Oh Canada! Canucks Getting Their Gun Licenses In Record Numbers

Canada: Is it America’s hat? A repository of peaceful moose and beaver, but no guns? While the country does indeed have some whacky gun laws, Canadian gun owners are like Australian gun owners: Always doing the best they can with the current rules. And right now, Canadians are applying for firearms licenses in record numbers, even as the government cracks down with tough rhetoric backing laws that are written with little basis in fact.

In Canada, ownership of most rifles and shotguns requires a Possession and Acquisition Licence, or PAL. Most handguns also require a Restricted Possession and Acquisition Licence, or RPAL. These licenses are issued by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which delegates training and other firearms-related administration to provincial firearms offices. Take your classroom and practical training, pass the background checks, and the RCMP will issue you a PAL or RPAL a few months later. Firearms are not required to be registered anymore, except in the province of Quebec, but the PAL program is standard across the whole country.


The newest version of Canada’s PAL cards. These ID cards are required to purchase ammo or guns in Canada, and any gun owner must have a PAL, unless they only own antiques. [RCMP]

According to the crew at TheGunBlog.ca, Canadians are applying for PALs at a record pace. In 2023, 87,694 Canadians applied for their PAL. That’s the largest number getting licensed since at least 2003, reports the website.

But the number is even more impressive when you consider the context: In 2003, Canadians were rushing to get their PAL as the firearms registry amnesty was scheduled to run out (the national registry was later canceled under Prime Minister Stephen Harper). In other words, a large portion of existing Canadian shooters were under the gun back then, and scrambling to get their paperwork in order. Now, 20 years later, the vast majority of the PAL applicants would almost certainly be new shooters—although, a large percentage of Canadian shooters still don’t have their PAL, decades after it was first required, and it’s possible some of those gun owners could be finally getting their paperwork done.

Whatever the case, the number of PAL holders in Canada now grows to 2,352,449 licensees across the country as of the end of 2023, from a population currently at 38.5 million. If the vast majority of Canadian firearms owners are unlicensed, as TheGunBlog.ca suggests, then you’d be looking at a minimum of five percent of the country as gun owners—but in rural Canada, where long guns are as common as snowblowers and Ski-Doos, the number is almost certainly much, much higher.

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