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Careless Storage of a Firearm

Unsafe Storage of a Firearm or Careless Use of a Firearm is set out by section 86 of the Criminal Code of Canada. Subsection 1 of this provision states that “Every person commits an offence who, without lawful excuse, uses, carries, handles, ships, transports or stores a firearm, a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device or any ammunition or prohibited ammunition in a careless manner or without reasonable precautions for the safety of other persons.”

It is illegal to handle a weapon or ammunition carelessly or with disregard for other people’s safety, according to Section 86 of the Code. This also applies to the illegal shipping, storage, or transit of a firearm.

What are some of the penalties for Careless Storage of a Firearm?

First offenders may spend up to two years in prison, and those convicted of second or subsequent offences may spend up to five years in prison if the Crown proceeds by way of indictment. However, these offences could also be prosecuted as summary convictions, which generally carry more lenient sentences, including lighter fines and/or shorter jail sentences than indictable offences.

How do I Store a Firearm Safely?

In Canada, lawful firearm storage require gunowners to strictly comply with the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code. To legally store firearms, you firstly need to possess a valid Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL), which would be issued by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Gaining this licence requires the individual to complete safety training and pass the requisite background checks.

For non-restricted firearms, like most rifles and shotguns, they must be stored unloaded, meaning that there should be no ammunition in them. For example, if a person has stored their lawfully-obtained firearm in a locked cabinet, as prescribed by the law, but the firearm has bullets in it, this could constitute careless storage of a firearm.

It is important to remember that firearms should always be locked in a secure cabinet, container, or room. It should generally be secured with a trigger lock or cable lock. Restricted and prohibited firearms, such as handguns and certain kinds of rifles and shotguns, have stricter rules. These kinds of restricted firearms must be stored without ammunition in a secured safe, vault, or room. Also, they must be secured with a locking device. It is important that firearm owners store the firearm’s ammunition separately from the firearm, or perhaps locked within the same secure container. Keep in mind that this page should not be substituted for legal advice. It is always advisable to consult an experienced lawyer when being charged with careless storage of a firearm, so that you can receive legal advice tailored to your specific situation.

When transporting firearms, they must be unloaded. Non-restricted firearms should be in, and restricted or prohibited firearms should be both in a case and secured with a locking device.

An Authorization to Transport (ATT) is necessary for moving restricted and prohibited firearms. If displayed at home, firearms must be unloaded and secured with a locking device. Restricted and prohibited firearms should additionally be locked in a secure display case or cabinet.

In order to obtain more complete details on storage, transportation, and display, consulting the RCMP’s guidelines is recommended. This ensures that firearms are stored safely and legally, minimizing risks of theft or misuse.

How Criminal Charges can be Resolved in Canada

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How do I Obtain a Firearm Licence?

In Ontario, getting a licence to possess and acquire firearms involves several steps, and eligibility is strictly regulated. To apply for a Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL), you must be at least 18 years of age. Minors aged 12 to 17 can apply for a Minor’s Licence, which allows the licensees to borrow non-restricted firearms for activities like target practice or hunting, given that they are under supervision.

The first step in obtaining a PAL is to take and successfully complete the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC) for non-restricted firearms. If you also wish to possess restricted firearms, you need to complete the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC). These courses provide ample instructions on how to safely handle, use, and store firearms. After completing the courses, the licensee must pass both written and practical examinations to demonstrate their proficiency and understanding of firearm safety.

After you have successfully completed your exams for this course, you are able to apply for a PAL by submitting the required application form to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). This application requires personal information and details about your background, including any criminal history or history of mental health disorders. One might argue that these kinds of background checks stigmatize people with mental health disorders, falsely presuming that they are “untrustworthy”.

Background checks are conducted on the applicant to ensure that they are not a threat to public safety. Once this application is reviewed and approved, the applicant will receive their PAL which gives them the legal right to possess and obtain firearms in Ontario.

Consequences of a Criminal Record

What are the Penalties for Careless Storage of a Firearm?

The Criminal Code section 86(1) and (2) outlines the different kinds of penalties that might result if convicted of careless firearm storage of a firearm. The severity of the penalties lies largely on whether an indictment or a summary prosecution is used for the crime.

The maximum sentence for a summary conviction is two years in prison, reduced by one day, and/or a fine of up to $5,000. The maximum sentence is two years in prison if the offence is pursued by indictment and is a first-time offence. A second or subsequent offence that is prosecuted by way of indictment carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

In order to obtain more up-to-date details on storage, transportation, and display, is it highly recommended to consult the RCMP’s guidelines.

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Recent Cases

R. v. W.S. and S. A., 2020 ONSC 7295

In this case, the main issue had to do with S.A.’s careless storage of a firearm. A search warrant was executed at one of the accused’s residences, which was the beginning of the investigation. Subsequently, the police discovered a plethora of prohibited narcotics, drug paraphernalia, and an unloaded shotgun that had been improperly stored as required by the law.

The defendant, S. A. was accused of violating section 86(3) of the Criminal Code by storing a firearm in a careless manner. The Storage, Display, Transportation and Handling of Firearms by Individuals Regulations, SOR/98-209, specifies precisely how a firearm must be stored at all times. These regulations stipulate that firearms must be unloaded and either locked or placed in a secure room or container that is difficult to enter. Ammunition must also be kept either apart from the firearm or safely locked alongside it.

In this case, the shotgun found in the master bedroom was not stored properly in accordance with regulations set out by law. It was unloaded but not properly locked by a locking device or stored in a securely locked container. The proper locking of the firearm is important because the firearm has to be rendered inoperable when stored. The firearm was found in an armoire without a lock, making it readily accessible and failing to meet the requisite safety precautions.

Despite these findings, the Court concluded that the Crown had not sufficiently proven that S. A.’s storage of the shotgun constituted a marked departure from the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in a similar situation. This lack of evidence resulted in S.A. being found not guilty of the careless storage of a firearm offence. The Court emphasized the necessity of proving that the defendant’s actions represented a substantial deviation from the expected standard of care, which the Crown failed to establish in this case.

College of Nurses of Ontario v. Guerin, 2004 CanLII 95233

This is an important case decided by the Discipline Committee of the College of Nurses of Ontario. The case involved S. G., the defendant who was an RPN. Some of the charges included carrying a concealed weapon, unauthorized possession of firearms, and careless storage of multiple firearms.

The situation started when S. G. made a 911 call after he had stabbed himself. While the police were investigating his home, they discovered a number of loaded firearms in his residence. S. G. was later arrested and charged with various offences.

paThe Discipline Committee reviewed evidence from the Court, which showed that S. G. had been convicted of these charges. S. G. had relinquished his membership from the College prior to the hearing. The Committee ultimately held that S. G.’s actions constituted professional misconduct under section 51(1)(a) of the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991, which is directly impacts his compatibility to continue being a nurse.

The panel decided to revoke S. G.’s Certificate of Registration, in recognition of the principle that maintaining public trust is paramount in the public profession. This decision was necessary for the profession maintain high professional standards. This holding was also based on the severity of his criminal convictions, which included serious breaches of trust and endangerment of children. The Committee aimed to send a salient message that such conduct is unacceptable, especially in the nursing profession.

R. v. R.G., 2024 ONSC 3249

In this case, the defendant R. G. faced a number charges that included the careless storage of a firearm as set out in section 86(1) of the Criminal Code. The charges came from an incident where the police executed search warrants on a number of residences in Thunder Bay as well as a vehicle.

It is during this search that the police found loaded handgun concealed in the console of the Kona, which was otherwise not visible without removing a panel. This method of storage did not meet the legal requirements for firearm storage, which mandate that firearms must be unloaded and either secured with a locking device or stored in a securely locked container that is difficult to break into. The discovery of the loaded firearm constituted the offence of careless storage of a firearm.

R. G. did not testify or present evidence in his defence. The Court relied on the circumstantial evidence, including surveillance footage and the discovery of the keys to the Kona in R. G.’s possession at the time of his arrest, to establish his control and knowledge of the firearm’s presence. The Court noted that the only reasonable inference from the evidence was that R. G. had knowledge and control of the firearm, drugs, and cash found in the vehicle.

The Court ultimately found R. G. guilty of all charges, including the careless storage of a firearm. This shows important it is to comply with legal standards in storing a firearm, as a way to prevent unauthorized access and to ensure public safety.

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About the Author

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Jordan Donich

Jordan Donich has been a Lawyer for over 10 years and is a trusted legal analyst by Canadian Media. He is as a leader in Canada’s tech sector for lawyers and developer of Law Newbie. Jordan is a Black Belt with the Japan Karate Association and trained in Krav Maga. He won a Gold Medal at 2004 Canadian National Championships and was published in the National Newspaper Awards.

Jordan has been featured in Forbes and is a member of DMZ Angels in Toronto.