After some insane public attack, it is common to blame the gun. If only no gun were available we are told, people could not run amok to harm others. No one needs a handgun, is the other common refrain. It is a fact that handguns were once legal for hunting in Canada – they should be again. More important is that good people need firearms because bad people will always have access to them.
Firearms are valuable pieces of our history. I like the sense of responsibility and discipline that accompanies the safe handling of firearms. I enjoy sharing my passion for firearms with others by teaching pistol and rifle shooting, and hunter safety courses. I especially like military firearms and pistols – they are classic and just plain fun to shoot. When enthusiasts purchase firearms and ammunition they support the Canadian economy. I like gun people because those raised around firearms and brought up with the respect and discipline that comes with firearms use are the best friends and neighbors a person could want.
For some, contact with firearms evokes fear. Perhaps their experience with firearms has been limited to hearing about, or experiencing violence. Their reaction to firearms owners is horror. Aside from being misplaced, that reaction is wrong. People who own shotguns, rifles, handguns, and military collectibles share the revulsion when innocents are killed by what the Europeans call a “run amok.”
Some people with political agendas will comment that no one needs a hobby that involves dangerous things like handguns. But firearms ownership is much more than a mere hobby and it isn’t the gun itself that is potentially dangerous – it is the person that makes the difference. Firearms are an important part of Canadian heritage and culture. Firearms owners are no more willing to give up range practice than some folks would be willing to give up religious participation. I want to make it perfectly clear: firearms folks do not bear any guilt for the actions of the rare insane individuals who engage in violence. We are not the same people.
Some argue that only the police, military, and elites should be permitted to use handguns. They aren’t any different than the rest of us. The police and military have jobs which sometimes and rarely for police, make using firearms necessary. But tell a family on a remote homestead or in an inner city apartment that a firearm isn’t important for their safety. Tell it to the fellow who has to take his business’ receipts to the bank late at night, or has had his jewelry or grocery store robbed in broad daylight. Firearms, especially handguns, in the right hands save lives every day most often without firing a shot. In fact, the actions of evil-doers make it perfectly clear that there is a need for good people to be able to protect themselves. Often the places chosen for mass attacks are selected because no one there is expected to be carrying a firearm. Denying legal access to handguns and declaring gun-free zones merely offer easy opportunities for those with ill-intent. Sharp sticks, gasoline, knives, and cars can all be dangerous in the wrong hands. The key is the person, not the instrument.
Some claim that we register our cars and our dogs so we should do the same with guns, as if doing that would protect public safety. It never has been the case that registering anything prevented its misuse. No registration card or firearms license ever stopped a “run amok” and banning legal access to any firearms would only make such acts worse. Firearms are not going away, nor should they. Firearms are a part of Canada’s culture and heritage and will continue to be well into the future.
Sheldon Clare, M.A.
Canada’s National Firearms Association