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A look at Canadian gun laws after shooting

June 6, 2014

TORONTO (AP) — A man suspected in the shooting deaths of three Royal Canadian Mounted Police was arrested early Friday after a manhunt in New Brunswick and charged with murder. Authorities say Justin Bourque, 24, was carrying high-powered firearms when he allegedly gunned down the Mounties and wounded two other officers Wednesday.

It is not known whether he purchased the weapons legally, but under Canadian law he would have had to obtain a firearms license.


Canada’s gun laws are predominantly the domain of the federal government, which since 1934 has required that all handguns be registered. A law passed in 1995 said all firearms should be registered, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government repealed the requirement to register rifles and shotguns in 2012. Residents of Quebec still must register all firearms under an order by that province’s high court.


All Canadians must obtain a firearms license to own or buy firearms as well as ammunition. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police manages all licensing and registration through its Canadian Firearms Registry. Applicants must be at least 18, must pass a safety course and must pass a background check with a focus on mental, criminal and addiction histories. Firearms licenses are valid for five years and must be renewed before they expire.


Since 1969, firearms have been classified as “non-restricted,” ″restricted” and “prohibited.” Non-restricted firearms include shotguns and rifles, such as those commonly used for hunting. Prohibited firearms include short-barreled handguns, sawed-off shotguns and rifles, and automatic weapons. Large-capacity magazines are also generally prohibited. Restricted firearms include all handguns not included in the “prohibited” class, as well as semi-automatic weapons with shorter barrels.


Prohibited and restricted firearms are legal but subject to stringent requirements. They generally must be kept in the holder’s residence or at a place authorized by a chief firearms officer. A prohibited or restricted firearm can only be used under specific circumstances, such as in target practice or a target shooting competition. Canadians can carry a restricted firearm or prohibited handgun in limited circumstances, and in most cases an Authorization to Carry permit is required.

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