Guns going to court
Grappling with gun control

by P.J. Harston
Northern News Services

NNSL (DEC 02/96) - The Alberta government is taking Canada's new gun registration law to court.

A preliminary hearing into the challenge is scheduled to begin Monday in the Alberta Court of Appeal.

Three provinces -- Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba -- and both territorial governments are seeking to intervene to support Alberta's position that the federal gun registry deals with property rights -- a matter of provincial jurisdiction.

Lawyers expect to deal only with preliminary matters before setting dates for more hearings.

This news comes on the heels of new gun control regulations, announced last week in the House of Commons by federal Justice Minister Allan Rock.

Those new regulations include registration and licence fee exemptions for aboriginal and non-aboriginal subsistence hunters and those others traditional hunting rights.

All others will have to pay. The fee for a five-year possession-only licence in 1998 will be $10, rising to $60 by 2000.

They will also have to pay $10 to register all the non-restricted firearms they currently own in 1998, as long as the firearms are registered at the same time. This registration fee will rise to $18 by 2001.

And on Jan. 1, 2001, those buying ammunition will have to have a licence to possess a firearm.

Until that date, the proposed regulations will allow those who do not have a licence to use another approved form of identification, such as a drivers licence or birth certificate.

Regulations will be different in aboriginal communities, compared with other urban and rural communities, Rock said, to take aboriginal traditions in account:

The territorial government -- along with the Yukon and three provinces -- has refused to administer the new regulations.

However, the federal justice minister said Wednesday his department will administer the new rules itself.

"The decision by these provinces and territories to abandon their role in the administration of gun control is nothing less than a shocking abdication of their responsibility," Allan Rock said in the House of Commons.

"They will not take any further part in the issuance of FACs, they will take no further part in the administration of safety courses, they have walked away from their responsibilities in relation to gun control."

Until now, community safety through gun control has been a joint federal-territorial-provincial responsibility.

Reform MP Jack Ramsay criticized Rock's stand on the regulations and gun control in general, following Wednesday's introduction of the regulations.

He said the government should never have gone ahead with the legislation without full approval of all the provinces.

Former NWT Justice Minister Stephen Kakfwi told the legislative committee looking into gun control more than a year ago that the proposed law is not practical in the Northwest Territories and even existing regulations can't be enforced, said Ramsay.

The new regulations will be referred to the committees of the House of Commons and the Senate for review within 30 sitting days and published in full in the Canada Gazette.

After review by Parliament, they will come into effect at the same time as the provisions of the Firearms Act, passed into law nearly a year ago.