Summary: Things to consider when a testator/testatrix wants to gift a firearm.
In today’s society, individuals want to gift all sorts of personal property to beneficiaries, including firearms.
So, when talking to clients that wish to gift firearms some things to consider are: Has the testator/testatrix spoke to the beneficiary about receiving the firearm? Does the beneficiary want the firearm? Should the firearm be gifted prior to death?
If the beneficiary would like to receive the firearm consideration needs to be given as to whether the beneficiary holds a firearms licence.
There are three types of firearms licences for individuals in Canada:
- Possession and Acquisition Licence: allows the licence holder to possess and acquire firearms and ammunition.
- Possession Only Licence: allows the licence holder to possess, but not acquire, firearms, and to both possess and acquire ammunition.
- Minor’s Licence: available to individuals under the age of 18. It allows the licence holder to use non-restricted firearms for the purposes of target practice, competition, hunting, or instruction in the use of a firearm.
It is a criminal offence punishable by up to 5 years in prison for an individual to possess a firearm without a licence.
In Canada, a firearm may only be transferred to one of the following:
- An adult (18 or older) with a Possession and Acquisition Licence that is valid for the class of firearm being transferred.
- A business, museum, Legion or other organization with a valid Firearms Business Licence; or
- A public service agency – for example, a police force, a police academy or a department or agency of any level of Canadian government (federal, provincial, territorial or municipal).
Transfers can be made online, by telephone or by paper application. A registration must also be completed in order to reflect the transfer.
A Gun Amnesty Program is in effect until May 16, 2013 to protect non-compliant owners of non-restricted firearms from criminal liability while they take steps to comply with the licensing and registration requirements of the Firearms Act. The amnesty however will not apply to a beneficiary who has never obtained a firearms licence.
So, what happens if a beneficiary does not want to get a licence and wants to dispose of the unwanted firearm? They can: turn the firearm in to authorities for destruction, have the firearm deactivated, sell or give the firearm to someone that has an appropriate licence or to a firearms dealer, give the firearm to a gun club or firearms instructor for use in firearms training if the individual has an appropriate licence or, if the firearm has historical significance it could be given to a museum.
Lesson Learned: A testator/testatrix should speak to a beneficiary before leaving a gift of a firearm because it is not a simple gift as was probably intended.
Until next time,