A firearm is defined as a barrelled weapon from which a projectile is discharged which is capable of causing serious bodily harm or death to a person. The determination of whether the object in question is in fact capable of causing the requisite level of harm is based on the muzzle velocity of the weapon, and whether a projectile fired from the weapon in question is capable of causing serious bodily harm. This would include the ability to pierce or injure an eye. Given this definition, many objects that are sold to the general public, and do not require any type of license to possess, are, for the purpose of the Criminal Code, firearms. This includes types of pellet guns and paint ball guns.
The charge of possession of a firearm is properly referenced as unauthorized possession of a firearm. It is not the possession of the firearm itself which is illegal, but rather possessing the firearm without the appropriate license to do so. There are a number of different types of possession charges which cover fact scenarios about the type of firearm in question (restricted or prohibited) or the knowledge of the possessor (no license, knowingly not having a license, obtaining through commission of an offence, etc.). They all start, however, with the possession of the firearm without being the holder of the proper license.
Where a possession charge is laid, the defences usually fall into one of two categories;
(1) that there was a breach of the accused's Charter rights such that the firearm in question should be excluded, and
(2) that the accused person lacked either the knowledge of the firearm, or the control of the firearm.
The maximum penalty for the unauthorized possession of a firearm is a term of imprisonment of 6 months if the Crown proceeds by summary conviction or 5 years custody if the Crown proceeds by way of indictment. These penalties increase with the severity of the possession offence. For example, possessing a restricted or prohibited firearm has a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail, and a minimum custodial sentence of 3 or 5 years depending on whether or not the accused is a first offender.