All firearms must be handled and stored in a careful and responsible manner. Firearm owners in Canada are required by law to store firearms responsibly, and the improper storage of firearms can result in serious legal consequences. Canadian firearm laws clearly define the requirements for the safe custody, handling, transporting and displaying of firearms. It is absolutely critical that firearm owners abide by these provisions to protect both personal safety and firearms from theft or misuse.
In this post, we will take a closer look at Canadian gun laws and explain how a criminal defence lawyer in British Columbia can help if you are facing charges related to the careless or improper storage of a firearm in Canada.
British Columbia’s Laws About Storage of Firearms and Ammunition
Canada has strict rules about the storage and security of firearms and ammunition. These laws are quite specific about instructions for firearm storage on your private property, with storage regulations for non-restricted firearms that must include the following:
- The firearm must be stored unloaded;
- All firearms must be stored away from readily accessible ammunition, unless that ammunition is stored in a locked container, safe, or room that cannot be easily broken into;
- The firearm must be stored securely by either:
- Being rendered inoperable, for example by using a trigger lock, bolt cable lock or some other type of secure locking device
- Must be stored in a securely locked container or room that cannot be easily broken into
Canadian law has additional stipulations for firearm storage for restricted weapons, prohibited ammunition, or other prohibited weapons. In addition to federal law, British Columbia has other laws regarding firearms ownership, storage, and security.
What Is Considered Careless Storage of Firearms in Canada?
Careless storage of non-restricted firearms in Canada is defined as violating your legal responsibility to take measures to keep others safe from the firearm. If you are considered the person responsible for the firearm – even if you are not the owner – then you are required to take reasonable precautions. For example, if you borrow a firearm from another person, you would be considered responsible for it and have the same legal responsibilities as the owner while you possess that firearm.
The Penalty For Careless Storage of Firearms in Canada
Careless storage of non-restricted firearms is an offence punishable by up to five years in prison.The maximum penalty will depend on whether you are charged with a summary offence or if a Crown Prosecutor decides to proceed by indictment.
The maximum penalty that you may face is:
- Summary Offence: Two years in prison
- Indictable Offence, First Offence: Two years in prison
- Indictable Offence, Second or Subsequent Offence: Five years in prison
A summary offence is less serious than an indictable one. The Crown determines what you are charged with. If the charge includes prohibited firearms, the penalty may be stiffer. A criminal defence lawyer in British Columbia may be able to help reduce the severity of your charge from an indictable offence to a summary one.
Possible Defences For a Careless Storage of Firearms Charge
Careless storage of firearms charges can occur if someone makes a report about an improperly stored firearm. Alternatively, a firearm may be stolen and potentially the police might start an investigation into how the firearm was stored.
In some cases, an improper firearm storage charge occurs during a lawful police search of your property, during which the officers find carelessly stored firearms or ammunition. Sometimes charges will result from a search that the police believe is lawful, but ultimately is successfully argued to be unlawful and so it can result in the evidence of the firearms being dismissed from your case.
Your lawyer’s defence for your case depends on the circumstances in which the firearm or ammunition was found.
Whatever the situation leading up to the firearms charge, it is always wise to have an experienced criminal defence attorney guide you through the legal process and protect your rights. The repercussions of a conviction can affect the rest of your life.
Some of the defences that your lawyer may use on your behalf include:
- You have a lawful excuse for why the way the firearm was stored
- You may not have adhered to legal regulations, but you did your due diligence to make sure that the firearm was not stored in a careless manner
- There was a manufacturer defect in the secure locking device that rendered it inoperable
- The firearm in question is not covered by federal regulations
- The firearm was not under your control at the time it was discovered, and therefore you are not the person responsible for its storage