Premier Jason Kenney, saying Alberta needs to take the initiative given recent gun bans by the federal government, is taking all forensic firearms testing in-house.
“While some in Ottawa believe in targeting legally purchased inanimate objects, Alberta believes in targeting actual criminals who represent a threat to public safety,” Kenney said Wednesday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month announced a ban on a range of riflesconsidered to be assault-style weapons.
“While some people in faraway places like Toronto may not understand the reality, hundreds of thousands of Albertans simply use firearms as a 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.”
Kenney said his United Conservative government will centralize in Calgary all firearms testing tied to criminal cases to reduce wait times and prevent prosecutions from being potentially abandoned due to delays.
He said Calgary police currently do their own testing and Edmonton police are setting up their own lab, but Mounties and other forces must have gun tests done out of province.
He said that leads to eight-month delays on average.
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Kenney also announced a 12-member panel made up of weapons experts and UCP legislature members to advise on firearms policies that are under provincial jurisdiction.
The panel, to be chaired by backbench legislature member Michaela Glasgo, will include hunters, retired law enforcement officers, gun collectors and a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces.
“These women and men are exemplars of responsible gun ownership with broad knowledge and expertise,” said Kenney.
Alberta, along with Saskatchewan, has also announced it will be appointing its own provincial chief firearms officer, joining Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
The federal government sets gun laws, but the provinces enforce them.
Trudeau announced a ban on some 1,500 models of firearms, including the AR-15 rifle and the Ruger Mini-14. The weapons can’t be legally sold, used or imported.
There will be a two-year amnestywhile the government develops a program to allow current owners to be compensated for turning in the weapons or to be allowed to keep them.
Kenney said the federal government is taking action to ban some weapons, which he says penalizes law-abiding gun owners, while failing to address root causes such as cross-border smuggling.
Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said her caucus supports initiatives to reduce crime, particularly rural crime, but questioned if the new advisory panel is designed to meet that goal.
“(It will be) helpful, I’m sure, but it’s very homogenous,” said Notley.
“It doesn’t include on it the people across the province who have significant public safety concerns, whose communities are very troubled by rises in gun violence, and who want to see meaningful strategies to reduce availability of guns.
“You’re not going to have a very effective advisory committee if you insist upon turning up the volume of your own echo chamber.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2020
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press