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What Canada’s Gun Control Laws Mean to Alaskans

Chris from Arma Borealis notes that the Canadians are cracking down, and notes how difficult this makes it for Americans to get their guns to Alaska.

UPDATE: See this Canadian legal resource for a guide to Canadian gun laws for Americans.

33 Responses to “What Canada’s Gun Control Laws Mean to Alaskans”

  1. terraformer says:

    “Meanwhile, the Gun Control Act of 1968 can make it difficult to ship firearms ahead. Long arms are ok — you can ship them via USPS and send to yourself to pick them up upon arrival. Handguns are a lot harder though as they have to be shipped via contract carrier. UPS and FEDEX have restrictive corporate policies that pretty much require them to go to a FFL, and the FFL can’t or won’t transfer your own gun to you if you aren’t in your home state. The best work around I’ve found is using a C&R FFL03 with FEDEX to have them ship the pistol to you just like you would with a rifle and USPS.”

    This is interesting. How true is this? I thought legally one can ship something to themselves.

  2. Terraformer:

    If you review the ATF data on “unlicensed persons” you’ll find it is totally legit to ship yourself a firearm. For example, you can mail yourself a rifle to go hunting with in another state, no problem.

    In theory an unlicensed person can do the same thing with a handgun. However, handguns cannot be shipped via the US mail. You have to go via contract carrier, which generally means UPS or FEDEX for most of us. Then you are bound by their corporate policies which are more restrictive than federal law. I investigated it recently and UPS (at least the branch in Alaska) would only ship to an FFL. The problem with this is that the FFL cannot transfer it to you unless you’re a resident of that state. So an Alaskan driving to Haines (via Canada) then hopping on the ferry to WA can’t mail a gun to Seattle and pick it up at an FFL there unless they establish residency in WA.

    Fedex will ship guns to “licensed collectors” as well as FFLs. That includes your FFL03, even if the firearms aren’t C&Rs. Remember ,it is corporate policy, not federal law. FEDEX was willing to “hold shipment” upon arrival in Washington for a few days then let me pick them up in person as long as I showed my C&R license. They weren’t willing to hold it for long enough for the ferry trip though, and they wouldn’t agree to a pre-extension of the hold time in advance.

    There is also an FFL in Haines. So I could have shipped my handgun(s) from Southcentral to Haines via UPS/FEDEX. The FFL could then transfer them to me as we’re still in Alaska. However, people have had issues with the NICS check in Haines not going through right away which triggers the 3-day waiting period. So unless you’re waiting for your ferry for three extra days in scenic Haines (it really is very pretty…) you could be left in the situation of needing to catch the boat before the clock runs out.

    Cheers,
    Chris

  3. Sebastian:

    That link makes the process sound reasonable. It is not.

    First, any handgun is restricted or prohibited. One of the criteria for prohibited is a short barrel. So, a S&W M&P compact — totally legal in Kalifornia — is verboten in Canada. Prohibited means there is no way you’re getting it into the country.

    Restricted guns require an Authorization to Transport. Unfortuanetly, this requires you to either show up to the Customs point or office to pick up the paperwork weeks/months in advance, precoordinate via phone with the Chief Firearms Officer, or show up at hte border, declare them, and hope that they can get the CFO on the phone for an ad-hoc teleconference (and if they can’t, you’re stuck).

    I tried 2-3 months in advance to coordinate with the CFO to bring restricted firearms through. The problem is the only phone number they give you leads you to a 1-800 number style answering machine. They are pretty good about calling you back but they are terrible about sending you the paperwork you need to complete and send in. I got the feeling that the program was underfunded and not a priority; given that some of the provinces don’t even bother enforcing the laws I can see why (and thus they only apply to Americans I suppose). Yukon Territory doesn’t even have its own CFO; it has to share with BC.

    I ended up just hand carrying and declaring my excess quality ammo and not bringing any firearms through. Maybe if you started the process six months out you could get it done, and it might help if you’re willing to drive out into the middle of hte wilderness to talk to the border people in person, or if you can afford to delay for a few days on the border for your ATT to go through. Of course, there is a stretch of “no-man’s land” in between the US and Canadian checkpoints a few KM in length so you’d have to leave the US and enter Canada to even talk to their border agents.

    Cheers,
    Chris

  4. Ronnie says:

    I entered Canada in 2005 at Niagara Falls after crossing Rainbow Bridge. It was late at night by the time I made it to this bridge. The first border guard in the booth I drove up to not only asked me if I had firearms in my vehicle, but also if there were martial arts weapons, pepper sprays, or tasers in my vehicle as well. I told her no to all of the above, so eventually she told me to drive on to see the customs officer.

    After chatting with me for a short time, it was then time for another border guard to inspect my vehicle. He was some scrawny-looking teenager who was wearing a black nylon vest over his uniform that had pockets on the front of it. Although this vest would seem like it was a bulletproof vest to some people, I could tell that it was just a vest with pockets on it for his gear, like his two-way radio, but he had no weapons of any kind on him. He did not even have one of those handheld metal detector wands on him. If I had really wanted to, I could have kicked this kid’s ass, taken his radio, and just drove off from there.

    So anyway, this kid did one of the most half-assed searches on my vehicle that I have ever witnessed. It was nothing like those times in high school when my friends and I would get pulled over by the cops after the keg party got busted up, and then our vehicles would get searched by them. This Canadian border guard kid only opened up my suitcase and briefly looked inside. He did not look underneath any of the seats, inside the center console, the glove box, or under the hood. He also never searched my person as I stood there watching him search my vehicle. If I had gone there on this night trying to smuggle contraband into Canada, I would have definitely been successful. I don’t have any other experiences to compare this one too, but hopefully, the next one will be just as casual.

  5. Chris from AK – My intention was simply to describe the required bureaucratic steps, not to portray the process as easy or user friendly. I would agree with you that it is neither.

  6. Ed says:

    Here is a greats ource on Candian gun laws for Americans: http://panda.com/canadaguns/

  7. Jeff H says:

    Business opportunity: start a ferry service from somewhere along the Washington state coast (say, Neah Bay) to Juneau. Guns allowed.

  8. MikeP says:

    If you don’t wish to deal with the silly laws of a mostly sovereign country (even though they are just America’s hat), then simply fly direct and check your firearms.

  9. Kevin Baker says:

    MikeP, there are airline limits on the number of firearms and weight of ammo you can check, and it isn’t much.

  10. Bemis says:

    Ronnie: Seems to me that the people that searched you did a visual and decided you were only worth a cursory search. Why on earth are you being snarky about being treated well? I for one don’t want to be searched more tediously for no reason just because you think evryone ought to be treated a la TSA. You ought to be thanking them ofr being reasonable.

  11. Not to mention that there are times when flying isn’t really going to work. Like when you’re moving and need to get all your crap and cars there.

  12. Matt B says:

    Are UPS or FEDEX in the habit of opening and inspecting their customers’ parcels, or otherwise scanning them, as with an x-ray? If not, what is preventing anyone from simply wrapping their handgun in some packing material and shipping it the same as if they were mailing anything else?

  13. Matthew Carberry says:

    Matt,

    I’d have to look but I seem to recall the Fed reg that allows shipping via common carrier requires the weapon be declared. So if you don’t you have violated the law, not just policy.

    But, again, that’s from memory.

  14. Bemis Said,
    Seems to me that the people that searched you did a visual and decided you were only worth a cursory search.

    When I drove into Canada a few years back, I wasn’t searched at all in either direction. The border guards asked a few basic questions about our trip, decided we weren’t drug or gun smugglers, and waved us on.

    They exercise a lot of discretion in deciding who to search, and how thoroughly to search them.

  15. I’m not sure what the point of discussing the lax standards for searching is, unless you are advocating breaking the law.

  16. Not sure where that last comment was targeted, but lest anybody misunderstand, I don’t think discretionary border searches are “lax”, I think they’re prudent. There’s too much traffic to do universal intensive searches quickly, and the problem of US/Canadian smuggling is small enough that it wouldn’t be worth it.

  17. Matthew Carberry says:

    What gets me is so often the “smuggling” is people looking (unlawfully) to have their gun with them in Canada or take it to Alaska; not so much bring it into Canada with the intent to sell it unlawfully, which is what “smuggling” brings to mind.

    Simply “smuggling” guns -through- Canada, from or to Alaska, is definitely shipping coal to Newcastle.

  18. elmo, the point I was trying to make is that, lax or prudent or whatever, I don’t understand why the searching standards have any bearing on Canada’s firearms laws.

  19. Doowleb says:

    “August 2nd, 2011 at 10:11 am
    MikeP Said
    If you don’t wish to deal with the silly laws of a mostly sovereign country (even though they are just America’s hat), ”

    This mostly sovereign country was fighting the Nazis years before your country bothered to attend.
    This mostly sovereign country pays it’s bills and doesn’t have a Marxist’s finger on the nuclear button.
    This mostly sovereign nation does have it’s share of arrogant idiots like you though.

  20. Ryan Waxx says:

    Let me answer your question Heather.

    If the security is lax, then the only people inconvenienced by the law are honest people. You either care about smuggling, or you don’t. Hence, the law that harasses people trying to jump through the ‘crats hoops yet doesn’t do a thing about actual smuggling needs to be recognized as what it is.

  21. Ryan Waxx says:

    Doowleb:

    Has anyone told you that you guys are cute when you’re angry?

    Oh, you were in WWII. Wonderful. Meanwhile back in the current decade, did you guys ever get around to providing air support for your relief teams or are you still buying plane tickets into disaster zones? Do they fly coach?

  22. I really do feel for Canadians who are incensed about their country being called “America’s hat.” (It’s a very big and beautiful hat, by the way.) It is unnecessarily insulting. But be glad that Canada isn’t on the south end of the U.S.–it wouldn’t be a hat.

    Canada used to be a lot more lax about this. A co-worker had been a Canadian border guard. At least in the 1970s, Americans driving north to Alaska could fill in some paperwork, and then the handguns were sealed up in a plastic bag, and at the far end, Canadian border guards unsealed the bag. The theory was that if you reached the far border without having someone unseal the bag and match up the paperwork, they would know that you had taken the gun out (or “lost” it along the way). All in all, a reasonably sensible way to allow us to transport handguns to Alaska without making it stinking difficult.

    But my friend told me that it was all show: the paperwork was thrown in the trash at the originating border. No one actually checked when they unsealed the bags at the Alaska border!

    The last time I drove into Canada, they did not do even a cursory search. Perhaps they figured that a guy, his wife, and two incredibly cute kids, wasn’t a smuggler. A friend of mine tells me about driving into Canada and having them do a pretty detailed search–but not detailed enough to find the Walther PPK hidden behind the spare tire. Knowing that there MIGHT be a complete search acts as a restraint on smart people trying to smuggle guns.

  23. It really strikes me that it would be a good thing to work on getting federal law changed to allow tourists traveling through Canada to ship firearms to FFLs, and take delivery of them at the far end (subject to the normal background check system, if it made it easier to sell).

  24. Dude, don’t mess with Canadians. They seem so polite and unassuming, but on the rare occasion that we Americans have tussled with them, it hasn’t gone well for us. The [gorgeous] howling frozen North makes them strong. They’re like the Fremen of North America. ;)

  25. Doowleb says:

    Ryan,

    I’m certainly not casting any aspersions on the USA as the only Democracy left with the strength to keep the world from tyranny.
    To be called America’s “hat” and called “mostly sovereign” by some arrogant SOB, requires a reply from a proud Canadian. Belittling your smaller neighbour may seem cute to you, but a small dog can inflict a painful bite.

    By the way;
    In May we elected a majority Conservative government and are quickly trying to undo the damage done to our forces by our own socialists. This includes a multi-billion dollar order of heavy lift aircraft.
    America is 10x the population of Canada. In WWII, Korea, Afghanistan, Canadian losses were higher per capita than yours.

  26. Matthew Carberry says:

    Clayton,

    I’d agree. I sudder to think what the, as I recall, lone FFL’s on the highway crossing points would charge though.

  27. “Dude, don’t mess with Canadians. They seem so polite and unassuming, but on the rare occasion that we Americans have tussled with them, it hasn’t gone well for us.”

    Keep in mind that much of the Canadian population is actually descended from Americans, either those not prepared to give up on George III, or “Land Tories” who went there after the Revolution to get cheap land.

    Had the weather been a bit better in 1915 and 1916, I might have been born Canadian. My grandparents were going to get rich growing wheat in Saskatchewan. But one year was drought, and the other was flood.

  28. “To be called America’s “hat” and called “mostly sovereign” by some arrogant SOB, requires a reply from a proud Canadian.”

    You should have given some of us Americans a chance to chastise him first! He was unnecessarily rude.

  29. Quite. We tease (and between friends, it’s mutual; there’s plenty to needle the US about don’tchyaknow), but we have a lot more in common with our northern neighbors than with most other countries. Our cultural background and core philosophies are more alike than different, even if the specific differences can look pretty big sometimes.

  30. Just because you get away with something doesn’t make it legal (that sounds like Joan Peterson-think — she clearly believes that if something happens, it is legal…).

    I believe failure to declare your firearm to a common carrier violates GCA 68. Failure to declare your firearm at the Canadian border is also a violation.

    \\

    I have worked with Canadians. They are with us in some pretty bad neighborhoods around the world. They are one of the few countries that is willing to pony up and actually fight in hard wars. However, their policies on this issue are totally worthy of ridicule or at least regret.

    I mean, we’re talking about a place that has implemented a flawed, useless, bloated, expensive, and hated long gun registry and can’t get rid of it. We’re talking about a country where women are prohibited from carrying mace — we wouldn’t want a rapist to be inconvenienced! In Canada, “good guys” who dare to defend themselves from an arsonist or would-be murderer are treated like criminals for daring to use force of any kind to resist aggression.

    There are New Yorkers in the US military but that doesn’t stop me from calling out Bloomberg, MAIG, and New York City for pushing stupid victim disarmament schemes. Same goes for Canada.

  31. Lee says:

    Canada, unlike other nations of the world, is defined not by what it is, but by what it is desperately trying not to be: The United States.

    Canadians generally resent us. We meanwhile, generally don’t think about Canadians or their country at all. We don’t hate them, we just don’t notice them. How can we when they don’t really do much to make themselves known?

    Other than the Mackenzie brothers and the Red Green Show, definitively Canadian cultural content never seems to make its way down here. I don’t know why because lots of Americans love British TV shows. Why are there no Canadian shows of note? Lots of Canadian actors show up in American films and TV shows, with Elisha Cuthbert being my personal favorite, but when they do they’re playing American characters, not Canadians. Why?

    The Shipping News, set in Canada and supposedly about Canadians, used an American, two Brits, and an Australian as actors to portray the main characters.

    For all these reasons and more, Canada is one of those places that you don’t really think about unless and until something comes up that gives you a reason to, and then its like “Oh yeah, there’s this whole country up there isn’t there?”

  32. Ronnie says:

    @ Bemis: I just wanted to tell my story about crossing the Canadian border. What happened to me that night was not anything like I expected, especially when it was time for my vehicle to be searched. If somebody by then had decided that I had not set off any of their red flags of suspicion, then there really was no point in doing any type of search on my vehicle to begin with as far as I am concerned. I say this because the search that was done on my vehicle was so lackadaisical. I should have just been allowed to be on my way instead. The border guard kid could have instead just shined his light into my vehicle for a bit and saved himself ten minutes of his shift to go do something else. Maybe it’s just me, but I still find it amazing that the cops in my hometown back in the day put more time and effort into searching us kid’s vehicles for booze and dope during traffic stops, than the Canadians did when I went to cross their border over six years ago.

  33. Doowleb says:

    Lee,

    Canadians don’t generally resent Americans at all.
    I see little to no difference between Canadian and American cultures on the whole.
    Unfortunately, people’s perceptions are based on what they are told by the media. Our leftists in Canada, (and their sycophantic press) constantly harp on the “bad old” Americans. This is just “blame all problems on somebody else” leftist standard operating procedure. The press in Canada is the same as the US. Constantly proclaiming what everybody thinks…..when they really haven’t got a clue.
    Come to Canada, we are truly friends and allies of the US.
    No matter what the chattering class says.

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