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]

Section s. 2 defines "firearm":

Definitions

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;
...
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 2; R.S., 1985, c. 11 (1st Supp.), s. 2, c. 27 (1st Supp.), ss. 2, 203, c. 31 (1st Supp.), s. 61, c. 1 (2nd Supp.), s. 213, c. 27 (2nd Supp.), s. 10, c. 35 (2nd Supp.), s. 34, c. 32 (4th Supp.), s. 55, c. 40 (4th Supp.), s. 2; 1990, c. 17, s. 7; 1991, c. 1, s. 28, c. 40, s. 1, c. 43, ss. 1, 9; 1992, c. 20, s. 216, c. 51, s. 32; 1993, c. 28, s. 78, c. 34, s. 59; 1994, c. 44, s. 2; 1995, c. 29, ss. 39, 40, c. 39, s. 138; 1997, c. 23, s. 1; 1998, c. 30, s. 14; 1999, c. 3, s. 25, c. 5, s. 1, c. 25, s. 1(Preamble), c. 28, s. 155; 2000, c. 12, s. 91, c. 25, s. 1(F); 2001, c. 32, s. 1, c. 41, ss. 2, 131; 2002, c. 7, s. 137, c. 22, s. 324; 2003, c. 21, s. 1; 2004, c. 3, s. 1; 2005, c. 10, s. 34, c. 38, s. 58, c. 40, ss. 1, 7; 2006, c. 14, s. 1; 2007, c. 13, s. 1; 2012, c.1, s. 160, c. 19, s. 371; 2013, c. 13, s. 2; 2014, c. 17, s. 1, c. 23, s. 2, c. 25, s. 2; 2015, c. 3, s. 44, c. 13, s. 3, c. 20, s. 15; 2018, c. 21, s. 12; 2019, c. 13, s. 140; 2019, c. 25, s. 1.

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Note up: 2

A "firearm" under s. 2 is also subdivided into different classifications within s. 84 which includes categories of non-restricted, restricted, or prohibited firearms (see below).

This definition of "firearm" was introduced by amendment 1995, c. 39. Prior to that amendment the term was not defined in the Code.

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) [firearms and other weapons — definitions].
2009, c. 22, s. 1.
[annotation(s) added]

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Note up: 2.1

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

All Firearms are Weapons

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

Operability

Under s. 2, the device must be "operable" and "capable of causing bodily harm" for it to meet the formal definition of "firearm".[4]

However, a device that otherwise meets the definition of "firearm" cannot be excluded from the definition merely because it is inoperable or disrepair, but is capable of being "easily repaired".[5]

Classes of Guns

Generally speaking, firearms can be classified into two types:

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

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

84 (1) In this Part [Pt. III – Firearms and Other Weapons (s. 84 to 117.15)]
...
"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;
...
[omitted (2), (3), (4), (5) and (6)]
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


Note up: 84(1)

  1. R v Felawka, 1993 CanLII 36 (SCC), per Cory J (“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, 1992 CanLII 12828 (ONCA), 79 CCC (3d) 95, per curiam
  2. R v Covin, 1983 CanLII 151 (SCC), [1983] 1 SCR 725, per Lamer J, at p. 728
    R v Cheetham, 1980 CanLII 2978 (ONCA), 53 CCC (2d) 109, per Blair JA (2:1) - unloaded rifle was a firearm
  3. Felawka, supra ("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. Covin, supra
  5. R v Cairns, 1962 CanLII 579 (BCCA)(complete citation pending)

Firearm Action

The "action" of the firearm refers to the component of the firearm hand handles the cartridges, including the discharge of the bullet from the cartridge.

Firearms can have:

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

Section 84(1) states:

Definitions

84 (1) In this Part [Pt. III – Firearms and Other Weapons (s. 84 to 117.15)]
...
"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;
...
[omitted (2), (3), (4), (5) and (6)]
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


Note up: 84(1)

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

Regs

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

Firearm Classifications

"Prohibited device" and "ammunition"

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 used 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 CanLII 2978 (ONCA), 53 CCC (2d) 109 (ONCA), per Blair JA (2:1)
    R v Langevin, 1979 CanLII 2999 (ONCA), (No.1) (1979), 47 CCC (2d) 138 (ONCA), per Martin JA
    R v Stewart, 2010 BCCA 153 (CanLII), per Frankel JA
    R v Steele, 2007 SCC 36 (CanLII), per Fish J
  2. Steele, ibid., 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), per Dickson J

Evidence Issues

Regulations

Regulations

117.15 (1) Subject to subsection (2) [power to make regulations – restrictions], 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) [firearms and other weapons — definitions], 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) [firearms and other weapons — definitions], 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.
[annotation(s) added]

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Note up: 117.15(1), (2), (3), and (4)

Misc Firearms Related Terms

Interpretation
Definitions

84 (1) In this Part [Pt. III – Firearms and Other Weapons (s. 84 to 117.15)],
...
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.

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Note up: 84(1)

See Also