Definition of Firearms
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.
Section s. 2 defines "firearm":
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.
A firearm can include many types of barreled weapons. It is not significant to the defintion whether there is ammunition available or not.
- All Firearms are Weapons
All firearms are weapons regardless of the intention of the holder.
Under s. 2, the device must be "operable" and "capable of causing bodily harm" for it to meet the formal definition of "firearm".
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".
- 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):
- 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
R v Covin, 1983 CanLII 151 (SCC),  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
- 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.")
- Covin, supra
R v Cairns, 1962 CanLII 579 (BCCA)(complete citation pending)
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)
Section 84(1) states:
Section 1 of the Regulations, SOR/98 98-462 462 states:
Certain weapons can be adapted to be both semi-automatic and fully automatic.
- Non-Restricted and Other Types of Firearms
- Definition of Restricted Firearms
- Definition of Prohibited Firearms
"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:
- 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.
Note that a party to a principle who is "using" a firearm can be considered a "user" of the firearm as well.
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
- 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.")
- See R v McGuigan, 1982 CanLII 41 (SCC), per Dickson J
Misc Firearms Related Terms
- Forfeiture of Weapons and Firearms
- student handbook for restricted and non-restricted firearms (RCMP)
- List of Firearms (wikipedia)