UCP’S new firearms panel tar­gets fed­eral gun con­trol

Calgary Herald - - SECTION - BILL KAUF­MANN

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.

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