Proposed gun legislation will affect law-abiding citizens, Alberta’s firearms officer says

The federal government has tabled a bill that includes a national freeze on handguns. For some Albertans, the move is a step in the right direction, while others say it won’t properly address gun violence. 

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino presented the bill, C-21, in the House of Commons on Monday. Along with it came a freeze on the purchase, sale, importation and transfer of handguns in the country. 

Measures that intend to ban guns or limit the use of them by citizens are a step in the right direction, says Jose Neto.

Neto nearly died — and was permanently blinded — after being struck by a stray bullet in 2008 when a man several metres away shot at a drug dealer during an altercation in Calgary’s Chinatown. 

“I do hope that they restrict more in the near future here. Because I am a victim of it, and I don’t want my kids to have to go through any of that,” Neto said. 

“I know how much that can affect someone’s life … once you go through this, you pay more attention to what’s going on out there,” he said. 

Neto says he’s happy action is being taken. 

“We should worry about what is going on now and the actions we can take right now. And I think this is a great way of starting it. There’s no better time than right now.” 

Calgary police Supt. Cliff O’Brien recently told CBC about the city’s recent uptick in gun violence, with 60 shootings already this year — nearly double the five-year average.

The federal legislation revives some of the federal measures that didn’t pass before last year’s general election and implements new proposals. 

Provincial firearms officer says C-21 misses mark 

Alberta’s chief firearms officer, Teri Bryant, says the new legislation targets law-abiding gun owners and that for many people guns are a “major part of their life.” 

“People talk this off lightly and say ‘Oh, it’s just a hobby.’ It’s not just a hobby. This is a community that has a whole way of life,” she said. 

Instead of the freeze proposed this week, Bryant said she feels the government should look at funding more firearms officers across the country and staff at the border, in order to tackle illegal smuggling and firearms trafficking. 

She believes there would be more benefit if there was greater attention paid to tracking people who have firearms prohibition orders against them. 

“Often these people already have numerous firearms prohibition orders against them, and yet they still are able to go out and track down and obtain firearms,” Bryant said. 

“We need to be tracking these people and keeping better tabs on them because these are really high-risk offenders. The problem with this package of measures is it targets the people who are at the lowest risk of offending.” 

The bill includes taking away firearm licences from those involved in domestic violence or criminal harassment, and a provision that would require people who are determined to be a threat to themselves or others to turn in their firearms to law enforcement.

Bryant also said she feels the freeze is an intrusion into Albertans’ property rights, and it could come at a huge financial cost — especially for those who have invested a lot of money into their handguns. 

In 2019, during her testimony before the Senate committee on national security and defence, as it was considering changes to firearms regulations, Bryant said her own gun collection is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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