In our last article, which you can find here (Aiming For Safety By Targeting Guns: Canada’s Criminal Code), we discussed the ‘use offences’ and ‘possession’ offences portion of Canadian Criminal Code gun laws, after a horrific shooting took the life of a 17-year-old and put several others in hospital. We explored the different sentences someone charged with a firearms-related offence might expect to face, and the mandatory minimums that go with many of them. But, as we talked about in that article, gun crime is very severe, so the laws are very strict and extensive. Today we will talk about the 3rd and 4th category of firearms offences: trafficking offences, and assembling. As a reminder, the 6 different types of firearms offences in Canada are:
- Use Offences
- Possession Offences
- Trafficking Offences
- Export and Import Offences
- Offences Relating to Lost, Destroyed, or Defaced Weapons
The Criminal Code, and the laws of Canada, allow a person to own guns if they abide by certain rules. One rule is that the weapon not be illegally given to another. You can’t simply give someone else a firearm or certain other items. If you do so knowing you’re not allowed to, you might be convicted of trafficking. We’ll talk about all of that in a bit more detail below. Similarly, you can’t illegally make certain firearms or modify your firearms to do certain things. Specifically, there is an offence prohibiting a person from making an automatic firearm. Automatic firearms are those which are capable of shooting in rapid succession with one press of the trigger.
Weapons Trafficking & Transfer Without Authority
Trafficking offences start at s.99 of the Criminal Code. Every person who manufactures or transfers, whether or not for money, any of the below items to a person, knowing that they are not authorized to do so, commits the offence of “weapons trafficking” (s.99(1)):
- A prohibited firearm
- A restricted firearm
- A non-restricted firearm
- A prohibited weapon
- A restricted weapon
- A prohibited device
- Any ammunition
- Any prohibited ammunition
If the item ‘trafficked’ is a firearm, then the person can be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison. Importantly, there are minimum sentences of 3 years for a first offence, and 5 years for a second or later offence (s.99(2)). If the item is not a firearm, then the person can still be imprisoned for 10 years, but the minimum sentence drops to only 1 year (s.99(3)).
Even if the weapon has not yet been ‘trafficked’ a person can still be convicted of possession for the purposes of weapons trafficking under s.100. This carries the same maximum and minimum sentences as weapons trafficking itself (s.100(1)-(3)).
Transferring any of the items listed above without authority, even if the person does not know they are not authorized to do so is an offence (s.101(1)), which can lead to significant prison time. Specifically, a maximum prison term of 5 years (s.101(2)).
Above we briefly talked about prohibited firearms, and specifically automatic ones. Section 102 of the Criminal Code makes it an offence for every person who, without lawful excuse, alters a firearm so that it becomes an ‘automatic firearm’. Automatic firearm has the meaning we previously mentioned – a firearm that is capable of discharging projectiles in rapid succession with one press of the trigger. Making an automatic firearm can lead to a prison term of up to 10 years, and has a minimum sentence of one year, when prosecuted as an indictable offence.
If you’re charged with weapons trafficking, transfer without authority, or making an automatic firearm, you could be looking at serious and lengthy jail time. What might seem like a minor transgression can drastically alter your life. Having a knowledgable experienced lawyer to help guide you through the legal system will ensure you get a fair trial, and that no stone is left unturned in defending your case. In our next article, we’ll talk about the final two Criminal Code categories of firearms offences – export and import offences, and offences relating to lost, destroyed, or defaced weapons. Later, we’ll do another series about offences under the Firearms Act, which are a whole different ball game, but just as important, and with just as much potential to change your life if you’re charged.
As we’ve mentioned before, many minimum sentences have been struck as unconstitutional. We’ll talk more about that in a future article