Canada’s dirty secret. Canada’s gun control system is a failure. The dirty secret is that many Canadians never got a firearms licence (a Possession and Acquisition Licence or PAL) although the RCMP won’t admit it. If any of these unlicensed owners come into contact with the police for any reason, their firearms are confiscated — even if no charges are involved. In police lingo, these are “domestically sourced crime guns.”
According to Angus Reid, a prominent professional survey researcher, there are at least 2 million Canadians who possess guns without a PAL. (See Table QG6). These men and women are criminals because they violated administrative law. Some are principled “libertarians” who refuse to comply with a law they see as unjust, while others are scofflaws, people who ignore the law either through ignorance or disrespect.
Don’t be fooled. The media want you to think “gun crime” means violence. It does not. “Gun crimes” are paper crimes. There are no victims; no criminal intent; rarely any violence. The typical gun crime is a peaceful gun owner caught in a paperwork offence by officious Canadian bureaucrats.
StatsCan has the evidence.
Administrative firearms violations vastly outnumber the violent firearm crimes. StatsCan’s most recent report was in 2012 where they found 12,320 administrative firearms violations in Canada (outside Quebec) and just 1,325 victims injured with a firearm, Firearms and Violent Crime in Canada. Just one in ten “gun crimes” involved a victim. (See Text Box 5).
The actual total of administrative violations for Canada in 2012 was somewhat higher than 12,320 because information from Quebec was excluded due to Statistics Canada’s concerns over statistical irregularities in Quebec reports.
There’s been huge increases since 2012 in both administrative violations as well as victims of violent firearms crimes. Administrative crimes increased by more than 50% from 12,320 to 19,121, while firearms were used to injure victims increased by 44% from 1,325 to 1,913.
In 2021, there were 8,047 victims of violent crimes where a firearm was present, StatsCan reports. Not that the firearm was used to injure someone. Just present. According to my Special Request of StatsCan, firearms are used to injure someone in just 24% of the violent crimes where a firearm was present. Thus, out of the 8,047 violent firearms crimes, just 1,913 individuals would have been injured by a firearm.
Compare that with the 21,157 administrative violations for Canada in 2021 that StatsCan reported. This is a big increase from the 12,320 administrative violations in 2012. Some of this increase may be due to Quebec, where 2,036 individuals were charged with a firearms violation in 2021; an additional 6,801 admin charges. That’s a 50% increase since 2012 (i.e., an increase to 19,121 from 12,320 for Canada outside Quebec).
Administrative firearms offences do not require criminal intent; just sloppy paperwork. No mens rea needs to be involved. (Mens rea is legalese for “guilty mind.”) Real crimes, ones that are inherently wrong by their nature (like murder or robbery), require that a perpetrator intend to commit the crime, are called malum in se by lawyers.
To be charged of an administrative firearms offence, all that’s required is to miss a deadline for submitting paperwork. Forgetting to renew a PAL is enough to earn a criminal charge and up to 10 years in prison. Failure to submit a renewal request on time is a criminal act even if the firearm owner is in the hospital or out of the country. A gun owner can even be charged if the government loses his or her renewal application!
Perhaps you’re thinking that these “administrative firearms charges” are associated with violent gun crimes. Criminals do use illegal guns to commit those crimes and it’d be logical to imagine the police would charge offenders with both having a gun illegally as well as for committing a violent crime such as robbery or assault. Occasionally (under 5%), that happens, but not usually.
“Gun crimes” in Canada are overwhelmingly non-violent paper crimes according to StatsCan. According to a Special Request I submitted to StatsCan, The lion’s share of administrative charges consist of charges for “possession of weapons.” Very few (under 5%) of these charges involved violence. This is consistent with a report by the RCMP National Weapons Enforcement Support Team (NWEST) that the bulk of “crime guns” in Western Canada were non-restricted long guns. I was able to see this report thanks to an Access to Information Request by Bob Zimmer, a Conservative MP for Prince George in British Columbia.