By Trevor Busch
As the federal government pushes forward with legislation targeting restricted firearms under Bill C-21, Alberta’s UCP government is pushing back with the recent introduction of the provincial Firearms Act.
Bill 8 defines the role of the province’s chief firearms officer, but allows enacting regulations restricting how the federal legislation will be implemented in Alberta.
“The Firearms Act is really in response to the federal piece of legislation that’s being passed right now (Bill C-21). The federal government is really trying to take away lawful firearms,” said Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter. “And so this is a pushback against that. I think that most Albertans recognize that the vast majority of guns are legal, and lawful to use with proper training that happens.”
One clause in Bill 8 would prevent municipal police forces – such as the Taber Police Service – from participating in the collection of firearms by prohibiting funding deals with Ottawa.
The Taber-Warner MLA understands the need to restrict illegal firearms, but as a regular hunter himself he is convinced the federal government’s campaign is unfairly targeting lawful gun owners.
“It’s in my heritage, it’s very important to me to be able to continue to be able to teach my children, my children or my grandchildren, those skills. And I talked to them about the heritage. So, you know, I do think it’s important to make sure that illegal guns that are in our society are found, and that they are taken away, or confiscated. And that’s where we should be putting the extra time and the money into making sure that doesn’t happen, or that those illegal guns aren’t out there. And so that’s really where I think the federal government should have been focusing on – instead they’re focusing on taking away lawful and legal guns.”
The bill proposes that anyone acting as a “seizure agent” must be licensed by the province, with the provincial government arguing that no one will be.
“So that’s what this is all about, is being able to strengthen our Chief Firearms office,” said Hunter. “It is now provincial, and so that (Bill 8) will give her the powers that she needs to be able to to do the work that she needs to do in that realm.”
The federal government is expected to announce a buy-back program that will allow gun owners to sell their now-prohibited firearms to Ottawa without any criminal implications before Oct. 30.
“The reality is, it is not going to make our society safer, and they have not been able to make the argument that it is, and we’re not the only province that has actually fought back. Saskatchewan, I think Nova Scotia has also fought back against this.”
Hunter believes the slippery slope argument applies to the current situation, and argues that eventually the federal government will come calling for all firearms held in private hands.
“It isn’t strictly pushing farther and farther. At some point they’re going take all the guns out, any sport or recreation, and again that smacks against the heritage, my own personal heritage and I have zero interest in its allowance.”