PALs, Parrots and Projectiles, Part 1


So, can you have that ammo or not?

With all the fooferaw of late over the attempts by various CFOs to wave their magic wands and bibbitty-bobbitty-boo up some laws that don’t really exist, Canadian gun owners are starting to take a long, hard, and in no small way cynical look at other regulations that have been credulously accepted for years.  Like needing a PAL or POL to buy ammo.

After watching Chris Wyatt’s mealy-mouthed performance on the CBC, many are starting to realize that we can’t just “take their word for it” that something’s illegal; we’re starting to demand chapter and verse.

Which, when you take the time to think about it, is what we should have been doing all along.We’ve all seen the signs in stores: no PAL, no ammo; and few if any of us have ever bothered to put it under the microscope.  Is there actually a law on the books or is this just another invention of the bureaucracy?  Do you really need a PAL to buy or posses ammo?  For this, we’re going to have to go spelunking about in three utterly byzantine labyrinths: Ontario’s 1994 Ammunition Regulation Act (which gave us those wonderful criminal shopping lists you see lying unattended on counters from time to time), everybody’s favourite Firearms Act (aka C-68) and the Criminal Code of Canada.

This is the part where I remind you that I’m not a lawyer.  And you might want to pour yourself a good stiff drink now; I know I needed one.

Ontario law: the Ammo Act

article inline ad

We can thank Bob Rae for dropping this wonderful clanger on the public rug.  I’ll do the best I can to make it as plain-English as possible.

Section 2 (1) of this says that you need to be 18 and have valid photo ID to buy ammo, but it doesn’t say you need a licence:  “No person shall purchase ammunition unless the person is at least 18 years old and at the time of purchase presents valid identification that has his or her photograph and age or date of birth or other valid identification prescribed by regulation.”  Subsections (2) and (3) say that 12-17 year-olds can buy ammo, but only if they have a minor’s licence.

In fact, the word “licence” appears only three times in the act, two of which are mentioned above.  The third applies to licenced businesses needing to keep records: “A person who holds a licence issued under subsection 56 (1) of the Firearms Act (Canada) to carry on a business” has to record the date & time, your name, age and address, the type and # of the ID you used and how much you bought of what.  And maybe your shoe size.

The clever ones in the audience will notice something funny, though.  Section 56 (1) of the Firearms Act says only that “A chief firearms officer is responsible for issuing licences.”  This is the fulcrum of section 58 (1), which is what Ontario CFO Chris Wyatt is saying gives him the right to treat the province like his own little fiefdom and make up the law as he goes.So yeah, it turns out that there actually is a black-and-white basis in law for that damn book.

Rather reminds one of the tyrant King John, who has been infamously quoted as having declared “the law is in my mouth,” doesn’t it?  Some of you will remember him as the King who was given the choice of either signing the Magna Carta or being run through.  I like history.

So what do we have so far?

Good question.  Well, up to this point we can conclude that, if you are in Ontario, the following applies when you buy your ammo at the local outlet of your choice:

  1. You need to show government-issued photo ID with your age or date of birth on it.
  2. You need to have a minor’s licence to buy ammo, if you’re age 12 to 17.
  3. Any business you buy ammo from has to jot down your autobiography in the store’s Ontario Burglary Catalog™.

So far, not a whole lot; but then again, Canadian gun law is so convoluted even the lawyers can’t figure it out half the time.  It could still be out there somewhere.  Lurking.  Waiting.

Guess I’ll just have to keep looking.

And I haven’t even gotten around to the parrot yet…

article bottom ad


  1. Question 2

    If I have for example a shot gun and I remove the stock for cleaning which makes the gun less than 26 inches and the gun can still fire does that make it prohibition in Canada?

  2. Is there such a law (I often hear in the media) as “stock piling” ammunition. I know of the regs in the explosives act but non in the criminal code.

    • 225kg (or about 495#) of any combination of ‘safety cartridges’ (normal modern ammunition) is your limit w/o special conditions, procedures, and storage, etc…

      (Provided w/o warranty; Not Legal Advice)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here