Alta. responds to federal firearm restrictions

Committee struck to advise government on the issue has recommended province appoint a provincial firearms officer

Alberta farmers concerned about federal firearm restrictions are reaching out to a provincial committee, says its chair.

They fear they won’t be able to use guns to protect livestock and other animals from things such as predators, says MLA Michaela Glasgo, who heads the Alberta Firearms Advisory Committee.

There are more than 300,000 licensed firearm owners in the province, she says. Rural Albertans have “shared with me to tell me, ‘we use firearms to take care of our property, and to defend our cattle and other livestock from coyotes, etc.,’ and these are people who’ve been doing this for generations,” she said.

The committee is using an online survey to gather feedback until Dec. 6. It also held a town hall on Nov. 17 via telephone and online, with a second town hall slated for Monday, Nov. 23.

The provincial government formed the committee in June after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced changes in federal regulations May 1 affecting the classification of what he called military-grade assault weapons.

The ban affects 1,500 models and variants of guns that Trudeau linked to mass shootings in Canada and other countries.

“These weapons were designed for one purpose, and one purpose only — to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time,” he said.

Canadians can no longer use, buy, sell, import or transport the guns, with a two-year amnesty for existing owners to comply with the ban.

“We will legislate fair compensation” for such owners, Trudeau said.

The decision followed the murder of 22 people in Nova Scotia in the worst mass killing in Canada’s history, but Glasgo said the buy-back program will waste taxpayers’ money, which could be better spent on strengthening border controls to prevent illegal guns from entering Canada from the United States.

“It’s not farmers in rural Alberta, it’s not gun collectors at gun shows, it’s gangs who are bringing illegal firearms up to the border who are getting through with no problems at all,” she said.

Lynn Jacobson, president of the Alberta Federation of Agriculture, said farmers “certainly don’t agree that people should have fully-automatic or semi-automatic, AK-47-type of things, but there are some cases to be made for some of the guns that are being used by producers just for predator control or everyday use on their farms….

“If you’re going to go down this route, we thought there should be more consultation with producers — certainly on the classification and what firearms are involved.”

Jacobson has brought the matter to the attention of the board of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

“Not only Alberta has got this, but every province is faced with the same thing,” he said.

He expects a resolution will likely be brought forward at the federation’s annual general meeting, which is to be held online from Feb. 24-26.

Although the new gun regulations are a federal responsibility, there are court challenges arguing they affect property rights that fall under provincial jurisdiction, Glasgo said. The regulations are an example of massive overreach by the federal government, she added.

Her 12-member committee involves “different elements of the firearms community,” including a former chief of the Calgary Police Service. It has recommended Alberta appoint a provincial firearms officer to enforce gun regulations, Glasgo said.

Despite the fact it is “kind of precedent setting,” Alberta has the power to make such a move and is “willing to go to bat for Albertans.”

The officer would answer to the provincial government, she added.

Premier Jason Kenney has said the initiative is among several proposals aimed at boosting the province’s leverage with Ottawa over things such as the Trans-Mountain Pipeline through British Columbia.

The results of the online survey and town halls are to be presented in a report to Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu in 2021.

“We’ll be going through all that information to be able to produce recommendations for the justice minister on what Albertans think is the best path forward,” says Glasgo.

For more information about the survey and town halls, visit alberta.ca/alberta-firearms-advisory-committee.aspx.

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