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Federal law on municipal gun bans could take precedence over Alberta bill, expert says


New gun control legislation¬†proposed by the federal government would likely take precedence over a private member’s bill that aims to prevent Alberta municipalities from passing municipal gun bans, according to a constitutional law expert.

The federal government introduced Bill C-21 on Tuesday. The proposed legislation would give municipalities the power to ban handguns by passing bylaws on their storage and transportation.

Michaela Glasgo, the UCP MLA for Brooks-Medicine Hat, introduced Bill 211 the Municipal Government (Firearms) Amendment Act on Dec. 8.

The existence of the two bills dealing with a similar issue raises a question about which would take precedence.

“Our system of constitutional law says that in those cases of conflict, the federal law will prevail,” Eric Adams, a professor at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Law, said in an interview with CBC News on Tuesday.

Adams said the division of powers between the federal and provincial governments is set in the constitution. Usually the province has power over municipalities. But on the issue of firearms, he said the question is complicated. Firearms regulation is the responsibility of the federal government.

“Is that valid for a province to deny the ability of the municipality to do that thing that the federal government or the Parliament of Canada specifically authorizes?” he asked.

“I can’t think of a scenario that I’d seen that play out in terms of cases in the Supreme Court or other levels. So I do think we’ve got ourselves a reasonably novel federalism Rubik’s Cube.”

Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu thinks the law is on Alberta’s side.

In a written statement issued late Tuesday afternoon, he challenged the constitutionality of the federal bill, which also introduced a buy-back program for prohibited weapons and increased penaities for gun smuggling and trafficking.