Alberta government moving to defend against federal 'gun grab'
EDMONTON -- The provincial government is taking steps it says will protect the rights of gun owners in Alberta and strengthen the justice system's ability to prosecute gun crimes.
Premier Jason Kenney announced a new Alberta Firearms Advisory Committee and an investment to expand firearm testing in the province on Wednesday.
The 12-member advisory committee, chaired by Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA Michaela Glasgo, will provide recommendations on responding to gun violence while protecting the rights of gun owners.
Glasgo said she was appalled by the federal government's decision to ban certain firearms, calling it a "gun grab."
"This is just one more example of Ottawa really not understanding the needs of Albertans," she said. "These recent attacks on gun owners' rights will do absolutely nothing to address the core issues that lead to gun violence."
"Hundreds of thousands of Albertans simply use firearms as part of everyday life," Kenney said. "Those law-abiding Albertans should not be used as scapegoats for the actions of criminals by politicians in Ottawa."
Premier Kenney also announced the Alberta Firearms Examination Unit, aimed at strengthening the justice system's ability to prosecute gun crimes.
Citing an average wait time of eight months for tests sent to the federal forensic lab, the province will invest $500,000 in expanding firearm testing facilities in Calgary and Edmonton.
"This will speed up the testing process to ensure that no prosecution of a gun crime gets derailed because tests are being held up down in Ottawa," Kenney said.
The labs will be a partnership with the Edmonton Police Service, Calgary Police Service, RCMP and the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams.
Calgary's lab is already operating, Edmonton's is in the works.
The province will also name its own Alberta Firearms Officer to replace Ottawa's appointee.
A statement from the office of the Minister of Public Safety reads, "As outlined in the Firearms Act, provinces hold the right to appoint their own the Chief Firearms Officer (CFO) if they wish to do so. At this time, five provinces have taken this step, and we continue to support their right to appoint their own CFO."
It went on to say that if a province does not wish to exercise that right, the federal government may do so in their place.
The federal government banned certain military-style assault weapons in May and announced planned legislation to address handguns and a buyback program for legally purchased weapons.
Kenney criticized Trudeau's ban at the time, saying it wouldn't target criminals. He said the Alberta government is concerned about crime and the illegal use of firearms, which would be better addressed by stronger laws against violent criminals.
Many Albertans agree.
Affordable Firearms Licensing Alberta Certified Instructor Delano Civitarese says the federal plan is targeting the wrong people.
“It’s not fair to lump gun owners all into the same pile,” Civitarese said. “The legislation that was put in place is doing nothing more than deterring legal owners from getting into the sport and continuing to pursue their passions.”
Gun control advocate Wendy Cukier told CTV News she disagrees. The President of the Coalition for Gun Control said the guns listed in the federal legislation aren’t needed for sport.
“Most law abiding gun owners don’t have military assault weapons and most of them don’t think people should have military assault weapons,” Cukier said.
With files from Timm Bruch