In Canada firearms are categorized into three different categories:
Non-restricted firearms consist of most rifles and shotguns. They can be legally discharged on Crown land (land owned by the government and accessible to the public for recreational purposes, including hunting) or on private property provided said property is not within a county or municipal jurisdiction that prohibits the discharge of a firearm therein. These firearms are not required to be registered.
Restricted firearms consist of handguns that are not prohibited, any semi-automatic, centre-fire rifles or shotguns with a barrel shorter than 470mm, any rifle or shotgun that can be fired when reduced by folding, telescoping, or other means to less than 660mm, or any rifle or shotgun that is prescribed to be restricted by Criminal Code Regulations such as the AR-15 rifle. Restricted firearms must be registered, can only be transported be transported with an Authorization to Transport (ATT), and only in very rare cases may be carried with an Authorization to Carry (ATC). Restricted firearms may also only be legally discharged at a range approved by the Chief Firearms Officer (CFO).
Prohibited firearms are the most heavily regulated firearms and in almost all cases impossible for Canadians to lawfully possess. Like restricted firearms they can only be transported with an Authorization to Transport, must be registered, and only some may be discharged at a range approved by a CFO. These consist of:
- Handguns with a barrel length of 105mm or less or that discharge .25 or .32 calibre ammunition (with specific exemptions to those that are used in International Shooting Union competitions)
- Rifles or shotguns that are altered by any means to a barrel length less than 457mm or an overall length of 660mm
- Firearms that fire more than one projectile for every trigger pull, including all fully-automatics, or any firearm that can be converted to do so
- Any firearm prescribed to be prohibited by Regulation
Those who wish to lawfully possess firearms in Canada must obtain a Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) that permits them to acquire and possess the classification of firearms they want. The two most common PALs in Canada are the non-restricted PAL and the restricted PAL (RPAL). PALs required for the possession and acquisition of prohibited firearms are issued only under very specific circumstances (such as in the event of inheritance of certain prohibited firearms from a direct relative).
In order to obtain a PAL, applicants must first attend and successfully complete the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC). Those who wish to obtain an RPAL must attend and successfully complete an additional safety course known as the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC). Each course consists of up to 6 hours of classroom instruction and two exams – one written and one practical. Each exam has a minimum passing grade of 80%