UCP’S new firearms panel targets federal gun control
An expert panel will craft firearms policy upholding “Alberta values” alongside a push to do all forensic gun testing in the province to speed up criminal prosecutions, Premier Jason Kenney said Wednesday.
Those moves accompany an earlier vow to establish a provincial chief firearms officer and an Alberta parole board.
The province’s decisions are in response to the federal government’s instant ban announced a month ago on what it terms military-style assault weapons whose net will scoop up 1,500 firearms models.
It includes a buy-back program with a two-year amnesty and an option to have guns in that category “grandfathered” in with weapons they currently own, though details of that have yet to be worked out.
That initiative’s been scorned by the UCP government as targeting legal firearms owners while ignoring the criminal use of guns.
“Those law-abiding Albertans should not be used as scapegoats for criminals by politicians in Ottawa,” Premier Jason Kenney said Wednesday.
He also said the current model of sending away 600 forensic gun tests annually to the RCMP’S national lab in Ottawa means average delays of eight months in trials whose cases could be thrown due to lengthy waits.
To shorten that time to possibly weeks, the province will spend $500,000 to ensure 750 of those tests are done in labs operated by the Calgary and Edmonton Police Services.
“This will ensure no prosecution of gun crime is derailed because tests are held up in Ottawa,” said Kenney, adding those frustrations are all part of the federal government’s insensitivity to Alberta’s needs.
The 12-member firearms advisory committee will consist of three MLAS, sports shooters, former police and military veterans, an academic, a collector and gun shop owner.
One of its members is former Calgary police chief Rick Hanson.
“I’m confident they’ll provide the minister of justice with thoughtful, sensible ideas to help us craft policies for responsible firearms owners,” said Kenney.
Said Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer, to whom the committee will report: “Albertans … don’t want policy developed in downtown Toronto, they want policy that reflects their needs.”
While the idea of the advisory panel could be a good one, it lacks a proper scope of representation, resembling a “UCP echo chamber,” said NDP leader Rachel Notley.
“The people across the province who have significant public safety concerns, whose communities are very troubled by rises in gun violence, and who want to see meaningful strategies to reduce availability of guns within their communities where their loved ones and their family members or are being victimized,” she said.
“So, if this advisory committee is going to be truly effective, it needs to include folks including acting police and law enforcers there’s none of those.” Victims of firearms-related domestic violence, she said, seem to have been overlooked.
And Notley said the committee could be a way for the government to reconnect with its non-urban base amid a dispute with rural doctors. “But I actually think it will fail because most rural Albertans know that the amount of policing they have is either being reduced or funding for it is being downloaded onto their property taxes,” said Notley.
An Angus Reid Institute poll conducted after the April massacre of 22 people in Nova Scotia by a man illegally equipped with assault-style rifles showed 80 per cent of Canadians support a ban of those weapons. In Alberta, that number was 65 per cent.
Ottawa’s prohibition has those some gun owners and retailers have crying foul, calling the federal ban too sweeping and a prelude to further erosions of firearms rights.
That’s led two Calgary gun shop owners to mount a court challenge arguing the prohibition is unconstitutional by infringing on property rights.