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RVC council takes steps to rescind firearms bylaw

Nearly a year after it was first presented, Rocky View County’s (RVC) Firearms Bylaw was almost overturned by council during a regular meeting May 14.
Following the adoption of a Firearms Bylaw last year, signs were installed around Rocky View County indicating no-shooting zones. Council began the process of rescinding the bylaw May 14. Photo by Ben Sherick/Rocky View Publishing

Nearly a year after it was first presented, Rocky View County’s (RVC) Firearms Bylaw was almost overturned by council during a regular meeting May 14.

A new bylaw rescinding the Firearms Bylaw was given first and second readings, but did not receive unanimous permission to proceed to third reading due to opposition from Couns. Kevin Hanson, Samanntha Wright and Crystal Kissel. Wright called the move “premature.”

“I do not believe this is in the best interest of the County,” she said. “I do believe it should be going forward to the public. I do not believe this is within our authorization, and if it is, then we are abusing our power.”

Council opened the door to a discussion regarding the elimination of the bylaw when an emergent item was added to its agenda. Coun. Kim McKylor requested amendments to the bylaw, allowing exemptions for special events through a permitting process. She said the amendments would accommodate an annual skeet shooting fundraiser in Springbank.

“It raises about $2 million annually for Ducks Unlimited,” she said. “By virtue of where we’ve drawn lines on a map, it’s within our no-shooting zone. However, it is within the shooting zones of the provincial and federal regulations.”

Those amendments received three unanimous readings before council shifted its focus to rescinding the Firearms Bylaw entirely. According to Couns. Daniel Henn, Mark Kamachi and Jerry Gautreau, the main reason to eliminate the bylaw is redundancy.

“I still don’t see the rationale of having this bylaw,” said Gautreau, who had expressed misgivings when the item was initially presented to council in 2018. “I would rather see this bylaw rescinded totally, because it’s already provincially and federally regulated. I don’t think we need a bylaw within our organization.”

Kissel said she’d heard from residents in her division they appreciated the no-shooting signs that had been installed, and Hanson urged his colleagues to consider the best interests of the entire county.

“We are not rural, we are not urban; we’re somewhere in between,” he said. “It’s those in-between areas that lead to friction, and ultimately where safety is involved.”

The current Firearms Bylaw was first presented to council May 22, 2018, and has seen criticism from council from the start. At the time, Lorraine Wesley-Riley, with RVC’s Enforcement Services, told council the municipality’s Firearms Bylaw hadn’t been updated since 2003, and said the County had received public pressure for more restrictions in certain areas.

The updated bylaw notably specified no-shooting zones around the county, which included hamlets and densely populated locations.

 The bylaw was granted first and second readings unanimously and forwarded to the Minister of Environment and Parks for approval – which was granted – before returning to council Sept. 11, 2018, for third reading. Gautreau continued to oppose the bylaw, saying he felt details were missing but declining to propose amendments, and third reading was carried 8-1.

The bylaw was the topic of discussion again in February, after Coun. Daniel Henn and Deputy Reeve Al Schule presented a notice of motion proposing amendments to the bylaw, regarding bows. Following administration’s response to the notice of motion, McKylor moved to engage in public consultation before amending the bylaw to inform the public of its contents, citing struggles with the document in general.

“Let’s try to get it right, and let’s get some public buy-in,” she said. “In the meantime, we are protected by federal and provincial legislation.”

Schule went so far at that time as to suggest the bylaw be “killed,” stating it was a “complete waste of time.” Schule, along with Reeve Greg Boehlke, opposed McKylor’s motion, which was ultimately carried 7-2.

According to Executive Director of Community and Business Grant Kaiser, that public consultation has not yet taken place.

Until the rescinding bylaw receives third reading, the Firearms Bylaw remains in place. The amending bylaw is also on hold until a decision is reached. The item will be brought back to council May 28.

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