Gun owners in Alberta are feeling hopeful after the provincial government tabled new firearms legislation last week, but experts say it is not yet clear if Bill 8 will have the power to trump federal legislation.
Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro introduced the legislation Tuesday, saying the goal of the bill is to offer more clarity and autonomy to Albertans over firearms regulations after amendments to the federal firearms laws received pushback.
Dwight Newman, constitutional law professor at the University of Saskatchewan said the bill gives a general framework for Alberta to respond to currently unknown federal legislation.
“It’s a bit of an unusual piece of legislation in the allowing of all the different kinds of legislation that it could support, but it’s speaking to Alberta trying to be ready for different scenarios that could arise,” Newman said.
The first federal firearms ban that took effect May 2020 left many legal gun owners, including Lennard Kucey, owner of Phoenix Indoor Range and Gunshop Ltd., in the lurch.
Kucey said that when the federal ban went into effect in May 2020, any firearms his business had in stock that fell under that mandate had to be locked away, as they were unable to sell, trade or send them back.
“We were at a loss,” he said of the estimated quarter-million dollars-worth of inventory that now sits in a storage container. “Our sales have probably gone down about 75 per cent.”
This new legislation is giving him hope again.
“It was the only time in the last long while that I’ve had any kind of possible good news as far as business goes,” said Kucey of the tabling of Bill 8, and what he considers to be the province’s effort to heal wounds for legal gun owners in Alberta.
He said that if the bill is passed, it could potentially save a lot of firearms businesses in the province.
“Of all the provinces to be in right now, I’m glad I’m in Alberta, because Alberta’s the only one that’s fighting for us, as far as I can see,” he said.
But it’s not yet clear if this legislation will have the strength — and the technicality — to trump federal legislation that Alberta doesn’t agree with.
Newman said there are principles that federal legislation can overrule provincial legislation when there’s a conflict between the two governments.
“The province is trying to make some more innovative arguments that there are areas that they can defend as the exclusive jurisdiction of Alberta … and it remains to be seen what a court would do with that down the road,” he explained.
The federal and provincial justice ministers say they are working together to find solutions that work for all parties.
“We’re not going to agree on every single policy — I think that’s natural … and Minister Shandro and I do look for other ways in which we can collaborate,” said federal Justice Minister David Lametti at a news conference Friday.
Shandro added that the federal and provincial governments both have a role to play in safety and regulation.
“If there is going to be an increase in the storage, the transportation, movement of firearms throughout the province, the province has a role to play in ensuring the safety of (the confiscation) program … and that’s what this legislation is deciding to do,” Shandro said.
— With files from Morgan Black, Global News
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