As a Canadian interested in firearms, I am often dismayed at the anti-gun culture that has been cultivated in Canada. There has been an intentional effort, by primarily liberal federal governments, to actuate an anti-gun culture – under the rubric of public safety, but mostly as a cultural differentiation with the United States. The issue has been successfully, but inappropriately, attached to women’s issues and negative events associated with crime. One expects that any issue is subject to distortion in a competitive political situation, as competing factions fight it out attempting to sway the public and government; it seems this issue heightens this phenomena. I find myself, a person who prides himself on being balanced and rational, getting very impassioned when I enter in to discourse; I have concluded it really is “cultural” – culture, like morals, comes with your mother’s milk, you just believe. So I’ve forced myself through the process of exploring the “other side” on numerous occasions, to attempt to understand better the anti-gun movement – I come out of the process convinced that guns are okay, they come with some risk, but when the risk is contextualized to daily life it is minimal.
“Research suggests that about 70,000 patients a year experience preventable, serious injury as a result of treatments. More shocking, a landmark study published a decade ago estimated that as many as 23,000 Canadian adults die annually because of preventable “adverse events” in acute-care hospitals alone.” National Post
”About one in five (21%) firearm-related deaths in Canada is the result of a criminal offence, while the majority (79%) are the result of suicide, accident, or legal intervention (Statistics Canada 2012).”
Part of the challenge of addressing this issue is that it has been so political in Canada. At one side of the issue are the Conservatives who have used the issue as a vote getter from the more conservative rural voter, and on the other side, Liberals, using it as a vote getter from the urban and largely female population. The attachment to women’s issues has most Canadian women wanting gun control or the removal of guns from private hands altogether.
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The cultural divorce between Canada as a nation and guns is a divergence from nearly our entire history. Canada since first contact, has had firearms at the heart of its development; the fur trade was facilitated in large measure by firearms and their trade. I find the history of firearms as they have interfaced with our history in Canada a fascinating thing, as Canadians built Canada, firearms were a critical element of the process; since our inception people have had and used firearms. There is no merit in ignoring this reality and it is a political red herring to whitewash an important aspect of our history or to loose it to an attempt to build a cultural firewall around Canada in a way that is adversarial to gun owners.
There have been several occasions where I’ve attempted to “enlighten” a person from the anti-gun lobby as to what my attachment of firearms is; to have them understand what resides in me that makes them important. For me, firearms have an interesting history, they are fascinating in function, form and action and they are a useful tool. They are a cultural icon for self-reliance. They offer security in so much, that if things ever get tough I can always go get something to eat. I spend a lot of time in the wilderness and take comfort in having a firearm along for protection in bear country and the like. Some of my firearms were my father’s, there is a strong inter-generational appreciation – and once again, a cultural inclination to share a weapon between generations. You can in one way or another rationalize various aspects of my culture away with any number of “arguments”, but for me, I feel better knowing I have a firearm for these reasons - I "believe" in them. It is okay for other to rationalize away my reasons for having them, it is unacceptable that government legislates away my right to have one when there is very little risk in my or other law abiding people having guns.
In the context of the United States a portion of the “gun culture” holds firearms are a means of domestic protection. I believe there is a constitutional argument in Canada as well for the retention of firearms as an instrument for personal safety. Section seven of the Charter offers as a human right, Life, Liberty and Security of person. In the same manner as the Canadian Supreme Court held that if the state is unable to see to the health of an individual as readily as the individual themselves, the individual them self has the right to deploy personal resources to purchase or seek treatment independently. It is clear that while the police services are exemplary in Canada, police are unable to respond as readily as an individual to a serious immediate threat; it is an imperative then that the state support self-protection.
The right to bear arms is granted in the constitution of the Untied States to protect the authority of people, the concern that drove the inclusion of the second amendment by the founders of the country was the history that showed, that a disarmed populous was without means to assert itself and generated the hundreds of years of oppression that preceded the founding of the United States. There is a cost to the second amendment in the United States, one needs to keep an eye on the benefit - take a look at history and tell me that people have never been exploited or suppressed - then tell me that the rationale for the second amendment is invalid. Scotland, a country that many of the founders of the United States were from or were educated by, was forced to servitude for generations. We have evolved to where we are in the modern world, with the enlightenment's values growing; in large measure due to the influence of the United States in the world, we need to be mindful of what the values of the enlightenment have brought us and by what means they have progressed.
The Canadian leadership’s desire to provide a national identity separate and apart from the United States is necessary, we want and must build a strong and independent Canada. In the process however, we should retain from all places cultural artifacts that serve progress and that protect documents like the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Freedom has never been a “free” or “no risk” venture, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the advancement of enlightenment values it represents holds as equity 500 years of toil, hard fights and massive confrontations – we sit at the pinnacle of human existence today because people accepted risk for progress.
Many in the Canadian intellectual “bank”, our academics particularly, rail against firearms partly out of fear, (note I said fear and as opposed to public safety) and partly because they are influenced by the manufactured and recent culture that was introduced as a means of to differentiate Canada from the United States. There is a strong resistance to the culture of “self-reliance” and independence by many in our “governing elite”, a cultural element that is strongly represented among firearm owners, this is partly residual from our history of governance and partly because it is antithetical to the culture of dependence that shores up the collectivist agenda. The rift over firearms in Canada is a cultural rift, it is my sincere hope we can reconcile it in a way that will let me do a little bird hunting in the fall and a little time in the bush with the comfort of having my rifle along.