Handgun Regulations and Statistics

Possession, transport, and carry
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In Canada, handguns are classified as restricted or prohibited (e.g. short-barrel handguns). Handgun possession, transport, and carry laws are outlined in the criminal code (source). Summarized, they are:

  • Any possession of a handgun is illegal without a valid RPAL license
  • Handguns must be registered to the owner
  • Any carry of a handgun is illegal without an Authorization To Carry (almost never issued)
  • Any transport must be direct (no unnecessary detours or stopovers), and only between approved destinations, such as the residence and shooting range (source)
    • Handguns must be transported unloaded and double-locked

It can be safely concluded that a criminal who carries a handgun is breaking at least one of the above rules. In fact, news reports of an arrested criminal will often list charges such as “Unauthorized possession of a restricted firearm”, “Possession of an unregistered restricted firearm”, and “Unauthorized carry of a restricted firearm”.

Bottom line, unlicensed people are already banned from having a handgun in Canada.


Domestic sources myth
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An often-repeated statement is that “50% of crime guns come from domestic sources”, often with an imposing photo of seized handguns. However, the truth does not quite match the headline. The most generous percentage that can be attributed to domestically sourced guns is 33%. Domestically sourced crime handguns are only 23% of all crime handguns, and only 8% of all crime guns. The 50% figure refers to the guns that were successfully traced (only 29% of traces were successful).
2014 RCMP FIESD Western Region report
One source of detailed data available to the public is in the 2014 RCMP FIESD Western Region report (source). It states the following:

  • Total seized crime guns: 1140
  • Total seized crime handguns: 378
  • Confirmed domestically-sourced crime guns, including long guns: 377 (33% of total)
  • Domestically sourced crime handguns: 88 (8% of all crime guns, 23% of crime handguns)
  • Smuggled crime handguns: 210 (55% of crime handguns)
  • Unknown origin crime handguns: 80 (21% of crime handguns)

as of August 1st, 2018.


2007 to 2017 Toronto Police Crime Guns
Another source of data is the released stats on crime guns by the Toronto Police (source source).
The following numbers are presented for the year 2017:

  • Total seized crime guns: 726
  • Domestically sourced crime guns: 148

That’s 20%. Note that crime guns include airguns, replicas and other non-firearm imitations. Similar ratios exist in other years.

as of September 7th, 2018.


Would banning handguns reduce crime?
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Licensing and registration of handguns already ensures a ban on any criminal use, as described above. Publically available information also shows that legally bought handguns are a measly 8% of all crime guns. When so many more guns are smuggled (example, example) or even manufactured in underground factories (example), it is plain that most criminal handguns in Canada are illegal from the very beginning, and will be unaffected by a total ban.

In short, no, a total ban on handguns would make little effect on the supply of illegal guns in Canada.