Restricted PAL – why it is more important than ever before.
Back in September 2022 we wrote a blog post regarding why we felt that the restricted endorsement to Possession and Acquisition License is now more important than ever. Time has moved on and it is clear now that we underestimated the lengths that the federal government is willing to reach to criminalise law-abiding Canadian owners. Original blog text in italics.
Following the announcement by the federal Liberal Party on May 30th 2022 to restrict the sale, transfer and import of handguns in Canada, many of our students have asked “What’s the point in taking the restricted endorsement if I can’t buy a handgun?” It is a fair question.
Since we started teaching the CFSC and CRFSC in 2014, we have encouraged every student to consider taking the additional restricted endorsement. While it sounded to some like an upsell, our rationale was clear; when it comes to sensitive public topics such as firearms ownership, change is constant and it is better to have the license and not use it than to want it and not be able to get it. Better still is having the license when you NEED it.
The May announcement shocked many and there has been huge demand from those that suddenly found themselves without an endless ‘runway’ to achieve the endorsement. COVID reduced staffing levels at CFP and the announcement led to a complete sellout of Canadian handgun inventory in the 72 hours following the statement. With each transaction requiring a transfer approval, CFP rapidly became overwhelmed. We heard from several past alumni and the message was the same; “I should have listened. I never thought this would happen!”.
Students have a notion that CRFSC/Restricted endorsement is all about handguns and that is profoundly incorrect. The restricted endorsement covers a great many long guns in addition to all handguns that are not classified as antique or prohibited. Taking the course and gaining the endorsement isn’t about what you can currently BUY with it but what you can OWN with it. There is a difference.
Of course, it is now apparent that the sale and transfers of handguns ceased to be legal on October 21st, 2022 (imports were ‘temporarily banned on August 19th) and is unlikely to become legal again until we have a federal Conservative government in place. The Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) have pledged to repeal Bill C-21 and commence action to overhaul the classification system for firearms in Canada once they are in power. What few people know or understand is that there has been enormous resistance to the actions of Bill C-21 with considerable opposition from RCMP police chiefs, industry, sporting organisations and perhaps most important of all, several provinces. While the federal government currently has the votes to secure these Order-In-Council (OIC) moves, there are ongoing judicial challenges to the moves with the most prominent coming from the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights (CCFR) who are widely supported, not least by the province of Alberta. We understand that the case will begin to be heard in April 2023 and an anticipated successful outcome would see the OIC repealed ahead of a CPC majority government.
Our biggest driver for pressing the continued need for taking CRFSC is that we believe there is a strong possibility in the future that the federal Liberals will move ALL semi-automatic rifles to restricted status. If you only have a PAL without restricted endorsement if that happens, you will need to make alternative arrangements for any semi-automatic firearms you own in order to stay legal. Of course, we have heard the retort that ‘it will never happen!’ but we heard that about the handgun issue too and, here we are. Our advocacy for the CRFSC is not based on what you can buy right now but on what you will need the license for in the future, including for firearms you may already own.
Our September prediction that the federal government would move all semi-automatic rifles to restricted status proved to fall short of their target and on November 22nd, 2022, the Liberals announced an expansion of Bill C-21 to include practically all semi-automatic rifles and shotguns (and an astonishing number of other non-restricted long guns including some .22LR and bolt action hunting rifles) as prohibited, skipping over the restricted classification. It is important to note that this is a proposed amendment to the Bill, not an additional OIC move, so this is not yet in effect. This additional has caused a huge amount of attention and some propose that it is likely to be revoked. We are not quite so sure but if it is revoked, we expect to se a downgrade of the proposal to make them restricted. This would be equally as devastating as many of these rifles and shotguns are used for hunting and a restricted classification would only allow legal use at an approved range. You can read about the proposed list here.
Our second biggest driver is that we believe, at some point in the next decade, we will once again see a majority federal Conservative government and it is likely that they would overturn the Liberals restrictions on handguns but the requirement for a restricted license requirement will stay. Obtaining the endorsement ahead of that event will prevent the delays that will inevitably occur when others take advantage of a change in the law.
We will continue to offer the CRFSC and we hope our case for doing so makes sense to you as a student. It is unlikely that you will regret the cost or the time in the future but it is quite possible you may regret not spending both should you need it.
It is fair to say that the future is extremely uncertain and our short-term hopes lie with the CCFR judicial challenge commencing in April 2023. Longer term, history has shown that governments do come and go and the likelihood of a majority CPC government at some point is almost certain. The question there is whether the CPC still has the same appetite to repeal at that point.
As a student, the question to consider is what will happen if a repeal occurs and again, history comes to our aid.
When the federal government proposed C-21 and the notion of stringent handgun controls became apparent, Canadians purchased almost every available handgun from suppliers within 48 hours. Within a week, there was no inventory to be found and reports suggested over 500,000 handguns had been sold. Suppliers quickly moved to restock via imports and those too sold out as quickly as they arrived. On August 19th, 2022 the federal government implemented the OIC ‘temporary ban’ on importing handguns to prevent the continuing sales stream.
The case for securing a restricted endorsement is, in our view, stronger than ever. On the one hand, there is the cost ($100 or $75 if taken with the CFSC) and additional time (4 to 6 hours) but on the other hand is the security of being ready to take advantage of opportunities in a volatile future. For example, consider the prohibited class firearms license; grandfathered to those that held certain firearms in 1998 but not otherwise possible to acquire for most individuals since (excellent article here by our friends at BC Firearms Academy). A restricted endorsement to a PAL currently takes more than 6 months to be processed so isn’t something that a student can move quickly to secure. Having it on-hand when you need it will be key to taking advantage of the future opportunities at a time when $100 and an afternoon suddenly seems far less valuable than it does now.