibited ammunition; (munitions prohibées)
...
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 84; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), ss. 185(F), 186; 1991, c. 40, s. 2; 1995, c. 39, s. 139; 1998, c. 30, s. 16; 2003, c. 8, s. 2; 2008, c. 6, s. 2; 2009, c. 22, s. 2; 2015, c. 3, s. 45, c. 27, s. 18.


CCC

Part 5 of the Regulations state:

PART 5
Prohibited Ammunition
Former Prohibited Weapons Order, No. 10

1 Any cartridge that is capable of being discharged from a commonly available semi-automatic handgun or revolver and that is manufactured or assembled with a projectile that is designed, manufactured or altered so as to be capable of penetrating body armour, including KTW, THV and 5.7 x 28 mm P-90 cartridges.

2 Any projectile that is designed, manufactured or altered to ignite on impact, where the projectile is designed for use in or in conjunction with a cartridge and does not exceed 15 mm in diameter.

3 Any projectile that is designed, manufactured or altered so as to explode on impact, where the projectile is designed for use in or in conjunction with a cartridge and does not exceed 15 mm in diameter.

4 Any cartridge that is capable of being discharged from a shotgun and that contains projectiles known as “fléchettes” or any similar projectiles.

SOR/2015-213, s. 3.


Regs

Evidence
Proof that the ammunition was capable of being discharged is usually done by way of the actual discharging of at least one cartridge. However, it can also be proven by way of opinion from an expert upon examination of the cartridge and the context of the finding of the cartridge. [1]

There generally is no need for expert evidence to prove that certain items fit the definition of ammunition. [2]The officer's observational description of the items as bullets should be sufficient.[3]


  1. R v Wong, 2012 ONCA 432 (CanLII) at paras 38-40
  2. R v Singh, 2004 BCCA 428 (CanLII) at paras 14 to 15
  3. Singh

"Prohibited device"

Use of a Firearm

The use of a firearm must be more than mere possession and can be less than discharging it.

Use has been found to include:[1]

  • striking a person with it
  • pointing the firearm at a person
  • holding it to intimidate
  • brandishing the firearm

It is not use where the accused merely holds the weapon, makes a threatening reference to the firearm, close accessibility to a firearm with an intent to use it.[2]

Note that a party to a principle who is "using" a firearm can be considered a "user" of the firearm as well.[3]

  1. R v Cheetham (1980), 53 CCC (3d) 209 (ONCA)(*no CanLII links)
    R v Langevin (No.1) (1979), 47 CCC (2d) 138 (ONCA)(*no CanLII links)
    R v Stewart, 2010 BCCA 153 (CanLII)
    R v Steele, 2007 SCC 36 (CanLII), [2007] 3 SCR 3
  2. R v Steele, at para 32 ( use occurs where "the offender reveals by words or conduct the actual presence or immediate availability of a firearm. The weapon must then be in a physical possession of the offender or readily at hand.")
  3. See R v McGuigan, 1982 CanLII 41 (SCC), [1982] 1 SCR 284

Evidence Issues

Regulations

Regulations
117.15 (1) Subject to subsection (2), the Governor in Council may make regulations prescribing anything that by this Part is to be or may be prescribed.
Restriction
(2) In making regulations, the Governor in Council may not prescribe any thing to be a prohibited firearm, a restricted firearm, a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device or prohibited ammunition if, in the opinion of the Governor in Council, the thing to be prescribed is reasonable for use in Canada for hunting or sporting purposes.
Non-restricted firearm
(3) Despite the definitions prohibited firearm and restricted firearm in subsection 84(1), a firearm that is prescribed to be a non-restricted firearm is deemed not to be a prohibited firearm or a restricted firearm.
Restricted firearm
(4) Despite the definition prohibited firearm in subsection 84(1), a firearm that is prescribed to be a restricted firearm is deemed not to be a prohibited firearm.
1995, c. 39, s. 139; 2015, c. 27, s. 34.


Misc Firearms Related Terms

Interpretation
Definitions
84 (1) In this Part,
...
export means export from Canada and, for greater certainty, includes the exportation of goods from Canada that are imported into Canada and shipped in transit through Canada; (exporter)
firearms officer means a firearms officer as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Firearms Act; (préposé aux armes à feu)
...
imitation firearm means any thing that imitates a firearm, and includes a replica firearm; (fausse arme à feu)
import means import into Canada and, for greater certainty, includes the importation of goods into Canada that are shipped in transit through Canada and exported from Canada; (importer) licence means a licence issued under the Firearms Act; (permis)
...
prescribed means prescribed by the regulations; (Version anglaise seulement)
...
Registrar means the Registrar of Firearms appointed under section 82 of the Firearms Act; (directeur)
registration certificate means a registration certificate issued under the Firearms Act; (certificat d’enregistrement)
...
transfer means sell, provide, barter, give, lend, rent, send, transport, ship, distribute or deliver. (cession)
...
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 84; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), ss. 185(F), 186; 1991, c. 40, s. 2; 1995, c. 39, s. 139; 1998, c. 30, s. 16; 2003, c. 8, s. 2; 2008, c. 6, s. 2; 2009, c. 22, s. 2; 2015, c. 3, s. 45, c. 27, s. 18.


See Also