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

Click to play video: 'Alberta government introduces firearms act to counter federal legislation'
Alberta government introduces firearms act to counter federal legislation
The Bill 8 — Alberta Firearms Act allows the province to enact regulations when it comes to how the proposed federal Bill C-21 is administered in Alberta. Morgan Black reports. – Mar 7, 2023

Alberta’s United Conservative Party government announced provincial firearms legislation Tuesday, offering more clarity for gun owners and more provincial authority over regulations.

If passed, the Bill 8 Alberta Firearms Act would allow the government to develop regulations that it sees as necessary to protect gun owners in the province.

Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro has been critical of the federal Liberals’ Bill C-21, which includes a national handgun freeze and prohibition on many assault-style firearms.

“(The) No. 1 goal with this piece of legislation is to provide clarity, which has been lacking in every province, quite frankly,” Shandro said on Tuesday.

“So, clarity in the role between (the) federal government and provincial governments in the regulation of firearms.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta introduces new legislation aimed at protecting lawful gun owners'
Alberta introduces new legislation aimed at protecting lawful gun owners

There’s not a lot of detail in the legislation and Shandro said it’s written that way for a reason.

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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. He said the federal government has given out few details about how it plans to proceed.

“I characterize it as being nimble. That’s important because we don’t have any details yet,” Shandro said.

“Once we do see those details what we have here is an opportunity for us to be nimble and develop regulations to respond to that at that time.”

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.

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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.

Click to play video: 'Alberta has ‘no legal authority’ in federal Firearms Act: Legal expert'
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.

“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.”

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According to the province, there are more than 340,000 licensed gun owners in Alberta. About 30,000 prohibited firearms are believed to exist in Alberta under the federal definition.

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.

Click to play video: 'UCP tables Alberta Firearms Act'
UCP tables Alberta Firearms Act

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

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.”

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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.

Click to play video: 'Alberta firearms owners react to Bill C-21 amendments being scrapped'
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.

“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.

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— With files from Morgan Black, Global News, and Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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