It ain't gonna happen. They are weird about handguns up there.
Screw them take one anyway Just don't use it unless your life is threatened ! Then ditch it and race across the border.............
Unfortunately all the guys are right.
Handguns have always been kinda tabu for some reason. Now we are starting to feel the pressure against gun ownership in general. No big movement yet like in the U.S., but I'm sure it will come. Hard to imagine if you stop to think that outside the cities, we are severely underpopulated. The whole northern 3/4 is basically uninhabited. I don't live as far north as Alaska, but I could launch a missle in any direction and I guarantee noone would get hurt.
It's a great place to live but our gov't definately sucks, and WE let them get away with it.
Read this ! Can transport handguns to Alaska..
Canada's Gun Laws for Americans
TABLE OF CONTENTS
It hasn't worked out the way they intended...
It could be worse
It goes both ways
Illegitimatus non carborundum
The official word
Other Canadian resources
Overview of Canadian gun laws
Classes of firearms
Legal uses of a firearm in Canada
Special licenses for visitors
The Possession-Only License (POL)
The Possession and Acquisition License (PAL)
Authorization To Transport (ATT)
Authorization To Carry (ATC)
Crossing the border
Entering Canada with firearms
Leaving Canada with firearms
Returning to the US with firearms
A word about ammunition
This is an unofficial web page. I am an American living in Washington State who frequently visits Canada with firearms, and who frequently transports firearms to/from Alaska via Canada. This web page is based upon my experience with Canadian gun law and the practicalities of dealing with it. I am providing this information in the hope that it may save other people a good deal of time and frustration.
I use American spelling throughout, to avoid inconsistent usage of both American and Canadian spelling. I am not trained in Canadian spelling. Among other things, Canadian sources will spell "license" as "licence", "authorization" as "authorisation" (or sometimes "authorization"!), etc.
For the most part, I have tried to be non-judgemental in this web page. My purpose is to give practical advice, not to engage in political advocacy on the laws of a foreign country. However, there are important lessons to be learned which apply to us in the USA; what has happened to our northern cousins must never be allowed to happen here.
In spite of what I said in the previous paragraph, it should be noted that Jack Layton, the leader of Canada's far-Left New Democratic Party, has openly stated that he will not do the same thing. As reported by cnews, this evil man made the following statement on June 4, 2004 at a political gathering in Winnipeg: "We're proposing going across the border to the US and actively engaging in lobbying to have gun-control laws in the US strengthened."
In 1995, the Canadian government passed Bill C-68, also known as the Firearms Act, a strict gun-control law which came into effect in stages. This web page describes the effect of this law, as of July 1, 2003, for Americans who travel to Canada (or through Canada to Alaska) with firearms.
Canadian laws, regulations, and procedures can be extremely confusing at times. Frequently, the Canadian government asks its bureaucracy to do the impossible. C-68 is such an example; it expects the bureaucracy to perform extensive background checks of every Canadian gun owner and detailed examination of every Canadian firearm.
IT HASN'T WORKED OUT THE WAY THEY INTENDED...
The implementation of C-68 has proven to be far more expensive than originally promised to the Canadian electorate. Originally forecast to cost C$2 million, the tally so far is in excess of C$1.053 billion (approximately US $700 million). It is rumored, although I have not confirmed it, that all Canadian breast cancer funding was sidetracked and thrown into the ravenous mouth of C-68 implementation.
The Canadian Auditor General's office did an investigation, and eventually reported that it could not do an audit because the books and accounts were in such a mess; the Department of Justice literally did not know what it had done with hundreds of millions of dollars to administer the gun control program.
When word of the true nature of the cost of C-68 got out, the ensuing hue and cry resulted in major funding cuts to implement C-68. Eight Canadian provinces and all three territories have opted out, leaving all administration and enforcement of licensing in the majority of Canada to the federal government. More recently, the ruling Liberal party had to withdraw a request to parliament for more money to administer C-68, since it appeared likely that a vote on that request would cause the government to fall.
However, there are no changes to the mandate, even without any money to make it happen.
It gets worse.
The head of the firearms registry has admitted that it will hit the C$1 billion mark by 2005. This is just the registry; the entire gun control program has already passed that sad milestone.
Provincial authorities in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia have announced that they will not prosecute Firearms Act violations.
The First Nations peoples of Canada (the aboriginal groups known to Americans as "Indians" and "Eskimos") have three constitutional challenges against C-68 before the courts, and the Inuit people ("Eskimos") have obtained a court injunction putting a stop to gun registration for them.
Thus, the only people who really feel the effect of C-68 are non-Canadians visiting Canada with firearms for hunting, competition, or transport to Alaska. This is because Canadian Customs will require either a Non-Resident Firearms Declaration or a registration certificate for all firearms being brought into Canada.
Indeed, rural Canada (which depends quite a bit on funds brought in by visiting American hunters) has been hurting badly ever since C-68 came into effect. Eco-tourists have not taken up the slack. There are some great travel bargains to be found in Canada these days.
As a side note, Al Gore visited Canada during the 2000 campaign to study C-68 in order to propose and implement a similar system in the US. I have regretted some of my votes over the years, including having been a McCain delegate in the county convention. I do not regret my vote for Bush in the election.
IT COULD BE WORSE
As strict as Canadian gun laws are, they are much harsher in Canada's peers in the Commonwealth. Canada still has a substantial rural, hunting, and subsistence culture that will not vanish overnight. Firearms which are "ordinary", "non-restricted" etc. throughout Canada and the US (even Washington DC) are banned in Australia and the United Kingdom. The UK has gone so far as to ban all handguns and semi-automatic (or pump-action) centerfire long-guns. Having banned most firearms, Australia is now banning swords and machetes, and considering a ban on crossbows!
A quick glance at New Zealand's web page suggests that their gun laws are about the same as Canada's.
South of the border, Mexico's gun laws are extremely harsh, even though Mexico's constitution has a Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Visitors have languished in Mexican jails for years due to a single spent casing in their vehicle.
IT GOES BOTH WAYS
Our Canadian friends are rather unhappy about the fact that they need to fill out US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms import forms to enter the USA with firearms. Most Canadians think that this is a new law as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
This is not the case. It is not a new law. The most recent relevant US law was passed in 1998. What's new is the stricter application of that law to Canadians. C-68 effectively tore up the reciprocity under which Canadians were given preferential treatment when crossing the border with firearms.
Canadian firearms owners should understand that it isn't directed at them. The US government would have eventually noticed that the reciprocity had become moot in any case. 9/11 just called it to their attention.
ATF is trying hard to make things as simple as possible for Canadian visitors to the USA, such as approving multiple imports on a single application for the convenience of hunters who frequently cross the border.
I am unconvinced that either Canada or the USA are better off than on December 31, 2000, the last day that law-abiding firearms owners of both countries could cross the border without paperwork.
ILLEGITIMATUS NON CARBORUNDUM
Don't let any of this deter you from crossing the border. Canada is a beautiful country, with abundant hunting opportunities. More importantly, rural Canadians are our friends. We have a moral obligation not to abandon them.
THE OFFICIAL WORD
For the official word, the Canadian Firearms Center (CFC) web page should also be consulted in conjunction with this web page. This is the bureaucracy that you will have to deal with. For the most part, I have found them to be overworked and over their heads, yet making a sincere attempt to be as helpful as possible.
The CFC website sometimes does not reflect the wording of the law and its regulations. When in doubt, ask a specific question and get the answer in writing.
The CFC web page also has most of the forms which you will need available for download in PDF form. Unfortunately, many of these forms assume metric paper sizes and may not print properly on printers using US paper sizes.
The CFC has a toll-free number, (800) 731-4000, which is reachable from Canada and the US. You will often experience extremely long delays in reaching a human, so use the web page whenever possible. Unfortunately, some business (such as renewing an Authorization to Transport) requires that you call. Never assume that you can get through on a particular day, and expect that you may have to wait an hour or more before you reach a human.
Outside the US and Canada, the CFC can be reached at +1 (506) 624-5380.
For border crossing information, you need to talk to the Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA). The CCRA toll-free number in Canada is (800) 461-9999 for English and (800) 959-2036 for French. Outside Canada, the number is +1 (204) 983-3500 (western Canada) or +1 (506) 636-5064 (eastern Canada) for English, and +1 (204) 983-3700 (western Canada) or +1 (506) 636-5067 (eastern Canada) for French.
The CCRA distributes an excellent packet of information entitled What you need to know about bringing firearms into Canada. It contains the following documents:
CFC business card containing phone number, web site, and email address.
Safe Transport Regulations For Firearms in English and French. This is a must-have document if you transport firearms in Canada, since they are going to check to see if you comply with these regulations.
Bringing a frearm into Canada? frequently-asked questions sheet in English and French. This document only applies for non-licensees with non-restricted firearms.
Importing a Firearm or Weapon Into Canada in English and French. This is Canadian Customs' view of the Canadian gun laws. It differs from the Canadian Firearms Center's view in several subtle ways, although the newer version (RC4227) is much closer than earlier versions (C-092 and C-092A). Since Customs goes by its rules, you need to read this pamphlet carefully.
Non-Resident Firearms Declaration form.
OTHER CANADIAN RESOURCES
The National Firearms Organization is a pro-gun organization in Canada that lobbies on behalf on gun owners and works for reforms of Canada's gun laws.
They also help people who have inadvertantly run afoul of the gun laws; should this happen to you, you should call the NFA at (780) 439-1394 before making any statements that would sink you deeper.
To see what Canadian gun owners are up against, you should read the web page of the Coalition for Gun Control, the main anti-gun group in Canada.
OVERVIEW OF CANADIAN GUN LAWS
First and foremost, remember that the US Bill of Rights ends at the US/Canadian border. There is no equivalent to the US Second Amendment in Canada. Nor is there an equivalent to the US Fourth and Fifth Amendments; Canadian firearms laws permit warrantless searches and seizures and compulsion to testify against yourself.
This point needs to be emphasized: there is no Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Canada.
Canada has a parliamentary "majority rules" democratic system; if the majority decides that a right does not exist, that right does not exist. C-68 was passed by the majority in the Canadian government, and Canada's courts have upheld it.
The good news is that Canadian law allows non-residents to bring ordinary long guns into Canada with relatively little difficulty, for hunting, competition, transport to Alaska, and protection against wildlife in remote areas.
Contrary to what many people have said, and signs posted at the border say, it is possible to bring handguns into Canada, including to transport them between the continental US and Alaska. It requires considerable advance planning and preparation, but it can be done. Signs that say "handguns are prohibited in Canada" are wrong.
The easiest way to understand Canada's gun laws is to think "New York City style." That is: classification of firearms, licensing of gun owners (this includes buying ammo), registration of all firearms, additional restrictions on handguns and certain long guns including how they may be transported and carried, and some guns banned entirely.
Canadian firearm owners are licensed with either a Possession-Only License (POL), or a Possession and Acquisition License (PAL). Non-residents are eligible to obtain a PAL. In addition, there are two special licenses for short-term visitors, the Temporary Borrowing License and the Non-Resident Firearms Declaration.
Firearms are classified into one of three categories: non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited.
There are regulations for transport, storage, and display of firearms in each of these three classes. The most important of these to non-residents are the transport regulations.
CLASSES OF FIREARMS
Prohibited firearms and devices are:
sawed-off rifles or shotguns with barrel length less than 457mm (18 inches); this does not apply to firearms manufactured with short barrels
sawed-off rifles or shotguns with overall length less than 660mm (26 inches); this does not apply to firearms manufactured with short stocks or short barrels
handguns with a barrel less than 105mm (4.14 inches), except certain specifically listed competition handguns which are restricted
firearms in caliber .25 or .32, except certain specifically listed competition handguns which are restricted. The list of these restricted competition handguns can be found here.
large capacity magazines for a semi-automatic center-fire firearm. What constitutes "large capacity" varies; as a general rule, the maximum capacity is 5 rounds for long guns, 10 rounds for handguns "commonly found in Canada", and 5 rounds for handguns "not commonly found in Canada." I have heard that the 8-round clips used in the M1 Garand are specifically exempted from this prohibition, but I can not find the citation.
any of a long list of firearms specifically listed as prohibited. With few exceptions, if it has a remotely military appearance, it is prohibited. A list can be found here.
replicas of firearms
Note that there is a large additional class of prohibited weapons such as switchblades and tear gas, which are not discussed here.
Restricted firearms are:
handguns which are not prohibited, including the competition handguns listed here.
semi-automatic centerfire firearms with a barrel length less than 470mm (18.5 inches) which are not prohibited
firearms, which can be fired when reduced to a length of less than 660mm (26 inches) by folding/telescoping/etc., which are not prohibited
any of a list of firearms specifically listed as restricted. The most notable entries are the AR-15 and variants, which stand out as being military-appearance firearms which are not prohibited. A list can be found here.
Non-restricted firearms are:
shotguns and rifles which are not restricted or prohibited
I have heard that, by special listing, the M1 Garand rifle is non-restricted; otherwise, it would have been prohibited due to the 8-round capacity of the clip. However, I can not find a citation for this.
There are some amusing quirks in these definitions. For example, a break action shotgun manufactured with a 16 inch barrel is an NFA firearm in the US, but is non-restricted in Canada!
The ownership of prohibited firearms which were registered prior to their being prohibited is grandfathered, and ownership can be transfered to other grandfathered owners of prohibited firearms of a similar type. This privileged class will become extinct within a generation.
Note that there is no such thing as a "non-restricted handgun." Handguns are either restricted or prohibited.
Now you know what so many fine old Lugers, Walther PPs, etc. have suddenly appeared in the US market in recent years; these have all become prohibited in Canada, and were exported to save them from being melted.
It is still possible to join the class of owners of restricted and non-restricted firearms. You need an extra endorsment on your license to possess restricted or prohibited firearms, and as noted above if you don't already have the endorsement for prohibited firearms you can't get it now.
All firearms must be unloaded while in transport. Muzzle-loading firearms may be transported loaded between hunting sites if the firing cap or flint is removed.
Non-restricted firearms must be safely locked in the trunk or similar compartment; if there is no trunk or compartment, they must be out of sight.
Restricted and prohibited firearms must also be rendered unable to be fired by using a secure locking device AND locked in a heavy-duty, non-see-through container that can not be easily broken open or into. In addition, there must be a valid Authorization to Transport. Finally, fully-automatic firearms must have their bolt or bolt carrier removed if possible.
Note that any firearm used in a crime in Canada (including so-called "temporary careless storage") is forfeit to the government ("the Crown") and destroyed.
LEGAL USES OF A FIREARM IN CANADA
This section is not intended to be comprehensive.
As far as I know, there are no specific regulations about recreational or competition target shooting at a Canadian shooting range that warrant special attention by non-residents.
Canadian hunting regulations are outside the scope of this document; however note that it is definitely forbidden to hunt with a handgun or otherwise use a handgun against wildlife.
Any use of a firearm against a human, even in self-defense, is likely to be prosecuted as a crime in Canada. For that matter, use of any weapon against a human is likely to be a crime.
You are permitted to use a non-restricted long gun (not a handgun) in emergency self-defense against wildlife in remote wilderness areas. The rules are more or less similar conditions to US "defense of life and property against wildlife" laws.
In general, unless you have an Authorization to Carry, the only legal uses for restricted or prohibited firearms (including all handguns) are for collection purposes and recreational/competition target shooting.
SPECIAL LICENSES FOR VISITORS
There are two special licenses for non-residents: the Temporary Borrowing License and the Non-Resident Firearms Declaration.
These licenses are only for non-residents who do not have a PAL. It is much less hassle to get one of these licenses if you only go to Canada every few years. More frequent visitors will probably want to get a PAL.
The Temporary Borrowing License (download form here) allows a visitor 18-years of age or older to borrow non-restricted firearms for up to 60 days while in Canada for specified purposes. There is a fee charged for this license. Application must be made in advance and include a signed statement by a licensed Canadian outfitter.
The Non-Resident Firearms Declaration (download form here) allows a non-resident who shows up at the US/Canada border with non-restricted or restricted firearms. There is a fee charged for this license, but it is waived if you have paid the fee for a previous visit within the past year. This license serves as both license and registration while in Canada, and is valid for 60 days. An Authorization to Transport is also needed for restricted firearms.
PAL holders with registration certificates do not need either of these temporary licenses; they do not need to fill in the paperwork for either of these licenses at the border nor do they need to pay the fees associated with these licenses.
Canadian Customs is sometimes confused when an American PAL holder shows up at the border with firearms. Be nice; remember that many of the first-line Canadian Customs agents are college kids doing it as a summer job. They've been programmed to make Americans with firearms fill out the form for a temporary license and pay the fee; American PAL holders are not within their programming. They'll quickly call over a full-timer who'll take over.
Refer to the Canadian Firearms Center web page for more details.
THE POSSESSION-ONLY LICENSE (POL)
The POL was a temporary inexpensive and minimal-paperwork means for Canadian citizens to keep their existing firearms, and ceased to be available for new licensees after January 1, 2001. Thus, the PAL is the license that we'll talk about here.
THE POSSESSION AND ACQUISITION LICENSE (PAL)
Since you've read this far, you've probably decided to go through the hassle of getting a PAL and not have to deal with getting a temporary license every time you cross the border.
A PAL must be renewed every five years, and separately lists the categories of firearms that you are permitted to possess and acquire. Although no license is required to possess crossbows, a PAL is required to acquire them. Thus, at a minimum, everybody's PAL lists "crossbows" under Acquisition.
To obtain a PAL, you must send in an application (download form here), along with the application fee (which can be charged to a credit card). An endorsement for restricted firearms costs an additional fee.
The application materials must also consist of:
a passport-sized photograph of you, certified to be of you by some other person (who may be a family member)
signed permission of your current "domestic partner" (your spouse or whatever) and all previous domestic partners within the past 3 years
signed permission from two other individuals who are not family members
a Canadian Firearms Safety Course Report showing that you have passed the examination for the Canadian Firearms Safety Course
if you are applying for an endorsement for restricted firearms, you must also prove a Canadian Firearms Safety Course Report showing that you have passed the examination for the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course
OK, first things first. You need the course report. You get this by taking a 12-hour class (a fee is charged for this) and taking the examination.
You have the option, for a considerably lower fee, of taking the examination (it's called "challenging the examination") without taking the class. If you do this, be sure to buy the Canadian Firearms Safety Course Student Handbook and, if you're going for the restricted firearms endorsement, the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course Student Handbook. Everything that you'll be asked on the examination is in these two books.
Both the classes and the examinations are given by local Canadian gun enthusiasts. These guys are our friends; don't unburden yourself on them.
In taking the test, pay particular attention to:
their safety acronyms, ACTS and PROVE
details of Canadian law
details of all kinds of actions, including muzzle-loaders, even those you never deal with
The examination is in two parts, a practical and a written. The written test consists of multiple choice and true/false questions. Most of the questions are easy, but there will be some trick questions (hence the need to study the student handbook).
The practical part of the examination is to show that you know how to operate various actions, and always check that a firearm is safe whenever you touch it. This is not just a matter of opening the action and checking the chamber; you must also verify that the bore is clear.
They want you to use a cleaning rod to verify that there are no obstructions; you can't just look down the bore because "what if there's a round further up from the chamber that will discharge just when you look." I was warned about that; so I brought along a bore light. I shined the light at the muzzle end; when I saw light in the chamber, I announced "I see the light in the chamber, therefore there is no bullet in the bore. I'm now going to look down the bore to make sure there are no smaller obstructions."
In other words, during your practical test, make the most paranoid possible assumptions.
Oh, you'll also have to show two forms of ID for your examination. If you have a concealed pistol license, use that for one of the required IDs and have him ask (with a note of envy) "what did you have to do to get that?"
If you want the endorsement for restricted firearms, that's another course and examination.
It is impossible to get the endorsement for prohibited firearms if you don't already have one.
OK, so you have passed the test(s), gotten all the signatures and the photo. Now what?
Be sure to read the application carefully, and answer each question precisely. One of the questions asks what categories of firearms do you own and wants you to supply the registration number for at least one of your restricted and prohibited firearms. Note that it doesn't ask what you will bring into Canada; it asks you what you own.
If you're like most Americans, you own firearms in all three non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited categories. Even a rusted out old Luger is prohibited in Canada, because of the 4.14" minimum barrel length. Remember, you are filling out an official government form; check all three boxes, and for the registration number question write "not applicable."
After several months, someone is going to notice that you stated on your application that you own unregistered prohibited firearms and will call you about it.
Your response should be "Yes, that's completely true. I'm an American, living in the US, and those firearms are in the US. The form asks what I own, not what I would bring into Canada. I would not think of bringing a prohibited firearm into Canada, but I would not think of making a false statement on an official form either."
They may think that you're a jerk, but they'll accept it as an answer. Think about the alternative; do you really want to end up having to admit that you made a false statement on an official form? It is not for you to decide what they meant to ask.
Once that little comedy is settled, you'll get another one.
Canada apparently doesn't have any way to do a background check on you, and they will send you a letter telling you to arrange one for them! The way to resolve this is to ask your local police department to send them a notarized letter that you have a clean record. If you have a concealed pistol license, have your local police mention that fact, and the background checks which done on you at that time, in the letter as well.
Whew! That's it. In a few more weeks, you should receive the license.
As of January 1, 2003, all firearms in Canada must be registered, including firearms sold before the registry went into effect and firearms brought into Canada by non-residents. Canada is committed to issuing registration certificates to every firearm in Canada by January 1, 2003, just as they were committed to issuing licenses to every Canadian gun owner by January 1, 2001. The bureacracy, and the private company which was paid C$36 million to run the registry and get those certificates out, is doing this as best as they can, in the only manner possible.
You can work out for yourself what "the only manner possible" means.
Canada has had registration of handguns for a very long time. What is new with C-68 is registration of all firearms. The old registry had numerous errors; to prevent this, the new registry was supposed to confirm the details of each and every firearm.
It hasn't worked that way.
All firearms sold in Canada must be registered in the Canadian firearms registry. You must keep the registration certificate with the firearm at all times. If you buy a gun at a Canadian gun shop, registration is done as part of the sales paperwork.
The Non-Resident Firearms Declaration acts as a license and registration certificate for firearms brought into Canada by visitors who do not have a PAL and registration certificate.
As of January 1, 2003, if you have a PAL but do not have a registration certificate for the firearm when you show up at the border with that firearm, then you must deal with the Non-Resident Firearms Declaration. So, to avoid filling out the form and paying the fee, you must get a license and register.
Of course, you won't going to register all your firearms in Canada, just the sacrificial "Canada guns" that you may bring into Canada.
You can be sure that the next time we get an anti-gun fanatic in the White House (such as the womanizing hillbilly that we suffered with from 1993-2000), Canada will happily turn over all its registration information about American-owned firearms.
Supposedly, all firearms are to be inspected by a verifier prior to registration in the new system. The old registration system, which was for restricted and prohibited firearms only, was filled with errors. The intent of the verification program was to clear up those errors.
Until June 30, 2003 (extended from December 31, 2002), the Canadian Firearms Registry did free online registration of non-restricted firearms, and free re-registration of restricted and prohibited firearms which were registered under the old system. So, they effectively just took whatever was submitted and/or copied registration information from the old system to the new system without verification.
This free (re-)registration ended on June 30, 2003.
As of July 1, 2003, to register any firearm, including firearms owned by non-residents, the firearm must be inspected by a verifier, who will certify on the Application to Register Firearms For Individuals (download form here), that the firearm is as described, and subsequently you send in the form along with the registration fee or credit card charge authorization.
NEWS: As of 11:50AM Pacific Time on July 1, 2003, online registration remains available at the Canadian Firearms Center web page.
Here's the story about what I went through to register two sacrificial handguns which I normally want to bring with me to Alaska via Canada.
I asked about seeing a verifier in June 2002 when I got my Authorization to Transport, since the firearms would be in Canada and it would be a simple stop. I was told that the verifier program had been suspended, and that I should just submit my request on the re-registration web page, using the FRT number for the old registration number.
In late October 2002, I decided to call and check since I hadn't received a registration certificate. After some investigation, they told me that I had been misinformed in June, and that I need to see a verifier after all. Golly gee, thanks a lot. Well, I did that, got the handguns verified and the verifier's signature on the paperwork. I mailed it in November 2002.
In January 2003, having seen no sign of the registration certificates nor of my credit card being charged for the registration fee (a bad sign), I called. They said that they never got the paperwork. Of course, since Canada is one of the few countries in the world that doesn't offer return receipt, I have no way of proving that I sent it in.
So, it was back to the beginning again. Of course, there was a different registration form to fill out. This time, I FAXed it directly to the registrar, and this time my credit card got charged C$50. Finally, after another month, I got the registration certificates.
AUTHORIZATION TO TRANSPORT
An Authorization to Transport (download form here) permits the transport of restricted and prohibited firearms. It must be applied for well in advance, and is issued at the discretion of the bureaucracy (meaning the CFC and the province(s) where you will be travelling).
An ATT does not give you the right to carry a handgun, openly or concealed. For that, you need an Authorization to Carry, which is almost impossible to get.
Your application will need to state:
description of the firearms
period of time of transport
places, to and from home, that the firearms will be transported to using a reasonably direct route
reasons for transporting the firearms.
An ATT may be valid for up to three years and is renewable by telephone, at the discretion of the bureaucracy.
Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, it is possible to get an ATT to transport handguns to Alaska. It just requires a lot of patience. It helps a lot if the provincial authorities at your point of entry are friendly.
AUTHORIZATION TO CARRY
Carry of a handgun, whether open or concealed, requires an Authorization to Carry Restricted Firearms and Prohibited Handguns (download form here).
This particular license is almost impossible to get. It's issued to police, armored car personnel, etc.
CROSSING THE BORDER
ENTERING CANADA WITH FIREARMS
Canadian Customs may try to bait you, e.g. by asking you to agree that this all is a good thing. Don't rise to it. Canada is not our country; we have nothing to say about their laws. Remember that you're being subject to the "attitude test."
You definitely will be pulled aside for inspection when you show up at the border with handguns, and probably will be pulled aside even if you only have long guns.
You'll probably also be subject to a vehicle search. It won't be a big deal unless you fail the attitude test.
Actually, it can be fun if you're a PAL holder. Canadian Customs is disappointed that they don't get to collect the C$50 from you. US Customs is disappointed that they don't get ahold of a Non-Resident Firearms Declaration. Either way, they are surprised. It's particularly entertaining when the Canadian Customs agent is one of the summer kids. Fortunately, they'll quickly call over a full-timer who knows what to do.
If you don't have a PAL and registration certificate, you'll have to fill out the Non-Resident Firearms Declaration form and pay the fee. If you have restricted firearms, they'll check your ATT, and will also inspect your handguns to make sure that you have them in a locked box with a trigger lock.
Assuming that all your paperwork is in order (especially the ATT if you have handguns), and you don't rise to being baited, you'll be passed through the border without excessive difficulty. You probably will be delayed, especially if you have handguns. I've never been delayed more than an hour. Plan for it. Patience and a sense of humor helps.
Remember what I said about the attitude test. Sometimes, Customs agents get a bit sour after having one dingbat after another try to pull something on them. Set an example as a fine, upstanding, law-abiding gunowner who strictly follows all laws and regulations. You just might make things easier for the next guy.
LEAVING CANADA WITH FIREARMS
In the future, there will be a requirement to stop at Canadian Customs when leaving Canada with firearms. I am researching this issue, and will update this paragraph once I have more information.
RETURNING TO THE US WITH FIREARMS
Note what I said earlier about the "attitude test." It is one thing to assert your Second Amendment rights; it is quite another to be obnoxious for no good reason. We want Customs to do their job. We don't want any more 9/11s!!
When you return to the US, you'll have to declare that you are "re-importing" your firearms. US Customs may ask to see the Canadian Non-Resident Firearms Declaration, which you won't have if you entered Canada with a PAL.
So, to avoid possible problems reentering the US, it's worth a stop at US Customs before you leave the US to get a Certificate of Registration For Personal Effects Taken Abroad. Don't let that name scare you; it's just a slip of paper with your name, address, a description of the firearm including the serial number, and a stamp. You will keep the only copy and nothing about it is entered in any computer, so it's not a "registration". It's actually a certificate, in your possession only, that a US Customs agent saw you in possession of the firearm in the US. Be sure to keep it to use for future trips so you don't have do it again.
Note: leave your firearms in your vehicle when you do this. Do NOT bring firearms into any federal facility, including a US Customs building, unless specifically instructed to do so by a federal officer. With limited exceptions (such as obeying the instructions of a federal officer) it is a federal felony (18 USC § 930(a)) to bring a firearm into a federal facility.
Often, US Customs will not want to look at the firearm before giving you the certificate. If they they tell you that they want to inspect the firearm, ask them what they want you to do (as in "do you want me to bring it here?") and follow their instructions precisely. It's a good idea to disassemble it and have it in a case when you bring it into building. The fact that it must be unloaded should go without saying.
If you had an ATT to bring handguns through Canada, be prepared for US Customs to be surprised. Especially along the Alaska border, you may find that their surprise is tinged with a bit of envy. Some of these guys have applications of their own pending for one...
A WORD ABOUT AMMUNITION
Canada allows the import of ammuntion for personal use. The import of hollow-point ammunition labelled for use in handguns requites written authorization from Natural Resources Canada. It's a safe bet that any hollow-point ammunition in a caliber used by handguns (including .22!) will fall under this, even if you are using it in a long gun.
Of course, any specifically military ammunition such as armor-piercing, incendiary, tracer, etc. is strictly verboten.
Non-residents can import up to 200 rounds duty-free for hunting purposes, or up to 1500 rounds duty-free for use at a competition. To negotiate the import of larger amount of ammunition, contact the Exposives Regulatory Division of Natural Resources Canada at +1 (613) 943-0206.
If you have a PAL, you can readily purchase ammunition in Canada, although prices are slightly higher than in the US.
My experience is that Customs is not generally concerned about ammunition as long as your paperwork is in order for the firearms. Make sure that it is packed separately from the firearms in your vehicle, and out of sight. However, make sure that Customs will find it right away if they do a vehicle search; they will look for it, and if you give them the impression that you're hiding something you may end up with a disassembled vehicle.
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