Canadian Unlicensed Firearms Owners Association
Association canadienne des propriétaires d’armes sans permis

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Liberty: The Difference between an FAC and the PAL

I touched on the difference of a (PAL) vs. FAC in my article, Understanding what Bill C-19 Actually Accomplished… But now I want to go into detail of the difference between a FAC and a PAL.

Today, most of the older generation will – incorrectly - refer to their firearms licence as an FAC, which stands for Firearms Acquisition Certificate. The FAC came into being in 1977 with the passage of Bill C-51. Before this, buying, selling, and possession of a firearm was legal without getting permission from the state (federal government).

After Bill C-51, you needed a Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC) to acquire or buy a firearm. Possession of a firearm without a FAC was completely legal.

To get an FAC, you went to your local police detachment and filled out a 1 page application, paid $5 or $10 and waited less than 1 week.

If you did not intend to buy any more guns, you could burn your FAC card as soon as you purchased your firearms and that was the end of it.

Bill C-68 was passed by Parliament and became the Firearms Act in 1995. In 2001 the licencing scheme came into affect. You now have to apply for a Possession Acquisition Licence (PAL). Buying, selling, or even simple possession of a firearm is now against the law without a PAL.

To get a PAL, you have to:

1) Take a safety course ($60 to $100 or more),

2) Fill out an application 4 pages long,

3) Get a couple of references to sign your application,

4) Have you spouse or significant other sign off on it as well,

5) Pay a license application fee of $60 or $80, depending on whether or not you wanted to own Restricted firearms,

6) Get a photo for your new ID (the PAL is a photo ID) and have a Photo Guarantor sign it (to prove it is you on the picture),

7) Package all the paperwork up and send it to the processing center in Miramichi, New Brunswick.

The bureaucrats in Miramichi decide if you are fit to possess firearms and, if they think you are OK, they send the application to your local provincial Chief Firearms Officer (CFO), who double checks the application, and if he or she approves, sends you your new PAL card.

The timeline for this process is a minimum of four weeks and there are many documented cases where an individual has waited six months or more for their licence to arrive.

The FAC was certification system, or is a system where you have shown you are able to do something. You get certified for First Aid, H2S, etc., and you can get ‘certified’ for literally hundreds of things.

The PAL is a licencing system, which turns simple possession of a firearm into a crime. In law, a license is your “permission slip” from the state to break the law. With the state’s permission slip you are a law-abiding citizen who may own firearms; without it you are a criminal and can be sent to jail for up to 10 years.

Compare this to automobile ownership. You need a driver’s licence, your legal defense for the crime of driving on PUBLIC roads, but you can drive all you want on your own private property. If you do not have a drivers licence, the police will NOT throw you in jail and confiscate your vehicle. You need to register your vehicle if you want to drive on public roads, but you can own as many vehicles of any kind as you want, and the police will not confiscate your property because you do not have ‘collector status’.

Licence = Permission from the government to break the law. A Firearms License is your legal defense to the “crime” of possessing a firearm.

Certification = Showing you are knowledgeable in a particular area.

The Difference between an FAC and the PAL is Liberty.

Know your rights, or you won’t have any.

Todd Brown
Co-founder - Concerned Gun Owners of Alberta
20 January 2013