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Alberta justice minister accuses feds of targeting ‘law-abiding Canadians’ with new gun legislation

Click to play video: 'Alberta gun owners on potential federal gun law changes' Alberta gun owners on potential federal gun law changes
WATCH ABOVE: Alberta gun owners are not happy about newly-tabled legislation that could see municipalities in the province putting restrictions on firearms. Jackie Wilson reports – Feb 16, 2021

Alberta’s justice minister says he believes the federal government’s newly-tabled firerarms legislation “is more interested in targeting law-abiding Canadians rather than the criminals who recklessly endanger public safety.”

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Kaycee Madu offered his reaction to the proposed gun legislation that would let municipalities effectively ban handguns through bylaws that restrict their possession, storage and transportation.

READ MORE: Trudeau unveils details of ‘assault-style’ gun buyback program, municipal gun ban 

“The federal government seems to be obsessively focused on duly-licensed Canadian firearms owners,” Madu said. “Hundreds of thousands of Canadians purchased their property legally, and have used that property legally and safely for many years.

“These citizens should not be treated like criminals by their own federal government.”

READ MORE: Minister Madu slams federal firearms ban, seeks Albertans’ input on provincial gun policies 

Madu added that his government is “bewildered by the supposed provision for municipal bylaw gun bans” and said “the Constitution is clear that municipalities fall under the jurisdiction of the provinces.”

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“Albertans are smart enough to know that made-in-Toronto calls for city gun bans are futile, since criminals flagrantly using guns won’t follow such a bylaw anyways,” he said.

“In addition, a patchwork approach of policy varying by invisible municipal boundaries would create obvious confusion in enforcement, and the federal government clearly knows that.”

The mayor of Calgary told reporters Tuesday that the city has yet to determine what it may or may not do should the federal legislation be passed.

Nenshi added that even though he broadly likes the idea of municipalities having more powers, he prefers “one law for the country.”

“I’ve never been in favour of this approach,” he said. “That said, Calgary certainly has a problem with gun violence and it’s something that we’re addressing through a number of formats, including our public safety task force.

“So I’ll wait to hear the recommendations of that task force before determining whether or not to test council’s will on whether we should take advantage of that or not.”

Nenshi said he expects the task force to provide its recommendations within the next month or two.

Madu said that although the federal legislation “may include some useful measures,” his government plans to “vigilantly defend its jurisdiction” should it be passed into law.

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“I’d also note that MLA Michaela Glasgo has introduced private member’s Bill 211, which would limit municipalities’ ability to pass bylaws on these matters,” he said.

“The government of Alberta will expedite that bill, and remains on track to appoint Alberta’s chief firearms officer.”

READ MORE: Alberta to appoint chief provincial firearms officer: ‘Alberta is asserting its provincial jurisdiction’ 

Police chiefs of both Alberta’s major cities said they’re taking more time to review the proposed legislation and what it could mean.

“As we have seen over the past year, there has been an increase in gun violence in our communities and addressing this violence is a top priority for all the agencies within the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police,” said Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee.

“We look forward to learning more about the proposed legislation and will be able to provide further comment after review.”

Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld also said it’s still “early days” and CPS will be taking part in technical briefings to better understand the impacts of the proposed law.

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In terms of changes that could lead to more of a “patchwork” approach, Neufeld said “we’ve been on record saying we don’t probably think that’s the best way to go because it’s confusing.”

“When you think about a metro area like we have here, where there are some what I would call invisible boundaries between municipalities, it does become a little bit unwieldly. But we’re keeping an open mind nonetheless and we’ll have a listen to what’s being proposed across the board on this and figure out what our position will be.”

Watch below: Some Global News videos about new gun legislation tabled by the federal government.

Lennard Kucey owns the Phoenix Indoor Range and Gunshop in Edmonton. He said the newly tabled legislation will be “disastrous” to his business.

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“(My business) cannot survive without those types of firearms being used which is the reason the range is here,” he said. “We’re paying the price for so many other people not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

“The criminals are not going to turn in their firearms. The gangs are not going to turn in their firearms. All the people that have guns… legally are the ones that (are) going to lose the firearms. The people that are the problem are just laughing.”

A representative for an organization that advocates for women on issues including gender-based violence said she would like the federal government to go even further with its gun-control policies.

“We need federal action to see progress on this issue — including, for example, a national handgun ban, and mandatory buy-back program for assault weapons,” said Ann Decter, the senior director of community initiatives with the Canadian Women’s Foundation.

“What’s required is not only a co-ordinated, national plan to stop gun violence, but one that is practically and swiftly implemented.”

Decter said there is a clear link “between gun ownership and violence against women.”

“In Canadian households, the presence of firearms in the home is the single greatest risk factor for the lethality of gender-based violence,” she said.

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“During the pandemic, the risk may be greater — we know that reports of gender-based violence are on the rise, and that women, girls and gender-diverse people may now be isolated at home with their abuser.

“We need strong firearms legislation to protect them. National gun control is an essential element of violence prevention.”

The federal government said it plans to back up its legislation with serious penalties to help municipalities enforce related bylaws. Bill C-21 also proposes an optional buyback program for guns that Ottawa now considers to be assault-style weapons.

Among the other measures the legislation includes are provisions that would allow friends or relatives of gun owners to apply to courts for the removal of a person’s guns, increasing penalties for the trafficking and smuggling of firearms and bringing in tougher restrictions on the importation of ammunition.

–With files from The Canadian Press’ Jim Bronskill and Global News’ Emily Mertz

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