NFA BRIEFING DOCUMENT 21 VERSION 1
Due to a number of errors and omissions in the Firearms Act procedures for registering firearms, there are a number of things that can be done that the writers of the Firearms Act apparently did not intend to allow. As a result, the firearms registration system should probably be entirely re-written by someone who understands systems design. The original writers apparently had little or no knowledge of the requirements of good systems design, and it shows.
A firearms registration certificate, once issued, is a permanent document unless it is voided by Parliament or revoked by a Chief Firearms Officer, a delegated authority, or a court of law. At least, they are permanent until the government changes its mind.
All the old green paper “permanent” registration certificates and the even older white paper registration certificates (5 firearms per page) were revoked by Firearms Act section [FA s.] 127(2)(b) on 31 Dec 2002. Those certificates are now so much waste paper, except for the purpose of demonstrating that the holder had the intention of obeying the law, and as evidence of compliance in cases where the firearms are currently being held by the Executor of an estate.
The procedure for transferring a firearm is confused, to say the least.
The Criminal Code [CC] definition of “transfer,” found in CC s. 84(1), is “sell, barter, give, lend, rent, send, transport, ship, distribute or deliver.”
The Firearms Act definition is found in FA s. 21, which says, “For the purposes of sections 23 to 32, “transfer” means sell, barter, or give.”
FA s. 23 to 32 are the sections that deal with a permanent transfer of a firearm from one person (corporation or individual) to another person.
FA s. 2(2) says, “For greater certainty, unless otherwise provided, words and expressions used in this Act have the meanings assigned to them by section 2 or 84 of the Criminal Code.”
After carefully sorting through the above complications, it would appear that a transfer of registration using FA s. 23, 27 and 31 is only required when the transfer fits the FA s. 21 definition, “sell, barter, or give.” However, it is not forbidden to use that procedure when the transfer is “lend [or] rent.”
When A sells, barters, or gives a firearm to B, the transfer is governed, in part, by FA s. 66(a), which says:
66. A registration certificate for a firearm expires where
(a) the holder of the registration certificate ceases to be the owner of the firearm… [emphasis added throughout].
That is the only way provided for the removal of A’s registration certificate from the registration system, and it is a classic example of bad systems design.
- A sells, barters or gives the firearm to B. At the moment of transfer of ownership, A’s registration certificate expires. It is highly unlikely that a new registration certificate has been issued to B, so A is now illegally in possession of an unregistered firearm.
- The issuance of a registration certificate to B is now complicated by the fact that the firearm is unregistered, particularly if the firearm is a prohibited handgun.
At this point in time, the Registrar and police are dealing with that problem by ignoring FA s. 66(a). They are behaving as if A’s registration certificate remains valid until B gets his and is able to take the firearm — but that is clearly a violation of the letter of the law.
Firearms are divided into classes and subclasses for the purpose of licencing and registration.
The back side of a firearms licence lists the classes of firearms that a person may acquire, and the classes that he or she may possess.
Anyone with a licence that authorizes acquisition and possession of a non-restricted firearm may acquire, register, and, after getting a registration certificate, possess a non-restricted firearm.
Anyone with a licence that allows acquisition of a crossbow may acquire and possess a crossbow, without registering it. There is no such thing as a possession licence for a crossbow, so once you have one, no documentation of any kind is required to prove that you are in legal possession of it. It doesn’t have to make sense; it’s government policy.
Anyone with a licence that allows acquisition and possession of a full automatic firearm may acquire, register, and, after getting a registration certificate, possess a full automatic firearm. Although it is not indicated on the licence, this is a [FA s.] 12(2) licence. The Individual must have possessed a full automatic firearm on 01 Jan 1978, and possessed one legally and continuously since 01 Dec 1998. Read that very carefully.
Anyone with a licence that allows acquisition and possession of a converted automatic firearm may acquire, register, and, after getting a registration certificate, possess a converted automatic firearm. Although it is not indicated on the licence, this is a [FA s.] 12(3) licence. The individual must have possessed a converted automatic firearm on 27 Jul 1992, and possessed one legally and continuously since 01 Dec 1998.
Anyone with a licence that allows acquisition and possession of a [FA s.] 12(4) firearm may acquire, register, and, after getting a registration certificate, possess a firearm that appears on the list of firearms that became “prohibited weapons” as a result of Prohibited Weapons Order No 12 0f 23 Jul 1992. The firearm must have been “grandfathered” by having been registered on 01 Oct 1992, and the licence holder is “grandfathered” by having had one before 27 Jul 1992, by having had one legally and continuously since 01 Dec 1998. Note the subtle difference here — “before 27 Jul 1992.”
Anyone with a licence that allows acquisition and possession of a [FA s.] 12(5) firearm may acquire, register, and, after getting a registration certificate, possess a firearm that appears on the list of firearms that became “prohibited weapons” as a result of Prohibited Weapons Order No 13 of 29 Nov 1994. The firearm must have been “grandfathered” by having been registered on 01 Jan 1995. The licence holder must have been “grandfathered” by having possessed a 12(5) firearmbefore 01 Jan 1995, and by having had one legally and continuously since 01 Dec 1998. Note the “before” again.
Anyone with a licence that allows acquisition and possession of a [FA s.] 12(6) firearm may acquire, register, and, after getting a registration certificate, possess a .25 or .32 calibre handgun, or one with a barrel less than 105mm/4.14″ long. The firearm must have been “grandfathered” by having been registered on 01 Dec 1998. The licence holder must be “grandfathered” by having legally possessed one on 01 Dec 1998, and by having had one legally and continuously since 01 Dec 1998.
Anyone with a licence that allows acquisition and possession of a [FA s.] 12(7) firearm may acquire, register, and, after getting a registration certificate, possess a .25 or .32 calibre handgun, or one with a barrel less than 105mm/4.14″ long. The firearm must have been “grandfathered” by having been registered on 01 Dec 1998. The firearm also must have been acquired from a child, parent, grandparent, brother or sister of the person acquiring the firearm, and the firearm has to have been manufactured before 1946. This section is usually used to transfer firearms from an estate to the heir, but the transfer can take place before the death of the legal holder.
A firearm being held under a 12(7) licence can be transferred to anyone who has a 12(6) licence.
Read the above paragraphs very, very carefully. Note the differences — some things have to be “continuously since” a date, one is “before” a date, and some just have to have been so on a date — for that one day only. It requires very careful analysis to determine what a situation actually is, and the firearms control bureaucrats often get it wrong.
Note also that some of the classes overlap.
It is perfectly possible for a firearm to be in the 12(2) and the 12(4) or 12(5) class. It is also possible for a firearm to be in the 12(3) and the 12(4) or 12(5) class. And it is possible for a single firearm to be in the “restricted firearm” and in the 12(6) class, because it has extra parts that can shift it from one to the other and back by calibre change and/or by barrel length change.
The common Mossberg .22 rimfire semi-automatic rifle (all Models) seems to fall into both the non-restricted firearm class and the “prohibited firearm” class. That is a side effect of Order in Council SOR/98-462, which made the US Arms PMAIP Assault Pistol “and any variant of modified version of it” a “prohibited firearm,” because all the Mossbergs are “variants” of the PMAIP. The government is dealing with that situation by ignoring it.
The firearms control bureaucracy appears to have no understanding of those possibilities. The computer program used for issuing registration certificates cannot print a registration certificate for a firearm that falls into two classes at once. This is yet another example of bad systems design; the system should be able to handle the real world.
LENDING A FIREARM
Lending a firearm is governed by FA s. 33. It says,
33. … a person [individual or corporation] may lend a firearm only if
(a) the person
(i) has reasonable grounds to believe that the borrower holds a licence authorizing the borrower to possess that kind of firearm, and
(ii) lends the borrower the registration certificate for the firearm… [emphasis added throughout]
Note that lending a firearm does not require one to follow the transfer procedure. The firearm passes into the hands of the borrower, frequently with no need for any notification of the system or paper work, and, after that, the system has no information on where it actually is.
The borrower’s situation is covered by Criminal Code section [CC s.] 84(4)(b)(ii). It says:
84. (4) For the purposes of this Part [firearms sections of the CC], a person is the holder of…
(b) a registration certificate for a firearm if…
(ii) the person possesses the registration certificate with the permission of its lawful owner [emphasis added].
Note that the person with a borrowed firearm and a borrowed registration certificate has the same standing before the law as a person with a firearm and registration certificate that he owns. He is not in violation of CC s. 91 or 92.
It is possible to use the transfer procedure to supply the borrower with a registration certificate of his own. If the procedure is used to do that, there is a strange effect.
- A lends a firearm to B, and they access the system to apply for a new registration certificate for B. (If they tell the firearms control bureaucrat what they are doing, and why, the bureaucrat is likely to refuse to process the transfer, although such a transfer does not violate any laws.)
- If they do not provide the bureaucrat with information that is none of his business, the bureaucrat will issue a registration certificate to B.
- However, because A did not “cease to be the owner” of the firearm, A’s certificate does not expire as a result of the effects of FA s. 66(a) (see above). Therefore, from that time forward, the firearm is legally registered to both A and B.
The confusion in the mind of the bureaucrat arises from FA s. 16. It says,
16. (1) A registration certificate for a firearm may be issued to only one person.
16. (2) Subsection 1 does not apply in the case of a firearm for which a registration certificate referred to in section 127 [that is, an old green paper certificate] was issued to more than one person.
Careful study reveals that FA s. 16 was intended to end the formerly legal practice of registering a particular firearm to both husband and wife, or both father and son. That was called “dual registration.” FA s. 16 is another example of very bad system design.
FA s. 16(1) forbids only the issuance of one registration certificate to two or more named persons. It says nothing that forbids the issuance of two registration certificates, to each of the two persons, for the same firearm, as long as there is only one name on each.
Subsection 16(2) is rather amusing. It has the effect of “grandfathering” the firearm, so that it is legal to issue single registration certificates for it to two or more persons. That was apparently intended to allow a dual-registration certificate of the old green paper type, made out to two or more persons whose names appear on the single certificate, to continue by allowing the issuance of a “grandfathered” dual-registration new-style single certificate to two or more persons in these special circumstances.
Note, however, that the “grandfathering” is tied to the firearm, and not to the persons. Therefore, such a firearm can be bought, sold, given and traded — and each person who acquires that firearm is allowed to register it to two or more persons on a single registration certificate. It seems unlikely that the writers intended that effect.
Note, also, that FA s. 59 says:
59. An individual who holds an authorization to carry or authorization to transport need not be the person [individual or corporation] to whom the registration certificate for the particular prohibited firearm or restricted firearm was issued.
So one can get an authorization to transport a borrowed firearm, or to carry a firearm owned by the corporation one works for.