You have obtained your firearms license and have just purchased your first non-restricted firearm and want to know how you can legally store it.
In a nutshell, you have three storage options available to you. It is important to note that regardless of which method you choose to employ when storing your firearm they must always be unloaded.
The three methods are as follows:
1. In a “container, receptacle or room that is kept securely locked and that is constructed so that it cannot readily be broken open or into”
Let’s examine this. What exact requirements does this “room” need to meet in order to be “specifically designed for the safe storage of firearms”? Do the wall’s need to be concrete? Does the door and hinges need to be reinforced? How about the lock, will any old padlock do?
How about the container or receptacle, can it be made from wood or fabric? Readily broken into by whom… a child using their hands, a group of adults using power tools?
The answer to all of these questions is there is no answer.
If you watch the video provided by the Canadian Firearms Program or CFP (previously named the Canadian Firearms Center), you will notice that a closet with a presumably hollow core door, exposed hinges, simple door lock with no security plate is used as the example of a “specifically designed room”.
You will also notice that the “cabinet or receptacle” appears to be a thin sheet metal safe that can be easily opened with a pry bar or hatchet.
The best anyone in a position of authority has been able to relay to me is “make sure this room or container is specifically designed for firearms, and make sure it can be locked”.
2. The firearm is “rendered inoperable by means of a secure locking device”
I know that a trigger lock is considered a “secure locking device”, but is there anything else that could be used as a secure locking device? I have seen plastic zap straps used by some gun stores in the past, would this qualify?
3. The firearm is “rendered inoperable by the removal of the bolt or bolt-carrier”
This seems pretty straight forward. Most non-restricted firearms have bolts, and in the case of bolt action firearms most are fairly easy to remove and replace. This would mean that a person could in theory store their non-restricted firearm anywhere in their house with the bolt removed and placed right beside the firearm and still meet the legal requirements for safe storage.
As mentioned above, the firearm must never be in a loaded state, and the law further states that the ammunition must not be readily accessible to the firearm. Once again, one must ask the question “what defines readily accessible”? If the ammunition is right beside the firearm, is that readily accessible? What if you move the ammunition 2 feet away from the firearm, or put it on the other side of the room, or in another room, or in another house….. at what point does this ammunition no longer meet the definition of readily accessible?
The law, listed below for your reference, has three exceptions. It states that the ammunition can be stored with your firearm (still unloaded) if the firearm and ammunition is in a locked receptacle. It states that the safe storage laws do not apply to those who are storing the firearms temporarily for the control of predators. And finally, the law states that it does not apply to those who are in a remote wilderness area and are using the firearm with a purpose that is compatible with hunting. Let’s assume that by listing predators we are referring to the four legged variety as opposed to the two legged variety; what defines temporary storage? In regards to a remote wilderness area, what exactly would that be?
The exact law is as follows:
STORAGE OF NON-RESTRICTED FIREARMS
5. (1) An individual may store a non-restricted firearm only if
(a) it is unloaded;
(b) it is
(i) rendered inoperable by means of a secure locking device,
(ii) rendered inoperable by the removal of the bolt or bolt-carrier, or
(iii) stored in a container, receptacle or room that is kept securely locked and that is constructed so that it cannot readily be broken open or into; and
(c) it is not readily accessible to ammunition, unless the ammunition is stored, together with or separately from the firearm, in a container or receptacle that is kept securely locked and that is constructed so that it cannot readily be broken open or into.
(2) Paragraph (1)(b) does not apply to any individual who stores a non-restricted firearm temporarily if the individual reasonably requires it for the control of predators or other animals in a place where it may be discharged in accordance with all applicable Acts of Parliament and of the legislature of a province, regulations made under such Acts, and municipal by-laws.
(3) Paragraphs (1)(b) and (c) do not apply to an individual who stores a non-restricted firearm in a location that is in a remote wilderness area that is not subject to any visible or otherwise reasonably ascertainable use incompatible with hunting.
As always, the high level of vagueness in any law can cut both ways. One could argue that an extremely low adherence to the spirit of the law is all that is required to stay legal where others may argue that an exceedingly high level must be maintained or face judicial prosecution. In situations like this, the advice that we always give is “if you don’t feel like fighting this issue in court, exceed the minimum requirements”. Regardless of what the laws may require, it has been my experience that the majority of firearms owners in Canada exceed the minimum requirements out of their own personal attention to safety.
As there are many readers who have had personal experience in dealing with these laws, I would be happy to hear what you think.
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