Since the federal government introduced legislation earlier this year that will effectively ban handguns in Canada, there has been a dramatic increase in purchases across the country.

Despite this predictable outcome, the federal government has done nothing to ensure the Canadian Firearms Program can handle the resulting deluge of licence and transfer applications sent to the national processing centre in New Brunswick.

All licence applications typically go through the Canadian Firearms Program for initial review, and all transfer applications must go through it. As a result, the national program is overwhelmed by the flood of new applications that followed the federal government’s legislative changes.

The confusion created by the sudden change in federal legislation has had an impact on firearms administration in Alberta. Wait times for federal processing of firearms licences have ballooned from one to two months to four to six months. More complicated licence applications that require a detailed review can now take 12 to 18 months. Alberta’s Chief Firearms Office has seen a 40 per cent increase in email inquiries asking about the status of a firearms licence application or transfer request.

“While firearms primarily fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government, Alberta’s government established the Alberta Chief Firearms Office to better represent Albertans’ interests in this area. The federal government has done Albertans, and all law-abiding firearms owners in Canada, a great disservice by instituting radical changes without adequately preparing the systems that support the administration of firearms for the predictable increase in workloads.”

Tyler Shandro, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General

To help address the federal backlog and reduce wait times for Albertans, the province’s firearms office reworked its processes to handle transfer applications normally dealt with by the federal program. However, given current staffing levels, the Alberta Chief Firearms Office can only perform this additional work on an intermittent basis without negatively affecting its core business.

“I can promise Albertans that everyone in my office is doing all they can to work diligently and expeditiously through the overwhelming increase in inquiries and applications that have been coming in. But there is only so much we can do without the full cooperation and preparedness of our federal counterparts.”

Teri Bryant, Alberta chief firearms officer

Visit the office’s website to learn more about their work and the provincial administration of firearms.

Editor’s note: The previous news release included a wrong version of the minister’s quotation