Canada – Amendments to the Criminal Code Amnesty Order related to the May 1, 2020, ban on assault-style firearms
On May 1, 2020, the Government of Canada banned over 1,500 models and variants of assault-style firearms and some of their components, and made an accompanying two year Amnesty Order. The amnesty protects individuals or businesses while they take steps to come into compliance with the law if they possessed a now-prohibited firearm at the time the prohibition came into force.
During the Amnesty period, individuals or businesses who are in possession of these now prohibited firearms may dispose of them through deactivation by an approved business, surrender to a police officer, export them to another country, and, if a business, return them to the manufacturer.
On March 16, 2022, the Government of Canada announced an extension of the Amnesty for eighteen months, until October 30, 2023, along with other amendments. These amendments address issues that have been identified since 2020, allow the Government time to implement the mandatory buyback program, and protect firearm owners as they come into compliance with the law. The buyback program will offer fair compensation to affected owners and businesses. Owners will also have the option of deactivating the affected firearms at the government’s expense. Both options will support the safe removal of these firearms from our communities.
May 1, 2020 ban on assault-style firearms
On May 1, 2020, the Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and Other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited or Restricted of the Criminal Code were amended to reclassify as prohibited over 1,500 models of firearms.
The prohibition also included certain components of some now prohibited firearms (the upper receivers of the M16, AR-10, AR-15 and M4 pattern firearms). New maximum thresholds for muzzle energy (greater than 10,000 Joules – e.g., sniper rifles) and bore diameter (20 mm or greater – e.g., grenade launcher) are in place. Any firearm that exceeds these limits is also now a prohibited firearm.
An Amnesty Order accompanied the ban to protect individuals or businesses who, at the time the prohibition came into force, were in possession of a now prohibited firearm, from criminal liability for illegal possession of the firearm or device while they take necessary steps to comply with the law.
Amendments to the Amnesty Order
The Government is extending the Amnesty Order from April 30, 2022, to October 30, 2023, to address issues that have been identified since 2020, allow the Government time to implement the mandatory buyback program, and protect firearm owners as they come into compliance with the law. The buyback program, which will be introduced in early 2023, will offer fair compensation to affected owners and businesses. Owners will also have the option of deactivating the affected firearms at the government’s expense. Both options will support the safe removal of these firearms from our communities. Additional changes have been made to respond to concerns that were raised following the prohibition and would protect individuals against criminal liability during the amnesty period by:
allowing firearms to be transported so that they can be repaired and used safely for sustenance hunting or for those exercising a right under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982;
protecting those who would alternatively store a newly-prohibited firearm, or an owner who transports it for that purpose;
protecting individuals who lawfully purchased, or entered into an agreement to purchase, a formerly restricted firearm up to and including April 30, 2020, and who did not receive a registration certificate by that date as required by the Amnesty Order;
protecting businesses that take possession of the prohibited firearms in order to deactivate them on behalf of an owner; and,
providing the Bank of Canada, a Crown entity, with flexibility to use its full inventory of firearms that best addresses its security needs.