Alberta government announces firearms legislation to give province more authority over regulation

Alberta’s UCP government announced provincial firearms legislation Tuesday, offering more clarity for gun owners and more provincial authority over gun regulation.

If passed into law, the Alberta Firearms Act would allow the government to develop regulations that it sees as necessary to protect gun owners in the province.

“(The) No. 1 goal with this piece of legislation is to provide clarity, which has been lacking in every province, quite frankly,” said Alberta justice minister and attorney general Tyler Shandro. “So, clarity in the role between (the) federal government and provincial governments in the regulation of firearms.”

A lot of small details over firearms legislation have been changed by the federal government, Shandro said, and as the province learns more about what those details are, it will be able to adjust the legislation to provide clarity and sovereignty to Alberta firearms owners.

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An Alberta chief firearms officer (CFO) was appointed in 2021 to administer federal firearms legislation and “advocate for lawful firearms owners and promote public safety,” according to the province.

The CFO’s role would continue under the new act and will extend duties to include supporting Albertans.

After receiving backlash, the federal government recently dropped amendments to Bill C-21, the government’s gun control legislation.

Proposed amendments to Bill C-21, including banning automatic hunting rifles (also sometimes referred to as assault-style firearms) and handguns, were tabled by the Liberal government in November and ditched in February.

Shandro said the Alberta government never agreed with the federal plan to restrict ownership of some guns in Canada, saying it was taking away from the rights of Canadians.

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Alberta has ‘no legal authority’ in federal Firearms Act: Legal expert

The Alberta justice minister said he believes the legislation tabled Tuesday makes it clear that gunowners will be fully supported by the provincial government if the legislation passes.

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“Once passed, the Alberta Firearms Act will be the most comprehensive provincial firearms framework in the country,” Shandro said. “By establishing in legislation the role of Alberta chief firearms officer, this legislation will elevate the responsibilities and legal mandate of the office to the fullest extent of the law.

“Alberta stands unequivocally with hunters, farmers, sport shooters and Indigenous peoples, all of whom understand the importance of responsible firearm ownership to Alberta’s heritage and culture.”

According to the province, there are more than 340,000 licensed gun owners in Alberta.

In a statement, the Opposition said the bill does nothing to protect Albertans from gun violence.

While agreeing that the federal bill amendments needed to be revoked, NDP MLA Irfan Sabir said he believes the UCP government is not focusing its efforts on the areas where Albertans need the most support.

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UCP tables Alberta Firearms Act

This concept of supporting gun owners in Alberta has been a core element of the UCP party since it was founded in 2019, said Duane Bratt, a political science professor at Mount Royal University.

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He said this legislation is designed for the UCP voter base of rural Alberta.

“I understand the politics behind this. I think the jurisdictional battle is yet to occur, but a lot of this remains quite fuzzy,” said Bratt. “We’ll have to see what the bill actually says.”

If the new legislation is passed, the province said it would have the ability to create a Firearms Compensation Committee to assure gun owners receive fair compensation for seized guns, create regulations for licensing of seizure agents, create requirements for forensic and ballistics testing for seized weapons and also ensure municipal police services meet regulatory requirements.

Bratt said the UCP has been consistent with wanting to weaken municipalities, specifically Edmonton and Calgary.

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Alberta firearms owners react to Bill C-21 amendments being scrapped

He said the province is trying to prevent municipalities from signing separate agreements on various issues with the federal government.

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“They’re doing that on every policy sector, not just firearms,” he said.

While these items have been outlined by the justice ministry, there is still not yet a solid regulatory system that is in place for the act.

— With files from Morgan Black, Global News

&© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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