Can You Own a Gun in Canada for Self Defense

Can You own a Gun in Canada for Self Defence

Owning a pistol for self-defence is tempting when defending yourself and your loved ones. But, can you buy a gun in Canada for self defence? Yes, but there is a catch to the statement. Because of Canada’s strict gun restrictions, legal weapons in Canada for self-defence is difficult and time-consuming. 

We will go into the specifics of Canadian gun regulations in this article, including the prerequisites for acquiring a Possession and Acquisition License (PAL), rules regarding self-defence, and alternatives to firearms for personal defence. Prepare to learn all these to know about safeguarding your family and yourself in Canada.

Canadian Gun Laws 2023

The ownership and use of weapons in Canada are all governed by gun laws. While still enabling law-abiding persons to possess and use weapons lawfully, the regulations seek to protect public safety. Some of the main features of Canadian firearms legislation are as follows:

Gun Licensing in Canada

To own a firearm, a license from the government is required. Possession and Acquisition Licenses (PAL) and Possession Only Licenses (POL) differ. While the POL only permits holders to possess guns they own, the PAL allows the bearer to acquire and own firearms. Licensed candidates must complete a safety course, have a clean criminal record, and have no history of mental illness.

Firearms Registration

In Canada, all weapons must be registered with the authorities. It covers pistols and long firearms (such as rifles and shotguns). Information on the firearm, the owner, and the intended use of the firearm must be provided as part of the registration procedure. The Canadian Firearms Program (CFP), which upholds firearms rules and regulations, manages the registration.

Categories of Firearm

According to Canadian gun law, firearms have three classifications: non-restricted, restricted, and forbidden. Non-restricted firearms refer to weapons deemed safe for use and do not significantly endanger public safety. The majority of rifles and shotguns are examples of non-restricted weaponry. The term “restricted firearms” refers to those seen as being more hazardous and posing a greater risk to public safety. Handguns and a few varieties of rifles and shotguns are examples of restricted firearms. 

Prohibited Persons

In Canada, it is illegal for some people to own weapons. These include those with a history of mental illness, those convicted of violent crimes or domestic abuse, and those who represent a risk to the public’s safety. The CFP collaborates with law enforcement organizations and keeps a database of people who cannot possess firearms.

Read also: Penalties for Illegal Gun Possession in Canada

Self-Defense Laws in Canada

Self-defence laws in Canada are created to maintain public safety with the right of people to defend themselves and others from harm. The following are some of the main components of Canadian self-defence laws:

Reasonable Force to Defend

Canadian law demands that any force used to defend oneself or others be reasonable and appropriate. The force must be reasonable and stay within what is required to ensure one’s or others’ safety. In addition, the law requires that people refrain from using force after the threat has passed and limit their usage to what is necessary to stop the danger.

Duty to Retreat

Unlike several other nations, Canada adheres to the “duty to retreat” principle, unlike several other nations. Instead of using violence immediately, people must retreat or take action to prevent a conflict if it is safe. Before employing force to defend oneself, a person must safely depart from the situation if they can.

Use of Firearms

Canadian law is quite severe regarding the use of guns for self-defence. Although it is lawful to carry weapons in Canada, the law defines that people may only use them under extremely particular conditions, such as when their lives are in urgent danger. The use of weapons for self-defence is strictly restricted, and anybody using them must be able to prove that doing so was both necessary and reasonable given the situation.

Use a Gun for Self-Defence in Canada

So, can you own a gun in Canada for self defence?

To legally use a handgun for self-defence in Canada, one must be able to avoid death or serious bodily damage to oneself or another. It implies that a person must be confronted with a threat that they have a reasonable belief poses a coming threat to their or another person’s life. Additionally, using a gun for self-defence ought to be appropriate. A person must neutralize a threat with the least force possible. If someone uses excessive force, they might be charged with a crime.

Individuals in Canada must be aware of the laws governing the storage and transportation of weapons while utilizing one for self-defence. Following Canadian legislation, weapons must be carried safely and lawfully. They must also be locked up and unloaded when not in use. Criminal charges may be brought if these requirements are not followed.

In conclusion, while using a weapon for self-defence in Canada is legal, very severe laws and rules control its usage. When it is safe to do so, people should take precautions to avoid confrontation. Only when using deadly force is it essential and appropriate to the situation. People must comprehend these laws and rules since breaking them might result in criminal penalties.

Lets know: What is the Minimum Sentence for Assault with a Weapon in Canada?

Obtain a Gun License in Canada

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) issues Possession and Acquisition Licenses (PALs) to anyone who wants to own and possess weapons in Canada. The procedures for getting a firearms license in Canada are as follows:

Determine the Type of License

In Canada, there are two PAL kinds available: restricted and non-restricted. Individuals with non-restricted PALs are permitted to own and obtain non-restricted weapons, whereas those with restricted PALs can own and obtain restricted firearms, such as pistols.

Meet the Eligibility Requirements

A person must be at least 18 years old, have no felony convictions, and be mentally stable to be eligible for a PAL. Additionally, participants must pass safety training on handling and storing weapons.

Wait for Approval

A person must apply for the RCMP after determining the type of license they desire and satisfying the qualifying conditions. The application consists of personal data, identification documentation, and references. The RCMP will approve or deny based on the completion of the application. If the application is approved, the individual will receive the PAL in the mail.

What Self-Defense Weapons are Legal in Canada Besides Firearms?

When it comes to personal safety, everyone has the right to protect themselves in the face of danger. In Canada, the laws regarding self-defense are clear, and while firearms are highly regulated, there are several legal self-defense weapons that individuals can carry to enhance their safety.

Non-Firearm Self-Defense Options

  1. Pepper Spray: Pepper spray is one of the most popular non-lethal self-defense tools in Canada. It’s readily available for purchase and is legal for personal protection.
  2. Tactical Flashlights: A high-intensity flashlight can be a versatile self-defense tool. It can temporarily blind an attacker and be used as an impact weapon.
  3. Personal Alarms: Small, portable personal alarms emit a loud sound when activated, attracting attention and potentially scaring off attackers.
  4. Tasers: While not legal for civilian use in all provinces, some areas allow tasers as a non-lethal self-defense option.

Legal Knives and Tools

  1. Folding Knives: Folding knives with blades under a certain length are generally legal in Canada, but their use must adhere to self-defense guidelines.
  2. Multi-Tools: Multi-tools that include blades can serve as practical tools and, in emergency situations, as self-defense implements.

Martial Arts and Self-Defense Training

Learning self-defense techniques, such as Krav Maga or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, can empower individuals to protect themselves effectively.

Bear Spray

Although designed for deterring bear attacks, bear spray can also be used for self-defense against human threats.


In conclusion, buying a gun in Canada for self-defence is not an easy task. The strict laws and regulations surrounding firearm ownership in Canada make it challenging to acquire a firearm, and even if you do, you must follow strict rules. However, it is important to remember that self-defence is not limited to firearms. There are many other ways to protect yourself that we already have discussed. Ultimately, the decision to own a gun for self-defence is a personal one and should not be taken lightly. If you do decide to pursue firearm ownership, make sure to do your research and follow all the necessary steps to ensure you are abiding by the law and keeping yourself and those around you safe.


Can you own guns as self-defence in Canada?

You may use force to defend yourself under Section 34 of the Criminal Code if there are good reasons. Self-defence with a weapon may be permitted if your life is in danger, but case law demonstrates that this is difficult to prove.

What can I carry for self-defence in Canada?

The carrying of a firearm for self-defence is forbidden in Canada. The Criminal Code also states that anything made, used, or intended to inflict harm on another person, even merely threatening or intimidating them, qualifies as a weapon.

Can I buy a gun in Canada as a foreigner?

In Canada, you need a PAL to own a handgun. You can get and possess a certain class of guns with a PAL. Before you apply for a PAL, you must fulfill the criteria for weapons safety training.

What Self-Defence weapons are Legal in Canada?

Any self-defence weapon must only be used in response to a serious and close threat. It holds all weapons, including baseball bats and knives, not just firearms.

How long does it take to get a gun license in Canada?

The RCMP must process an application for a gun license within a minimum of 45 days. For all candidates who do not currently possess a valid gun license, there is a minimum 28-day waiting period. The license must be granted without delay when this waiting time is over.

© 2022 Merv Nidesh, KC & Linh Pham.