Premier Jason Kenney is opposing a new national gun ban that he calls a “federal attack” against the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
Hundreds of thousands of Albertans use guns responsibly in their everyday life, and “those law-abiding Albertans should not be used as scapegoats for the actions of criminals by politicians in Ottawa,” said Kenney at a news conference Wednesday.
There are already strong gun control measures in place — supported by Alberta — to regulate firearms, including mandatory background checks, registering weapons such as handguns, and various other restrictions on weapons and ammunition, said the premier.
“Unfortunately, however, there are some politicians who prefer to go after easy targets, being law-abiding Canadians and their legallly obtained property, instead of focusing on the drug gangs and criminal smugglers who wilfully endanger lives every day.”
Those actions demonstrate the “huge gulf” between the provincial and federal approaches to combating crime, he said.
Kenney announced he is setting up an advisory committee to provide recommendations on policy and how to crack down on gun crime, while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
The 12-person committee will be chaired by Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA Michaela Glasgo and will include other MLAs, as well as hunting, sport, military and police representatives.
“I am confident they will provide the minister of justice with thoughtful, sensible ideas to help us craft policies with responsible firearms owners.”
The province also intends to set up a provincial firearms examination unit to speed up the testing of guns seized as evidence in criminal investigations.
RCMP in many Alberta communities rely on the force’s testing laboratory in Ottawa, which is taking an average of eight months to process routine firearms requests.
“That puts successful prosecutions at risk — that eight-month delay,” said Kenney at the news conference.
Alberta will also have a new chief firearms officer to replace Ottawa’s appointee, and who is expected to be more tuned in to the concerns of Albertans.
Kenney and Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer were critical of the federal government’s recently announced move to ban 1,500 types of assault-style guns and other weapons.
The premier said the move was a “federal attack” on the rights of law-abiding gun owners and would do nothing to reduce gun crime.
Many Albertans responsibly use firearms on their farms and elsewhere.
Eighty per cent of the weapons used in Canadian crimes are illegally imported from the U.S., mostly into Central Canada for use by drug gangs and organized criminals, said Schweitzer.
“That’s where the focus should be: targeting organized crime to make sure people feel safe in our communities.”
Schweitzer said the measures taken by Alberta will “show Ottawa that a responsible firearms policy targets criminals and illegal gun traffickers, and not lawful gun use.”
Dale Malin, owner of Red Deer’s The Sportsmen’s Den, is not sure how effective government efforts will be, but said at least some action is being taken.
“We haven’t heard too many positive things here lately. Anything positive would be nice.
“At least they’re doing something.”
Malin said a number of groups representing hunters and other gun owners have been organizing against the federal government’s new ban.
“There’s quite a few organizations getting behind it,” he said of opposition efforts.
Malin said it could also be good that Alberta will appoint its own chief firearms officer.
“You need somebody really, really knowledgeable; then it might help,” he said.
“Right now, that’s the problem. You’ve some of these (politicians) making decisions and they’re not that knowledgeable.
“On that prohibited list there are a whole bunch of guns on there, like M-14s. I don’t know if they have ever be used (illegally.)
“That’s a big, huge, heavy gun. It’s not a gun someone is going to take and spray people with.”