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Alberta gun owners struggle to renew licenses due to massive federal delays

With hunting seasons open across Alberta, many firearms owners are finding themselves facing a difficult decision.

To have a firearm you must have a possession and acquisition license – also known as a PAL – but unusually long delays in renewing licenses means some will have to pass on their annual hunting trips or risk running afoul of the law.

75-year-old Don Holloway of Calgary says he first mailed in his renewal back in March.

He says it was returned two months later with a note saying it was done incorrectly.

He re-did his application and sent it off again in May and his new licence still hasn't arrived.

"Am I illegally possessing my firearms because I don't have a PAL that's current? Even though it's in the application program?" Holloway said.

"I mean, does that make me a criminal?"

Holloway says he still hunts birds with a century-old shotgun given to him by his grandfather and relies on a deer each year for the meat he and his wife eat. He worries he may have to sit this year out for the first time in decades if his licence doesn't come through soon.

"Hunting season has started and without a PAL, you could be in hot water."

The RCMP in New Brunswick processes the vast majority of Canadian PAL renewals.

The delays are affecting as many as 60,000 or 70,000 Albertans this year and Alberta's chief firearms officer Teri Bryant says applications are taking between six and nine months to complete.

She cautions people that leaving home with a firearm without a valid licence is illegal.

"Well, you shouldn't do it. According to the law, you do have a six-month grace period," Bryant said. "But during that period, you're not supposed to be doing anything with your guns.

"This does put Alberta firearms owners in a very difficult spot, particularly if they're hunters, and there's a limited window of time when they can go out hunting."

The majority of Alberta's hunting seasons are open during the fall, lasting September through the end of November.

The province has committed $7 million to hire more staff to help RCMP get licence turnaround times back to 60 days for new applications and less for simple renewals.

There are approximately 340,000 licensed firearms owners in Alberta and 2.2 million in Canada. Top Stories


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