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Can you use a firearm for self-defence?

Region: Ontario Answer # 7803

In Canada, individuals must have a lawful reason for discharging a firearm. Common reasons may include hunting, sport shooting, or target practice. It is illegal to discharge a firearm for malicious purposes or in a manner that endangers the public or property.

The issue of the legality of self-defence with a firearm in Canada is complicated. While self-defence is legal, it is very restricted. If you have been charged with a firearms or weapons related crime, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible.

Criminal Code

Section 34 of the Criminal Code allows using force for self-defence under reasonable grounds. However, it does not specifically state that firearms can be used for this purpose.

Defence — use or threat of force 

    • 34(1) A person is not guilty of an offence if
      • (a)they believe on reasonable grounds that force is being used against them or another person or that a threat of force is being made against them or another person;
      • (b)the act that constitutes the offence is committed for the purpose of defending or protecting themselves or the other person from that use or threat of force; and
      • (c)the act committed is reasonable in the circumstances.

What is reasonable grounds?

To determine what is reasonable, the Code states that the court shall consider the relevant circumstances of the person, the other parties and the act, including, but not limited to, the following factors:

    • (a)the nature of the force or threat;
    • (b)the extent to which the use of force was imminent and whether there were other means available to respond to the potential use of force;
    • (c)the person’s role in the incident;
    • (d)whether any party to the incident used or threatened to use a weapon;
    • (e)the size, age, gender and physical capabilities of the parties to the incident;
    • (f)the nature, duration and history of any relationship between the parties to the incident, including any prior use or threat of force and the nature of that force or threat;
    • (f.1)any history of interaction or communication between the parties to the incident;
    • (g)the nature and proportionality of the person’s response to the use or threat of force; and
    • (h)whether the act committed was in response to a use or threat of force that the person knew was lawful.

Firearms Act

In Part One, section 28 of the Firearms Act

circumstances in which an individual needs restricted firearms or prohibited handguns to protect the life of that individual or of other individuals are where

    • (a)the life of that individual, or other individuals, is in imminent danger from one or more other individuals;
    • (b)police protection is not sufficient in the circumstances; and
    • (c)the possession of a restricted firearm or prohibited handgun can reasonably be justified for protecting the individual or other individuals from death or grievous bodily harm.

Although using a firearm for self-defence may be deemed legal if one’s life is at risk, historically, in case law this has been difficult to prove. If it is determined that the use of a firearm was for malicious purposes and therefore illegal, the penalties are severe. For more information. view 7802 When is it legal to discharge a firearm?

Get help

To erase your criminal record, call toll-free 1-888-808-3628 or learn more at Pardon Partners. It’s easier than you think.

If you have been charged with a crime, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible. Contact our preferred criminal defence expert, Calvin Barry Criminal Lawyers for a free consultation at 416-938-5858 .

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