Canada Gun Facts & Stats
Newest Update: 08 May 2020
- New: See the updated and expanded interactive charts on licensing and imports.
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Numbers at a Glance
- 15-20 million. Guns owned by individuals for protection, hunting, recreation, competition, collecting, predator control, and other beneficial uses.
- 2,216,509. Men and women with a firearm licence authorized by the federal police (RCMP) at 31 Dec. 2019.
- 300,000. Adults with a federal firearm licence who own at least one police-registered handgun. (Estimate)
- 90,000. Canadians (mainly police, law-enforcement and military) allowed or required to carry loaded guns in daily life for personal or public safety. (Estimate)
- 75,634. AR-15 target rifles registered to individuals at 14 Aug. 2019.
- 2,400. Federally licensed firearm businesses in Canada.
- 3,000. Guns bought and sold every day by police-vetted individuals. (Estimate. Roughly 1/3 new and 2/3 used.)
- 1,400. Target-shooting ranges in Canada. About the same as the number of hospitals.
- 365. Days each year that people with gun licences get a police screening.
- 13. Percent of Canadian men who have a firearm licence, or almost one in seven.
- 13. Percent of Canadian firearm-licence holders who are women.
- 10. Potential years in jail for not renewing your gun licence on time.
- 3. Legal classifications for firearms in Canada.
- 2. Team Canada shooters in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Both were women.
- 0. Number of violent criminals with firearms who obey firearm laws.
- 15 April 2020: Gun Licences Rose for 10th Straight Year in 2019 to New Record
- 22 May 2019: Canadian Gun Licences and Handgun Owners Rise to New Records
Values & Culture of Safety
What values do Canadian gun owners share?
Canadian firearm owners come from all backgrounds and have diverse values and viewpoints.
- We share a commitment to safety, responsibility, and good citizenship.
- We strive to be of good character and sound judgment.
- We value our family and friends, community and camaraderie.
- We demand liberty, privacy and security.
- Many people are discreet about their hunting and sport shooting. Others are worldwide celebrities.
- If you share these values and goals, the shooting community will welcome you with open arms. You’ll make friends for life.
Hunting with family. Doesn't get much better! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/UpEeGFUxLq
— Jim Shockey (@JimShockey_) January 27, 2019
What if you don’t share our values?
- If you aren’t of good character or don’t share our culture of safety, responsibility and good citizenship, we don’t want you in the shooting community. Period.
How We Contribute
- Hunters provide valuable leadership, expertise and hundreds of millions of dollars each year for nature conservation, wildlife protection, habitat restoration and outdoor education.
- Recreational and competitive shooters promote good marksmanship and good sportsmanship.
- Firearm collectors provide essential education and information on history, engineering and craftsmanship.
- Farmers and ranchers protect their crops and livestock from predators so they can ship food across the country.
- The shooting community and firearm industry raise hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for charities and individuals in need.
- Beyond gun ownership, we are active in all aspects of society, from health and education to business and politics to nature conservation and national security.
How popular is shooting in Canada?
- Hunting, shooting and guns are at the heart of Canadian culture, heritage and tradition, and the economy.
- More Canadian adults have a firearm licence than play golf, hockey soccer or baseball.
- Hunting and shooting contribute billions of dollars to the economy every year.
- The firearm and ammunition industry employs almost 50,000 people.
How many Canadians own guns?
- We don’t have the exact number, so we depend on related data.
- 2.2 million men and women had gun licences at Dec. 31, 2019.
- That’s about 7.3% of the country’s 30 million adults.
- Not all of them own guns, but all of them are allowed to.
- A survey by Angus Reid Institute in April 2019 showed 14% of respondents, representing 4.2 million adults, said they owned at least one gun. See Question QG17. We can’t say how representative the survey was, or if respondents answered truthfully.
How many guns are in Canada?
- No official data. Estimates suggest individuals own 15 million – 20 million guns, maybe more.
- What we do know: Canadian individuals own more than 1 million revolvers, pistols, AR-15 target rifles and other firearms registered with the RCMP as of April 30, 2019.
- Canadians buy more than 1,200 “Restricted” guns each week on average.
- The military, police and law-enforcement own hundreds of thousands more shotguns, rifles and handguns.
How many target ranges are in Canada?
- Canada has an estimated 1,400 shooting ranges, about the same as the number of hospitals.
- On top of regulated ranges, many people shoot on their properties (e.g. back of the farm) or on Crown land (e.g. old quarry, in the woods) where it is safe.
Which big cities have the most shooters?
- Montreal has the highest number of licensed shooters among Canada’s five-biggest cities, but Calgary has the highest rate of gun owners per capita.
Which laws regulate Canadian gun owners?
- Having and using guns in Canada is hyper-regulated by about 24 federal laws and regulations, plus many more provincial and municipal restrictions.
- The Criminal Code and the Firearms Act are the main federal laws that apply.
- List of Canada’s 24 Federal Gun Laws and Regulations
Who is allowed to own guns legally?
- To legally buy and own guns, and to buy ammunition, you must be at least 18 and have a firearm Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL).
- A PAL doesn’t allow you to carry guns on your person for safety or self-defence, and isn’t enough to use guns for hunting. You also require a hunting licence.
Who manages licensing?
- The RCMP Canadian Firearms Program manages firearm licensing for individuals.
How do you get a gun licence?
- Take mandatory RCMP-approved safety course.
- Pass written exam.
- Pass practical exam.
- Submit licence application and payment to RCMP.
- Pass background check (including mental health, spouse approval) and reference checks.
- Obtain licence card with photo.
- Pass daily background screening.
- It typically takes three or four months to obtain the licence and costs $250-$500.
- How Long and How Much for a Gun Licence in Canada?
- How to Buy a Handgun in Canada: Regulatory and Procedural Steps
Is it true that you get a daily background screening if you have a gun licence?
Yes. The RCMP calls this “continuous-eligibility screening.” Having a gun licence in Canada is proof that you aren’t a criminal or charged as one.
Do you need a gun licence to go target shooting?
- No. Millions of men, women, children and teenagers legally shoot without a licence, under the direct supervision of licensed family, friends or range staff.
What’s special about a gun licence?
- A firearm licence is one of only a few federally issued documents (e.g. PAL, passport, pilot licence, maritime licence.). You don’t need a background check to get a passport, but you pass one every day to have a firearm licence.
Firearm Licensing: Interactive Charts
What is Canada’s classification system for firearms?
- Canadian law assigns guns to one of three made-up classes:
- “Non-restricted” — rifles and shotguns
- “Restricted”— handguns (also included some semi-automatic rifles before 01 May 2020)
- “Prohibited”— handguns, semi-automatic and automatic rifles
- All three classes are highly regulated and restricted, and legal to own with the appropriate licence and authorizations. So “Prohibited” doesn’t mean prohibited.
- Many of the world’s most-popular or iconic firearms and standard gear is off-limits to most Canadians, e.g. AK-47 rifle (automatic and semi-auto), FN-FAL rifle (auto and semi-auto), Glock 19 pistol (except in its Canadian version), Walther PPK pistol, standard-sized pistol and rifle magazines, …
Who classifies guns?
- Parliament passes laws that regulate gun ownership and classifications, and the courts and police interpret the law.
- The law sometimes uses measurable or observable criteria such as barrel length, overall length, design and function, and sometimes uses arbitrary decisions. The government made up a list of makes and models it banned by name.
- The RCMP gives its opinion on gun classifications based on the law. It sometimes confiscates firearms and jails people based on its own opinions.
- RCMP: Classifying and Re-Classifying Firearms
Are there different rules for each class?
- Yes. The law sets out different rules to use, buy, own, store and travel with different classes of firearm.
- For example, you aren’t allowed to hunt with a handgun or AR-15 in Canada. If you want to legally take a handgun or AR-15 to the range, the guns must be unloaded, disabled with a trigger lock (or equivalent) and must be in a locked container. You also have to follow a “reasonably direct” route. It could be a crime to take a detour.
How many Canadians carry guns in daily life for safety?
- One private individual in Canada has permission to carry a loaded handgun for safety:
- In addition, more than 90,000 professionals and others, mainly police, law-enforcement, military and armoured-car guards, are required or authorized to carry guns for personal or public safety.
Is it legal to use a firearm to protect life or property?
- Section 34 of the Criminal Code covers the lawful use or threat of force in self-defence.
- Many factors are considered to decide if a response to a threat is justified. Section 34 doesn’t specify the tools that may or may not be used. See also the Technical Guide for Practitioners.
How active are women in shooting?
- Women are active in shooting and rising, especially handguns, but less numerous than men.
- Team Canada sent two shooters to the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Both were women.
- Women occupy leadership positions in several Canadian shooting organizations.
- The president of the Shooting Federation of Canada, the only government-recognized body for sport shooting, has been a woman for several years.
Industry & Economy
How big is Canada’s firearm industry?
- Canada had 4,495 firearm and ammunition businesses at the end of 2016, employing an estimated 25,000 people. Most are independent small businesses.
- Almost all guns and related gear sold in Canada are imported. Companies brought in almost 300,000 guns in 2016, with an import value of $135 million. At a hypthetical 25 percent markup, that would retail for about $170 million.
- Canadians spent $8.5 billion on hunting and sport shooting in 2018, the Edmonton Journal reported in August 2019, citing the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association. It didn’t say if amount includes guns, gear, food, travel, lodging, outfitters, cleaning supplies, targets, hunting licences and permits, range fees, …
- An indirect way of assessing the size of the firearm market is looking at Statistics Canada data on firearm, ammunition and parts imports.
- Hunters Invest $300 Mln/Year in Saskatchewan, StarPhoenix Says
Firearm Imports: Interactive Charts
Crime & Violence
What is the relation between guns and crime?
The lawful shooting community (hunters, sport shooters, farmers, ranchers, collectors…) is completely separate from the criminal community of violent street gangs and individuals.
- It’s like if someone asked: “What’s the relation between parents who drive their kids to school and carjackers?” Both use cars, but that’s about it.
- Many laws try to reduce violence by criminals (who disobey the law) through restrictions on hunters, farmers and target shooters (who obey the law). It doesn’t work.
- Street crime is increasingly being committed by gangs using handguns obtained on the black market (smuggling and stealing). Legal handguns are tightly regulated.
- Recommended: Dangerous Fallacies at the Heart of the Gun Debate
- 459,538 Canadians have court-ordered prohibitions on possessing guns.
- Homicide: (This is 2017 data.) Fatal stabbings exceeded fatal shootings in 7 of the past 10 years. Shooting overtook stabbing as the leading method of homicide in 2016, led by gang murders in Toronto and Vancouver. Note: StatsCan includes flare guns, nail guns, pellet guns and other non-firearms in its totals for “firearm-related homicide.” Canada had 266 “firearm-related” homicides in 2016, according to Statistics Canada.
- Suicide: The leading methods of suicide are (1) hanging (44%), including strangulation and suffocation; (2) poisoning (25%) and (3) shooting (16%).
- Compare: Doctor and nurse errors: Almost 30,000 deaths per year. Vehicles: 2,000 killed, 10,000 seriously injured, 160,000 total injured per year.
- 2018 Nov: Gang Shooting Homicide Rate Doubles Since Liberals Took Office
Why do so many people oppose gun bans?
- New confiscations or prohibitions probably wouldn’t do a thing in Canada because of the extremely strict legal framework that already exists.
- All guns are banned already for everyone without a firearm licence authorized by the federal police (RCMP). Buying, selling, or having any gun without a licence can land you in jail.
- Licensed owners are “good guys” who take their moral and legal responsibilities seriously.
- Any new bans would affect only lawful, licensed, legitimate men and women who hunt and shoot safely and responsibly.
- The existing bans don’t affect the “bad guys,” and new ones wouldn’t either. Street gangs, drug dealers, murderers and terrorists disobey the law. They go out of the way to avoid the law. They don’t turn in their guns to the police for bans.
Sources & Resources
- Gun and Gangs: Presentation to Summit on Gun and Gang Violence. Ottawa, March 2018.
- Homicide in Canada, 2018
- Firearm-Related Crime in Canada: Presentation to a Senate Committee reviewing Bill C-71, February 2019 (En français)