Seizure of Firearms

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General Principles

Firearms can be seized by one of several methods:

  • general warrantless seizure powers under s. 489;
  • warrant seizure powers under s. 487;
  • exigent seizure powers when firearm believed to be involved in an offence under s. 117.02;
  • seizure from a person without documentation under s. 117.03; and
  • seizure on belief of danger to self or public (no warrant if exigent) under s. 117.04.

Exigent Circumstances Under s. 117.02

Under s.117.02, an officer believes that a firearm or related item[1] "was used in the commission of an offence" or where there was, or is ongoing, an offence where the subject-matter is a firearm or related item[2] and the officer believes the item "is likely to be found on a person, in a vehicle or in any place or premises other than a dwelling-house", then the officer may search the premises or person without a warrant, so long as it under exigent circumstances where it "would not be practicable to obtain a warrant".[3]

Section 117.02 can authorize the warrantless search of a bag that they are told contains a loaded handgun in exigent circumstances.[4]

  1. a prohibited device, any ammunition, any prohibited ammunition or an explosive substance
  2. firearm, an imitation firearm, a cross-bow, a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition or an explosive substance
  3. see also s 487, 487.11
  4. R v Narayan, 2007 BCCA 429 (CanLII)

Seizure on Failure to Produce Authorization

Seizure on failure to produce authorization
117.03 (1) Despite section 117.02, a peace officer who finds

(a) a person in possession of a prohibited firearm, a restricted firearm or a non-restricted firearm who fails, on demand, to produce, for inspection by the peace officer, an authorization or a licence under which the person may lawfully possess the firearm and, in the case of a prohibited firearm or a restricted firearm, a registration certificate for it, or
(b) a person in possession of a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device or any prohibited ammunition who fails, on demand, to produce, for inspection by the peace officer, an authorization or a licence under which the person may lawfully possess it,

may seize the firearm, prohibited weapon, restricted weapon, prohibited device or prohibited ammunition unless its possession by the person in the circumstances in which it is found is authorized by any provision of this Part, or the person is under the direct and immediate supervision of another person who may lawfully possess it.
Return of seized thing on production of authorization
(2) If a person from whom any thing is seized under subsection (1) claims the thing within 14 days after the seizure and produces for inspection by the peace officer by whom it was seized, or any other peace officer having custody of it,

(a) a licence under which the person is lawfully entitled to possess it, and
(b) in the case of a prohibited firearm or a restricted firearm, an authorization and registration certificate for it,

the thing shall without delay be returned to that person.

Forfeiture of seized thing
(3) Where any thing seized pursuant to subsection (1) is not claimed and returned as and when provided by subsection (2), a peace officer shall forthwith take the thing before a provincial court judge, who may, after affording the person from whom it was seized or its owner, if known, an opportunity to establish that the person is lawfully entitled to possess it, declare it to be forfeited to Her Majesty, to be disposed of or otherwise dealt with as the Attorney General directs.
1995, c. 39, s. 139; 2012, c. 6, s. 8; 2015, c. 27, s. 33.


Failure to Produce Authorization

Under s. 117.03, where a person is found in possession of a firearm or related items and cannot produce the appropriate documents authorizing them to possess it, an officer may seize the items. If the proper documentation is produced within 14 days, the officer must return the items seized. If 14 days pass without producing the authorization, the officer may apply to the court to have the firearm forfeited.

Danger to Self or Public

Under s.117.04, an officer may seize a firearm from someone in lawful possession of it where the officer believes he may pose a danger to themselves or the public. A warrant is required unless there are exigent circumstances such that "by reason of a possible danger to the safety of that person or any other person, it would not be practicable to obtain a warrant".(s. 117.04(2))

Under s.117.05, the officer may apply to forfeit the firearm after 30 days where it can be established that forfeiture is in the "interests of the safety of the person". (see Forfeiture Orders)

See Also