On the wrong side of the ‘right’ to bear arms …
One might reasonably extrapolate that almost 1,000 guns were seized at the border from American citizens wanting to visiting Canada over 12 months, given that in the first half of 2016, the CBSA (the Canada Border Services Agency) seized 413 guns in random checks.
The Globe & Mail this week, ran an article headlined, ‘Americans crossing into Canada carrying guns with alarming frequency’ in reference to six seizures at the border into New Brunswick. The writer said many don’t realize they can legally declare firearms and leave them behind as they enter the country. Many of the tourists are 60 and older, and from the South. The demographics of the gun smugglers seem strikingly similar to the 30 per cent who continue to support their president but that’s another story.
I’d hardly call that an alarming number but it did cause me to ponder how many there are in total across the country; now I know.
Americans have an idiosyncratic view of gun ownership that I don’t believe is shared by any other country. I know a handful of people who own long guns for sport but I don’t know anyone who feels the need to have a handgun. I may be off-base in this but I think that’s the general experience for the average Canadian. Those who own a gun seem to think of it is a tool to keep varmints in check, or to put food on the table. They do not feel a need for personal or property protection.
As Canadians who have spent a lot of time in the U.S. for work and recreation we’ve had some curious contact with heat-packing Americans.
• A very nice couple living near us in Florida regularly express a fervent desire to visit Canada. But they are never going to visit because, “we are afraid to cross the border and leave our weapons behind. How would we protect ourselves?” No amount of insisting that you don’t need to be armed to the teeth in Canada reassures them.
• An intelligent, educated engineer who my husband worked with often worried about my being alone and unarmed in downtown Phoenix when Jim was at work. He also proudly showed us his new acquisition – a handgun that could shoot through the door of his vehicle “in case somebody comes up on me.” To my question – “what if it’s just a guy asking for directions?” – he responded, “people should know better.”
• A retired minister and his wife we met while hiking in the desert were there shooting rattlesnakes for ‘sport.’ That made me dislike them right then and there but then they added, “Besides, there’s wetbacks all over this dang state!” And then he prayed for us – presumably because of our naivete in walking around unarmed against prairie dogs and horned toads.
Americans are a different people with a different back story and their laws suited them….once. The Second Amendment to the constitution, as ratified in 1791 by Thomas Jefferson, says this: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The Second Amendment was created so that the states could form militias or armies to destroy insurrections or slave rebellions because the federal government had no standing military for a long time. That need is long gone but clinging to the Second Amendment is not, and it informs the way many Americans think.
Canadians never had a need for an armed citizenry to protect itself from despotic government so it is not a principle of Canadian government and culture. Nor did we have a civil war that unleashed a population of armed and damaged men on society following that conflict. Nor do we have a legion of ‘romanticized’ criminals like Bonnie & Clyde, Al Capone, Wyatt Earp and Wild Bill Hickok who have helped to normalize or romanticize gun culture.
For a host of reasons, our history being the main one, successive Canadian governments have generally discouraged an appreciation of guns while at the same time respecting that some Canadian hunters, farmers, and people who work in the wilderness need and/or want them. I believe that we tend to associate hand guns almost exclusively with criminals and criminality so what’s to admire?
The U.S. Gun Violence Archive (GVA) recorded 12, 236 deaths and a further 24,755 injuries from shootings in 2015. This casualty toll includes 640 children aged 0-11 killed or injured by guns.
“Not all these deaths were straight-up homicides. The GVA recorded 1,749 accidental shootings, 1,131 cases of ‘defensive use’, 4,028 incidents involving police, and 2,081 home invasions. 309 deaths were a result of mass shootings. In contrast Canada, in the same year, recorded just 172 firearms-related homicides.” One might think that would garner attention and maybe a little self examination south of the border but it does not.
We know why gun ownership was embraced and even necessary in 1776 as America’s nationhood became concrete with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Most Canadians and other civilized countries are hard pressed to see any conditions – other than those created by a gun culture, climate of fear and lax gun laws in the first place – under which the general citizen must arm him or her self for their physical protection today. It just seems downright archaic and uncivilized.
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Following a career in the hospitality sector and the acquisition of a law and justice degree in her 50s, Dale embarked on a writing career armed with the fanciful idea that a living could be made as a freelancer. To her own great surprise she was right. The proof lies in hundreds of published works on almost any topic but favourites include travel, humour & satire, feature writing, environment, politics and entrepreneurship. Having re-invented herself half a dozen times, Dale doesn’t rule anything out. Her time is divided equally between Muskoka and Tampa Bay with Jim, her husband of 8 years and partner of 32 years. Two grown ‘kids’ and their spouses receive double doses of love and attention when she’s at home.