Government whip Brad Rutherford lauded the Act for advancing the interests of law-abiding firearms owners.
"It accomplishes three main goals: one, it supports the firearms community in the face of Ottawa's attacks on lawful firearm owners; it reduces confusion and increases accountability regarding the Chief Firearms Officer's role; and three, it creates tools that enable Alberta to protect its jurisdiction over firearms," he said at the legislature before the vote.
Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro introduced the Alberta Firearms Act on March 7 to counter Ottawa's buyback plan to confiscate prohibited guns.
In May 2020, Ottawa banned over 1,500 models of previously legal firearms. Last October, it froze the purchase, sale, transfer, and import of handguns, which effectively prohibited handgun ownership in the country.
In November 2022, the Liberal, backed by their arrangement with the NDP, tabled sweeping amendments to Bill C-21 to ban semi-automatic shotguns and rifles purchased legally for hunting purposes. It earned widespread opposition from NDP and Liberal MPs alike.
According to a memo issued in late December, Ottawa planned to start its firearms buyback program on Prince Edward Island. However, Public Safety quickly cancelled the pilot project on January 12.
"Just two days after [Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino planned] to use PEI as a training ground for their firearms confiscation program were exposed — the federal Liberals backed down," tweeted Shandro.
"Now it's time to push the feds to back down from going after all Canadian firearms owners."
On December 29, 2022, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) proposed using PEI as the confiscation pilot.
"Prince Edward Island (PEI) will be used as a pilot and will be the first point of collection based on the smaller number of firearms," said the memo, adding it would inform the phase 2 national roll-out."
PSPC staff wrote that phase two would commence in the spring in collaboration with other government departments, governments, and potential Industry partners. However, it would first need a fully-operational information technology management system.
At a March 15 media roundtable, Alberta's justice minister criticized the Liberals' confiscation program for potentially "criminalizing thousands of Canadians."
"If they are going to have a confiscation program, we have to ensure the province is involved in licensing, and we will be advocating for sensible legislative changes rather than ones, like C-21 and order of council, that are targeting law-abiding Canadians and criminalizing thousands of Canadians overnight for owning legally acquired property," he said.
The UCP said the province has over 340,000 licensed firearm owners and over 650 firearms-related businesses.
Shandro said Bill 8 rectifies the broadly defined powers of section 7 of the Municipal Government Act by reaffirming provincial jurisdiction on the transport and storage of firearms.
According to government sources, Bill 8 builds upon Bill 211, the Municipal Government (Firearms) Amendment Act, 2020, to prevent municipalities from passing firearms bylaws unless authorized by the province.
A reporter accused the UCP of overreach, but the justice minister explained that public safety is a provincial jurisdiction. He also expressed concerns about municipal employees seizing firearms.
"I think we've all seen reports from the federal government enacting more prohibitive gun control legislation and reports that they're communicating with municipalities to enforce the seizure of guns at the municipal level," said Ward 13 City Councillor Dan McLean.
"Have City of Calgary administrators communicated with the federal government [on this matter?]" he asked.
Staff with the city administration confirmed there had been no communication since the province proposed Bill 8.
On March 7, one reporter accused the UCP of wanting to defund the police by asserting the province's jurisdiction. Shandro confirmed they are not defunding the police.
"We do not want police resources taken off the streets and wasted and distracted by being involved with the confiscation program," said Shandro. "If a municipality is going to have municipal employees involved, they will have to work with us."
If passed, Bill 8 would give Alberta "more tools" to protect areas of provincial jurisdiction over firearms, including "limiting municipalities and municipal police services from entering into firearms-related funding agreements with the federal government."