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Alberta government calls on RCMP to ignore federal firearms ban within province


Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro says his government will direct RCMP in the province not to enforce the confiscation of newly prohibited firearms from what were once legal owners.

"We will not tolerate taking officers off the streets in order to confiscate the property of law-abiding firearms owners," Shandro said Monday.

Shandro says the province will use a dispute clause in the provincial police service agreement to keep officers from being re-purposed to enforcement of the federal assault weapons ban.

"All Canadians whether firearms owners or not should be concerned about the scapegoating of law abiding citizens and the targeting of their property," said Teri Bryant, chief firearms officer for Alberta.

The federal ban was announced in the spring 2020 and prohibited 1,500 models of firearms and some related devices. The ban affected many semi automatic rifles that were already "restricted" – meaning owners had further layers of background checks as well as strict limits on where the guns could be used.

However, it also captured many guns that were previously non-restricted – meaning anyone with a basic firearms license could legally possess and shoot them in a much wider variety of places.

"It's going to cost billions of dollars to change how things are," said James Bachynsky, a co-owner of the Calgary Shooting Centre.

He says no clear case has been made that public safety will be improved as a result of the ban.

"They're treating us as bad guys, they're attacking us at every opportunity and claiming that somehow it's affecting public safety," Bachynsky said.

A buyback program has been floated but so far, gun owners say they are being offered pennies on the dollar. Even so, the price tag is estimated to exceed a billion dollars.

Many expect the price tag to be even higher.

"Even if these costs can be contained to $2 billion dollars, that would cover the costs of some 12,000 person years of regulatory and enforcement personnel, or a fully-paid 20-year career for some 600 people," said Bryant, reinforcing the province's stance that money to combat gun crime is being spent in the wrong place.

The provincial government is also filing legal challenges, seeking intervenor status in a half-dozen cases currently before the courts. Those cases generally challenge the constitutionality of the federal weapons ban.

Shandro says federal government informed him last week it was planning to move ahead with the confiscation of approximately 30,000 firearms in Alberta this fall.

However, even gun control advocates say the province's ban is unlikely to significantly change the planned enforcement of the law.

"It's more UCP posturing at a time we are heading into an election a provincial election – bash the feds, whoever they are and take political advantage of a situation," said David Swann, a former MLA who has had a long involvement with the Canadian Coalition for Gun Control.

Earlier this year, the federal government effectively banned all handguns in Canada. Existing owners will be allowed to keep the restricted handguns they currently own, but will not be able to sell them to other license holders.

The feds also announced a ban in importing handguns to Canada.

Firearms regulations are federal jurisdiction so it is not clear what action is available to the province.

Alberta has 326,709 licensed firearms owners as of 2020, the last year for which information is publicly available. Of those, roughly 149,000 Albertans may legally possess restricted firearms such as handguns.

More than 2.2 million Canadians hold valid firearms licences. Top Stories

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