Aiming For Safety By Targeting Guns: Canada’s Criminal Code

Farid Zamani
Farid Zamani
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A 17-year-old was killed in a mass shooting on Saturday, August 14th. 5 other people were seriously injured. The shooting took place in Mississauga. Four of the victims were children. The victims were a 13-year-old, a 16-year-old, two other 17-year-olds and a woman in her 50s. The victims came from different areas of the building and park in which the shootings took place. The police told CTV News’ Bryann Aguilar that it was too early to know whether the shooting was targeted or gang-related. Preliminary information points to multiple suspects armed with semi-automatics . The mass shooting took place on Darcel Avenue, in the area of Morning Star Drive and Goreway Drive.

5 people with serious injuries transported to local hospitals. Unable to confirm age and genders of victims at this time.— Peel Regional Police (@PeelPoliceMedia) September 15, 2019

The Mississauga mass shooting begs a question – which of Canada’s gun laws might apply in this situation? We’ll take a look at Criminal Code to see what firearms offences there are. Afterwards, we’ll discuss two potentially relevant categories of offences and the sentences that go with them.

Firearms and weapons offences are in Part 3 of the Criminal Code. Part 3 is broken up into 11 headings. Each heading contains different sorts of offences and rules. Firearms offences are incredibly serious matters. Conviction of a firearms offence can lead to a person losing the right to own a firearm. Many firearms offences also carry ‘mandatory minimums’. This means that in some cases, regardless of the circumstances, a court must sentence a person to jail for a minimum period of time. If you’re charged with a firearms offence, it’s crucial to have a knowledgable, and experienced lawyer who can explain the effect of different sections, and guide you through this complex and severe area of law. Because a person with a firearm can cause a lot of damage on their own, the laws on firearms are very strict indeed.

Six of the Part 3 headings deal with offences. The remaining headings deal with other rules relating to firearm offences. These include, for example, “Prohibition Orders”, which requires the Court to ban people from owning firearms or other weapons in certain circumstances.

The 6 different types of firearms offences in Canada are:

  1. Use Offences
  2. Possession Offences
  3. Trafficking Offences
  4. Assembling

[1] https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/boy-17-dead-five-others-injured-after-shooting-in-mississauga-1.4593684

5. Export and Import Offences

6. Offences Relating to Lost, Destroyed, or Defaced Weapons

We’ll talk about ‘use offences’ and ‘possession offences’, as well the sentences for each offence. We’ll discuss other offences in later articles, because this is a big area of law. Crimes involving firearms are treated extremely seriously. They can lead up to life imprisonment. Many of them carry mandatory minimum jail terms. That’s not to say there is no flexibility in the law. Some offences are punishable by summary conviction too. Those offences may be subject to lower sentences. Having an experienced, knowledgable lawyer, with expertise in the offence you’re dealing with is key to navigating the system. Having a lawyer will help you get a fair deal – even in an area as stern and as difficult as firearms offences. The law has some flexibility, but fully engaging it can require expert knowledge.

“Use offences” include using a firearm in the commission of an offence, and using a firearm in the commission of an offence. Both of these can lead to a maximum prison term of 14 years. Even a first offence has a minimum term of 1 year. Second offences have a minimum prison term of 3 years. What’s more, the law requires these sentences to be served ‘consecutively’, meaning one after the other (i.e. not at the same time). Use offences also include ‘careless use of a firearm’, which is a charge brought when a person uses, carries, handles, ships, transports, or stores a firearm or certain other things carelessly. Even this, seemingly minor, offence can carry a prison term of up to 2 years for a first offence, or up to 5 years for a second or subsequent offence. The last of the ‘use offences’ is ‘pointing a firearm’. Pointing a firearm can get you a maximum prison term of 5 years.

As for ‘possession offences’, there are 11 different offences listed. The offences and their maximum sentences are:

  1. Possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, up to 10 years imprisonment
  2. Carrying a weapon while attending a public meeting, punishable on summary conviction
  3. Carrying a concealed weapon, up to 5 years imprisonment
  4. Unauthorized possession of a firearm, up to 5 years
  5. Possession of a firearm knowing its possession is unauthorized, up to 10 years imprisonment for a first offence (and mandatory minimums for second or later offences)
  6. Possession at an unauthorized place, up to 5 years imprisonment
  7. Unauthorized possession in a motor vehicle, up to 10 years imprisonment
  8. Possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition, up to 10 years imprisonment, and subject to mandatory minimums
  9. Possession of a weapon obtained by the commission of an offence, punishable with up to 10 years in prison
  10. Breaking and entering to steal a firearm is punishable by up to life imprisonment, and,
  11. Robbery to steal a firearm which is also punishable by imprisonment for life

However, a number of these mandatory minimums have been found to be unconstitutional, which we will discuss in a later article.

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