In a social media post, Ward 13 Calgary City Councillor Dan McLean received confirmation that city administration is no longer communicating with Ottawa to confiscate firearms from law-abiding Calgarians.
McLean attributes legislative changes made by the UCP through its Firearms Act, which entered its third reading last week.
Bill 8, The Alberta Firearms Act, would require municipalities and municipal police services to meet specific requirements before entering into firearms-related funding agreements with Ottawa.
The Act notably prevents municipalities from banning firearms owned by law-abiding Albertans and infringing on provincial jurisdiction.
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.
Alberta Justice Minister Tyler 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.
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 replied, "I can confirm last summer the federal government did a preliminary reach out on their plans, but there has been no communication since the province proposed legislation [on retaining firearms as provincial jurisdiction]."
Shandro said the Act would clarify the role of the federal and provincial governments on firearms.
"We oppose the confiscation program, notably, because we have received very few details, and it keeps changing. Ultimately, confiscation does not enhance public safety," said Shandro.
When asked about limiting municipalities' ability to negotiate deals with the federal government, he said it is to maintain the provincial jurisdiction on public safety and implement consistency.
Government sources clarified that the regulatory process outlined in Bill 8 would identify and review jurisdictional issues and precedence regarding provincial regulations.
On March 7, a reporter asked Shandro, "How does limiting municipal funding make it easier to maintain public safety?"
He replied, "It is incumbent on the province to ensure the safe transport, storage, and seizure of firearms."
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.
City police confirmed their recent crackdown on gun crime in Calgary had reduced shootings by 37% this year. In 2023, there were 17 shootings in Calgary — more than a third fewer than at the same time last year.
Last year the city observed a surge in shootings, with 123 recorded from January to early December — an increase of 34% in the same time frame of 2021.
The successful curbing of gun violence comes amid the UCP providing $4.4 million to fund a new gang suppression unit and a firearms investigative unit.
"The rapid rise of fentanyl in our city has made the gangs rich and our streets more dangerous," said Public Safety Minister Mike Ellis on March 8.
"Last year, there were 126 shootings in Calgary, a 30% increase from 2021 and the most in the city since 2015. This is unacceptable."
McLean acknowledged that Calgary has "serious issues" with illegal guns used to commit criminal activity.
"I believe that our governments and police forces should be focused on getting illegal guns out of the hands of criminals rather than using significant resources to go after law-abiding firearms owners, hunters, and sport shooters," he said.
According to Ellis, the units will work in tandem, responding to gang and firearms violence and identifying at-risk individuals to "stop gun crime before it starts."
The public safety minister referenced a February 15 shooting in the Calgary neighbourhood of Temple last month, where a stray bullet flew through the window of a basement suite, darting around the kitchen before hitting a couch.
The March 7 announcement came after the federal government failed to introduce amendments to Bill C-21 that would have targeted rifles and shotguns popular with hunters, sport shooters, and gun collectors.
While the controversial legislation is not dead in the water, despite Ottawa withdrawing from its PEI pilot, the Liberal Party continues to consult Canadians on how best to restrict firearms ownership.
In May 2020, the federal government passed an Order-in-Council banning 1,500 assault-style firearms and distinguishing components of newly prohibited firearms. Owners have until October 2023 to comply with the law.