Handguns are restricted since the 1930s in Canada.
Changes were made to the Criminal Code in 1977 in order to differentiate “unrestricted” weapons (rifles and shotguns), “restricted” (mainly handguns and semi-automatic weapons and short-barrelled weapons) and “forbidden” weapons (fully automatic firearms and sawed off rifles). An individual may possess or acquire a restricted firearm for target shooting (s/he must then provide proof that s/he practices target shooting or participate in shooting club competitions competition or is member of an approved shooting range) or if the weapon is part of a collection. The licences required for the “life protection” were issued only in limited circumstances (the applicant had to show that his/her life was in danger and that the Police could not protect him/her). Restricted firearms were also registered and able to track. Owners had to report their loss or theft. The possession of a restricted weapon without a valid registration and licence was considered a crime. Special licences were required to transport or carry a restricted weapon. Thus, it was clear where and when an owner could have his weapon.
This same year, a national requirement was introduced requiring arms dealers to keep a register of weapons sold in order to help the Police to trace the original owners of weapons when needed. The arms dealers were required by the law to produce a book every year and keep them in their inventory. In 1978, the Order SOR/78/670 specified that these sales records should be kept for a period of at least five years.
In 1978 automatic weapons were also banned. However, people who legally held them at this time were considered “genuine gun collector” and were allowed to keep them. Therefor, approximately 10,000 of these guns were held as an acquired right.
In contrast, the controls were stricter on shotguns and rifles (“unrestricted weapons”). Applicants for an Acquisition Licence under the Firearms Act were allowed to acquire a firearm, but not to own (possession) an unlimited number of weapons. Assessment and verification of applicants were limited. However, the Act gave power to the RCMP to refuse to issue an acquisition licence if the information they held indicated “it would be in the best interest of the applicant’s security or other person. ” While it was found a security screening provision in the Act, it was never proclaimed.