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'Groundswell of opposition': Firearms bill backtrack applauded by critics in Alberta, Ottawa

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Alberta's justice minister is celebrating Friday's scrapped amendments to the federal firearms legislation, but Tyler Shandro believes more work needs to be done on Bill C-21.

The federal Liberal party withdrew a controversial amendment this week that introduced a new definition of an assault-style weapon.

That definition was drastically expanded to include semi-automatic rifles and shotguns with a capacity of more than five cartridges.

Shandro believes it would target the wrong people.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that further action will need to be taken to respond to the federal government’s hostility towards hunters, farmers, sport shooters and Indigenous Peoples," he said in a statement Friday.

The province is set to intervene in six ongoing lawsuits launched against the legislation.

They'll be heard in April.

"Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino released a statement on Twitter that made it clear the federal government’s decision to withdraw the amendments was merely a pause in their campaign," Shandro's statement said.

"Law-abiding firearms owners know that this is thinly worded code signalling Minister Mendicino’s intent to continue to pursue avenues to ban widely owned shotguns and rifles."

The Liberals say the bill will be amended once again after more consultation.

WIDESPREAD OPPOSITION

Bill C-21 was introduced last May.

It was originally an effort to enact a handgun sales ban and crack down on firearm smuggling.

But along the way, critics say its expanded scope has lessened the impact and instead targeted law-abiding Canadians.

The amendment with the new definition of an assault-style weapon was added to the bill at committee at the end of November, after the committee had finished debating the bill and hearing from witnesses.

NDP MP Alistair MacGregor said the amendment "derailed" all other progress on C-21.

"I've never seen such a groundswell of opposition come really from everywhere all at once," he said.

The recent amendments would have banned the weapons under the Criminal Code, which would have made the potential law more difficult for future governments to reverse.

"It is not our intention to impact those that are hunting and using firearms for hunting," government house leader Mark Holland said Friday.

"We acknowledge and regret that the consultations we undertook were not sufficient."

TARGETED

One Calgary business says the amendments still hurt its bottom line, despite not being passed.

"I would venture to guess 50 to 70 per cent of our inventory would have been prohibited," Shooting Edge general manager Steven Arena told CTV News.

"Every day, you do hear from customers who say, 'I would buy that if I wasn't afraid it would become prohibited.'

"Nobody has $3,000 to just waste on something that will make them a criminal in two months."

Arena called Friday's backtrack a small victory, but he still believes C-21 should be completely scrapped.

"The bill focuses strictly on legal gun ownership, and it will have zero impact on the safety of your community," he said.

"It won't make any difference, I guarantee it."

With files from the Canadian Press 

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