Re-Registering Handguns

One of the requirements of our new firearms legislation is that everyone who had a registered firearm prior to December 1, 1998 will be required to re-register their restricted/prohibited firearm(s). Whether or not you agree with this makes no difference to the fact that the Department of "Justice" can make your life very difficult if you do not re-register before 2003 (e.g. no Authorizations to Transport, administratively revoking your existing registration, etc.). It appears that a significant proportion of the registered firearms and/or owners that are in the old Restricted Weapon Registration System (RWRS) are not accurately captured in that database. This requirement to re-register firearms is an attempt to get accurate address information on owners and accurate descriptions of firearms.

Before you can re-register you need a valid license. On your Possession & Acquisition License application complete question 14a and 14b if you have been married or common-law in the past two years. Yes, it seems stupid to complete both parts, but if you don’t your application will be deemed to be incomplete and the CFC will require written confirmation of your answer to 14b, making you wait an extra month for a license. Given that the wait for a PAL is now about 12 months, you don’t need extra delays. If your FAC expires in the next 12 months you have already waited too long to apply for a PAL!

When registering or re-registering a firearm, the firearm has to be "verified" against a Firearms Reference Table (FRT) which contains manufacturers’ specifications. Prior to December 1, 1998 there was little quality control, so firearm descriptions that appear on registration certificates may not be accurate enough to match the FRT. Based on the anecdotal experiences of verifiers it seems that the error rate is about 40%. Here are some tips to get your firearm re-registrations to go smoothly:

  • Do not trust the information on your current registration certificate.
  • Measure your revolver barrel from the forcing cone (a few thousandths of an inch in front of the cylinder) to the muzzle. For years manufacturers such as Smith & Wesson advertised guns as having 4" barrels when they actually had 4 1/8" barrels, many of which are a hair over 105.0cm and thus restricted not prohibitted handguns.
  • Measure your semi-automatics and other pistols by placing a cleaning rod down the barrel (with the action closed), marking where the rod exits the barrel and then measure the portion that was inside the barrel. Be sure not to count any compensators or muzzle extensions in this measurement unless they are integral to the barrel.
  • Where it asks for calibre on the forms, give the complete cartridge designation. It seems the CFC form designer didn’t know that calibre is the size of the hole in a gun barrel when they really wanted to ask what ammunition was the gun chambered for.
  • The model designation should be as complete as possible. Colt semiautomatics are notorious for having model names so long that it takes both sides of the slide to write the full model. "Government Model" won’t do: you need the whole "Series 70 Mark IV Government Model" or whatever it happens to be. Also the model is whatever the receiver/frame started life as, it doesn’t matter what barrel/top end was subsequently put on the gun.
  • A lot of older handguns don’t have obvious model descriptions. If you aren’t sure what the gun is you might want to consider enclosing clear photos of it with your application or see a verifier. Also if it is German military firearm it will probably have a year of manufacture and you’ll need to report that date in order to avoid problems due to an otherwise duplicate serial numbers.
  • If you have a target gun that takes multiple accessory barrels (e.g. Walther GSP), there is a significant change you need to know about. Under the old system you got a registration certificate for each barrel assembly. Since December 1, 1998 the grip assembly is considered the frame/receiver, so your set will count as one handgun with multiple accessory barrels. Many of these guns have their serial numbers on the barrel assembly in accordance with German law, but you need to have a serial number or FIN sticker on the frame to comply with Canada’s current regulations.

If you have a look at the Canadian Firearms Centre's forms (JUS677E) you will see that if you have more than one firearm to register, you are supposed to photocopy the appropriate section for each handgun you have. Unfortunatley the forms use shading that makes most of the check boxes disappear when photocopied and the portions you need to copy are spread over several pages. We have put together an improved alternative form for re-registering additional guns - just make as many copies of this as you like and attach them to your CFC JUS677E form. This alternative form gives you more space and includes "optional" fields the CFC should have put in, but didn't because of Alan Rock's promise for "postcard sized" forms. With this additional information your application should sail through the Canadian Firearm Registration System. We have also put together an alternative form for registering non-restricted firearms, as the JUS675E form for long guns is as badly designed as the one for handguns. Remember, our alternatives are for when you have more firearms than the CFC's forms accomodate, attach them to the CFC form as required, they are not meant as a complete replacement.

By the way, the lack of accuracy in the old firearms registration system highlights why you should never throw away any documents relating to your firearms. Over the past 65 years the registration database has gone through several paper and electronic formats, with information being lost with some of these changes. A lot of people with older registrations are being asked to prove that the purpose for their having their firearm is relic/keepsake when they try to re-register their firearms. This keepsake purpose was done away with on December 1, 1998, but people who had registered a firearm with that as the purpose can keep that as the purpose. With that purpose you don’t have to demonstrate that you are an active target shooter or a bone fide collector. However, one of the variables that has been discarded at some point in the past is purpose. Until this gets successfully challenged in the courts, the onus will be on the individual to prove that they had originally registered the firearm as a keepsake.


This page last modified on January 11, 2001.

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