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Council Repeals Firearms Bylaw

On May 28th Council gave final approval to repealing the firearms bylaw. The motion was introduced on May 14th in an unprecedented manner that not only contravened the Municipal Government Act, but also reneged on Council’s support for McKylor’s February motion to consult before making any changes to the bylaw.

At the May 14th meeting, Councillor McKylor brought forward amendments to the firearms bylaw to provide a special event exemption as an “emergent motion” – an issue placed on the agenda at the last minute. The amendments permit a charity skeet shooting competition to be held in Springbank again this June.

Somehow Councillor Henn thought it appropriate to hi-jack this motion and use it to introduce a “motion arising” to rescind the bylaw in its entirety. This despite the fact that there had been no notice that the bylaw would even be discussed at the May 14th meeting. Henn’s motion passed 6 – 3 with Boehlke, Schule, Kamachi, McKylor, and Gautreau voting with Henn to eliminate the firearms bylaw.

The final vote to repeal the firearms bylaw on May 28th passed 5 – 4, with Councillors Schule, Henn, Gautreau, Kamachi, and McKylor voting to kill the bylaw. Between the 14thand 28th, Reeve Boehlke had obviously thought about the issue as he joined Councillors Hanson, Kissel and Wright in opposing the bylaw’s repeal. It was refreshing to see Boehlke recognize the importance of the firearms bylaw particularly given that he comes from the most rural division in Rocky View.

Council’s discussion demonstrated its lack of understanding of the firearms bylaw. Many councillors claimed that the County bylaw was not needed because it was redundant. However, at the same time they stated that the bylaw’s definition of weapons was broader than the province’s definition. These assertions are inherently inconsistent.

The County’s definition of a “weapon” is not broader. The County separately identified bows and crossbows and then repeated verbatim the provincial definition. The provincial legislation includes bows and crossbows since it defines a weapon as a “firearm or any other device that propels a projectile by means of … string, wire or elastic material or any combination of those things”. Doesn’t a bow or crossbow propel a projectile by means of a string or wire?

Some councillors stated that only active gun incidents could be enforced under the bylaw and so it should be repealed because these are an RCMP responsibility. Most gun complaints do not involve an ongoing emergency. There are also many non-gun related offences that County bylaw officers could competently handle. The 2018 bylaw was approved, in part, because County bylaw officers were asking for the ability to respond to complaints. There are increasing concerns about weak enforcement throughout the County. Why would anyone object to the opportunity for additional enforcement?

The narrow-minded absurdity of some of the reasoning was illustrated by Kamachi’s repeated claim that the bylaw should be repealed because the no-shooting signs were bad for tourism in Bragg Creek.

With a 5 – 4 vote to repeal the bylaw, any one of those five councillors could have swung the vote in the other direction. Throughout the debate, McKylor repeatedly claimed that she had a follow-up motion that would fix the current bylaw. Immediately after voting to repeal the bylaw, she introduced a motion to create a “new” firearms bylaw. Her reasoning defies understanding. What did she possibly think could be gained by creating a new bylaw when amending the existing one could provide the same outcome? This was especially true since repealing and replacing the bylaw would be a drawn-out process requiring renewed provincial approval.

When it became clear that McKylor’s motion was likely to fail, Wright asked if there was any way to go back and re-do the vote. Reeve Boehlke indicated that anyone on the “winning” side could ask for the vote to be redone. Despite her professed interest in replacing the firearms bylaw, McKylor adamantly refused to take this low-risk option, which Reeve Boehlke carefully spelled out for her, and instead pushed ahead with her motion. It immediately failed 5 – 4, with reluctant support from Hanson, Kissel and Wright. As a result, while McKylor could have single-handedly salvaged the bylaw, instead Rocky View now has no firearms bylaw.

McKylor’s concern for a few large landowners overshadowed the concerns of many Springbank residents in more densely populated areas. The large landowners simply wanted their properties outside the no shooting zone. It’s difficult to believe that they do not recognize, as does Boehlke, the relevance of the bylaw in more densely populated areas. By simply redrawing the lines, Springbank’s large agricultural parcels could have been removed while common open areas in places like Harmony could have remain as no shooting zones.

Calgary’s lack of a firearms bylaw was used as another reason why Rocky View shouldn’t have one. When Administration pointed out that many municipalities including ones similar to Rocky View like Parkland County and Strathcona County (a specialized municipality) have firearms bylaws, the majority ignored that information. Interestingly, a quick search indicates that both Wood Buffalo and Mackenzie County, also specialized municipalities, along with at least 14 – 15 other municipalities have firearms bylaws.

The County has indicated that it wants to become a specialized municipality. Council’s actions in repealing the firearms bylaw demonstrate that it is not ready. Specialized municipality status permits differential service levels, tax rates, planning criteria, etc. in distinct areas within its municipality – typically a mix of rural and urban areas.

The firearms bylaw recognized that a “one size fits all” approach does not work with Rocky View’s diversity. This is the very essence of what a specialized municipality does. If Council can’t deal with diversity in something as simple as the firearms bylaw, how can anyone expect them to successfully apply the greater discretion of a specialized municipality on more complicated issues?

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