If you’re worried by the announcement Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is seeking ways of “respecting law-abiding Albertans’ long history of responsible firearms ownership,” there’s no need to lose much sleep just yet.
The premier’s press conference and news release about how he’s setting up a panel of firearms enthusiasts to look after the interests of firearms enthusiasts is a fairly typical exercise in the kind of political grandstanding, right-wing virtue signalling and mindless Ottawa bashing our United Conservative Government loves to indulge in.
Standing up for Alberta’s “law-abiding gun owners” — a phrase repeated numerous times during the news conference — presumably beats trying to keep the promise to be totally focused on jobs when the UCP’s performance was less than stellar even before COVID-19 and the Saudi-Russian oil price war came along.
If you’re thinking it might be appropriate to have someone who supports controls on assault rifles on a panel charged with the important job of advising on gun ownership policy, you can forget about it. The majority of Albertans who support controls on the ownership of firearms like those recently imposed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government are clearly not welcome on this panel.
The premier’s statement, carefully composed for use as a pull quote in the government’s press release, is notable even by UCP standards for hyperbole and flimflam.
“The federal government has introduced hasty and ill-thought-out measures that penalize law-abiding gun owners while doing little to stop criminals who traffic or use illegal firearms,” Mr. Kenney said. “The vast sums of money Ottawa will spend would be far better used to pursue the smugglers and drug gangs that plague our society. In Alberta, we will take action to protect Albertans, prosecute criminals and deter illegal gun crime and trafficking rather than persecuting law-abiding citizens.”
Just to touch on a few points, the new federal regulations are certainly not hasty. They have been strongly advocated in this country at least since Dec. 6, 1989. Nor are they ill thought out, although a strong case can be made that despite the constant yammering of the gun lobby to which Canada’s Conservatives are clearly beholden they don’t go nearly far enough.
Neither is Ottawa doing little to stop crime, although someone can always argue it’s not doing enough. And there is no evidence the federal government will spend vast sums of money, or any more money than it does now, on controlling firearms. It probably should.
While gun smuggling is a real problem and drugs certainly plague society, drug gangs are the largely creation of our counterproductive approach drug prohibition, a fact Mr. Kenney like most Conservative politicians will never acknowledge.
The claim gun regulations “persecute law abiding citizens” is as preposterous as it would be to argue having to register your automobile amounts to persecution.
As for the tautological argument law-abiding gun owners never break the law, that of course is true. After all, the instant the urge to spray a neighbourhood school or a house of worship with gunfire overcomes a law-abiding gun owner, they are by definition no longer abiding by the law, are they?
And that’s just one paragraph in the news release. I’d sure like to see the statistics backing up the premier’s claim that “hundreds of thousands of Albertans use firearms as part of everyday life.” Seriously?
The 12-member panel includes half a dozen people who earn money selling firearms, teaching how use them, providing a places to shoot them, or representing groups of people who like to. It also has three backbench UCP MLAs, obviously in need of some purpose in life. Plus, there’s a former police chief who ought to know better than take part in this kind of embarrassing charade.
There are no alternative voices, unless former Calgary police chief Rick Hanson is prepared to speak up on behalf of Albertans with common-sense views on gun control. Back in the day when I wrote for the Calgary Herald, Mr. Hanson always struck me as a pretty levelheaded guy. Since then, he’s advised a legal-cannabis company and run as a Conservative candidate, make of that what you will.
Michaela Glasgo, MLA for Brooks-Medicine Hat, was named the chair of the committee.
“We need firearms policies that recognize and support the ability of Albertans to own and possess firearms in a lawful and responsible manner,” she said in her canned pull quote. Parse that phrase carefully and tell me it’s not mildly disturbing we have a provincial government that thinks its job is to support Albertans in accumulating weapons!
As for developing policies that reflect the values of Albertans, as she pledged to do in the release, that is absolutely not what this government as in mind. According to a national poll last month by Ipsos, 77 per cent of Albertans support the federal government’s new ban on “assault-style” weapons, which seemed to be the UCP’s main beef with the feds yesterday.
Ms. Glasgo’s commentary took on a darker, proto-separatist tone in the news conference. Referring to the new federal regulations as a “gun grab” — a classic NRA-style screeching point — she went on to claim that “many Albertans have expressed a deep desire for more autonomy from Ottawa. I hear about it regularly.”
Well, I suppose you’ve got to throw a bone to the rural base — especially when you’ve just chased their doctors out of town — to make sure they don’t move over to the Wexiteers. It’s still troubling.
For those in Edmonton and Calgary who wonder how the UCP really prioritizes urban issues, there was this: “To add insult to injury, Ottawa is also entertaining the idea of allowing municipalities to ban handguns,” Ms. Glasgo said. “Municipalities are under the direct purview of the provinces and, frankly, Alberta has had enough of Ottawa’s meddling. This is overreach to the nth degree.”
Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer, also at the newser, characterized the idea of letting cities develop policies that are in the interests of their citizens as “a no-fly zone in Alberta.”
His role was to announce that Alberta will set up “a firearms examination unit,” which he promised will test guns more quickly than the RCMP’s National Forensic Laboratory in Ottawa.
This on its own is probably no bad thing, although, as we have come to expect from the UCP, there is far less to this announcement that the press release suggests.
First of all, the Calgary Police Service already has its own testing facility in that city, and the Edmonton Police Service is in the process of setting one up. Various Alberta police departments and the RCMP, the news release said in the fine print at the bottom, will “establish a team and protocols for conducting firearms testing at the existing lab in Calgary and the forthcoming facility in Edmonton.”
Mr. Schweitzer admitted in response to a question that while the Ottawa lab now does about 600 tests a year for Alberta police forces, the provincial initiative will raise that number to … “about 750.”
So what do you want to bet that once the new lab is open the time it takes to get a test done in Edmonton or Calgary will be similar to what it now takes to have it done in Ottawa? Maybe longer.
In other words, as usual, our tough talking premier is all hat and no cows.