Despite – or perhaps, because of – the relentless campaign being waged against responsible gun owners by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, the number of Canadians with gun licenses has hit a new high. As of December 2023, there were over 2.35 million Canadians with an RCMP-vetted Possession and Acquisition License (PAL). According to the thegunblog.ca website, the “number of PAL holders rose by 87,694 in 2023, the biggest annual advance since at least 2003,” and, with the exception of the 2020 pandemic year, the number of licenses “has been climbing since 2009… More Canadian adults have a firearm licence than play hockey.”
A PAL is required to own a firearm or ammunition. In addition, the RCMP website states that, “[u]sually if you are in possession of a firearm, you need a licence even if you are not the owner and never handle the firearm.”
Obtaining a PAL is a testament to the dedication and determination of individuals in the firearm-positive community. An applicant for a PAL must first pay for and successfully complete the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (in the case of “restricted” firearms, the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course as well), submit an application with supporting documents (including proof of identity, a photo plus the signature and personal information of the “photo guarantor,” two references, the signatures and personal information about the applicant’s current and past spouse/conjugal partner), and a non-refundable fee of C$64.54. The RCMP will conduct a criminal record check, background check, reference check and mental health check. There is a mandatory 28-day waiting period for first-time applicants. In terms of overall wait times, the RCMP advised last year that the processing time was generally 35 days, although not everyone would agree. One individual’s path to a PAL, documented by thegunblog.ca, took roughly four months and cost almost C$500. PALs must be renewed every five years.
Regardless, the popularity of firearms continues to rise. The trend in the True North mirrors what has been happening in the United States.
Based on sales-only adjusted NICS data (filtering out NICS checks processed for non-purchase purposes), America’s National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) reports that firearm sales for the last quarter of 2023 were up 4.6% over the same period in 2022, and rounded out a multi-year streak of record-high sales. “In the end, 2023 was the fourth highest year on record for firearm sales since the FBI’s NICS system was first implemented, trailing behind only 2020, 2021 and 2022.”
The NSSF estimates that almost five million Americans became first-time gun owners in 2023, and an NBC News national poll in November showed, for the first time since the poll was initiated, that a majority of American voters now live in a gun-owning household. Significantly, while the overall number of respondents who said they did is up ten points from the poll results in 2013, the share of Democrat voters in a household with guns has climbed from 33% in 2004 to 41% in 2023. The polling firm observes that, “In the last ten years, we’ve grown [10 points] in gun ownership. That’s a very stunning number… By and large, things don’t change that dramatically that quickly when it comes to something as fundamental as whether you own a gun.”
The NSSF predicts 2024 “will likely be another year of record firearm sales” owing to presidential election year trends. “In every presidential election year since 2000, yearly NSSF-adjusted firearm sales totals have been higher than the previous year, in some cases the previous few years.”
All this must be galling to the likes of Justin Trudeau and Joe Biden, both of whom have campaigned on platforms of ever-more radical gun control measures.
Unlike the rhetoric about gun violence prevention and “common sense” gun safety laws being peddled by Trudeau, Biden and their anti-gun compatriots, responsible gun owners on both sides of the border share an understanding that the real threat to public safety isn’t ordinary, decent citizens but violent criminals with illegal firearms.
With elections looming large in 2024, freedom-loving gun owners will once again be offered the opportunity to choose between more pointless gun control and actual common sense. While the stakes are undoubtedly high for America’s gun voters, those in Canada are on the brink of what may be the extinction of their gun rights. A Canadian gun rights group offers the grim reminder that if “Trudeau is elected again, he will complete the destruction of Canada’s hunting and sport shooting communities that he began in 2015 and ramped up in 2019.” The upcoming election may be “our last chance to remain lawful gun owners.”