Dancer_Flight provided an excellent overview, which I was too lazy to type. Thanks, Dancer_Flight.
I recently went through the legal process to obtain a restricted firearm (Handgun) in Canada. First, you have to take a day-long safety class, with written and practical exams. Then you apply for either a possesion only (POL), or a posession & acquisition licence (PAL). Applying for a PAL requires that you submit a picture, references like a passport application, and either the signature of your spouse saying they’re OK with it, or the name and number of the current spouse, and all ex-spouses, including common-law relationships, for the past 5 years iirc (which I thought was a good idea). Screening usually takes a couple of months if you’re lucky. It can take up to a year if they muck-it up, or if an examiner decides their’s anything in your file they find warrants a closer look. None of my references were called, and mine came in 2 & 1/2 months.
Once you decide to puchase a firearm, assuming it’s in stock (which mine still isnt, grumble, grumble) you then have to file papers to have it registered, and if it’s restricted, a permit to transport it between your house and places where you plan to shoot. You will then get a phone call from a live human being asking you just why, exactly, do you want to buy yourself this particular gun. There are only three correct answers: target shooting, hunting/varmint control**, or collecting. Any mention of protection, home defence etc. will get your application to puchase denied, eventhough you have a valid license to purchase.
Regulations on acquiring, storage, or transportation of firearms are primarily designed in Canada to prevent use in any type of shotting-at-people scenario (Including personal and home defense): alll firearms must be stored loccked in some way, unloaded, with ammo stored separately, unless in a safe. Transportation has to be in the trunk / back of a vehicle. Restricted firearms must be in a locked, rigid, case, with a disabling lock.
As if this wasn’t enough, prosecution policy of most jurisdiction is such that just bare minimal compliance with laws & regulations, although it still is compliance, will still likely get you charged with negligent storage / transport, if you are inspected or especially if the firearm is stolen. To avoid getting charged you must prove you go above and beyond the regs. To what extent, if it isn’t to the maximum possible extent you can, is of some uncertainty.
Regarding the carrying of a firearm, only police and armoured car personnel can carry handguns. Civilian concealed carry permits, although they exist in law, are rarer than hen’s teeth. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that fewer than 10 were issued in the last 5 years. People who work in the wilderness where they may encounter dangerous wildlife like bears or courgars, can get a wilderness permit for a handgun if they can demonstrate that their other equiment prevents them from carrying a long-arm, such as a rifle or shotgun.
What I find most ironic about our laws, is that Brink’s guys can carry pistols to defend their cash, but the receptionnist at a battered women’s shelter can’t have a loaded shotgun by her desk… Also non lethal means of self defence such as pepper spray / mace / tazers / telescopic batons are in the same “prohibited” category as fully automatic machine guns. If a woman sprays an assailant in a parking lot, she can be charged with the same offence as if she had fired a burst from a tommy-gun (Automatic weapon favored by 1930’s chicago gangsters).
I hope this is as instructive for my fellow citizens as for Dopers of other nationality.
** Other funny/ironic anecdote: a co-worker of mine who lives in semi-rural Ontario, was once concerned that the neighbors’ rottweiler was acting too aggressively towards their then 3 year old daughter, and enquired about the legalities of shooting said dog if it broke it’s rope and threatened his daughter on his own property (no fence in this case, just a cheap clothes-line rope). He was advised, informally of course, by a member of the provincial constabulary, to buy a live chicken, and tether it in his own back yard. You see, he couldn’t shoot the dog unless it started chewing on his little girl, but he could shoot it if it posed a danger to livestock by acting in a threatening manner. Said neighbor & dog owner was introduced to the new member of the family, Captain chicken, and acquainted with the awsome powers of the new addition. Neighbor then cursed my coworker, and proceeded to erect an 8 foot fence. Captain chicken then made an excellen coq-au-vin.