Friday, March 23, 2018

Guns guns guns

I have a respectful relationship with guns. I write this as I observe the aftermath of people being killed by guns and listen to people on both sides of the discussion, for and against gun control. Against my better judgement, I weigh in with my own limited perspective.

As people who know me are aware, I was first professionally introduced to weapons in the military. But my history with guns really begins when I was a young teenager. My best friend owned a few pump action pellet rifles and we used to use them for target practise in his basement. I discovered that I was a decent shot, even though I had no idea how to fire properly.

Once I joined the military, I had to learn how to use various weapons as part of my training in boot camp. The first personal weapon issued to me, was an FN C1 rifle, 7.62mm calibre, and I had a chance to qualify on an standard 9mm calibre SMG (sub-machine gun) and a 9mm Browning pistol. The FN C1 was eventually replaced by the fully automatic 5.56mm calibre C7 in the mid 1980s, and that became our new personal rifle. I've even been lucky enough to fire the M3 Carl Gustav 84mm shoulder fired anti-tank weapon and almost shit my pants in the process. Oh, and I set myself on fire from all the blowback carbon burning in our firing pit. Good times.

The only time I ever fired a weapon was during military exercises (war games) and our annual weapons qualifications, which you had to pass to remain employable. During exercises, we used blanks. During weapons qualifying, we used live ammunition. Once we were finished at the rifle range, we had to declare to the range safety officer (RSO) that we had "no live rounds or empty casings in my possession, sir!" Because we had regular (but highly controlled) access to our personal weapons, it was a big deal to keep the breach block and ammunition separate. If you got caught with live ammo outside of a weapons range, you were in deep shit.

The reason I tell you all of this, is to make it clear that the military taught me respect for weapons of all kinds and that has stayed with me even after my career ended with them.

Once I left the military, I mildly pondered the idea of getting my own weapon. I wasn't motivated by personal protection. I simply missed the days when I could regularly fire a gun, and thought maybe owning a pistol might scratch that very minor itch. Then I learned the legal facts from someone involved with law enforcement. It turns out that owning a gun is not easy in Canada. Between the rules for legally securing a gun and the ammunition, and the rules of using a weapon in self defense, I realized that the best way to satisfy any urge to do some target practise was to borrow a weapon from someone and use it at a licensed range. This is something I never bothered to follow through with. Like I said - minor itch.

What stuck with me after becoming aware of gun law in Canada, is that unlike in the US, Canada does not allow for protecting personal property with deadly force. In fact, if a thief barges into your house and proceeds to steal your stuff, you do not have the right to shoot them. True fact. The only time you might get away with shooting an intruder, is if you believe your life or the lives of your loved ones are in imminent and immediate danger. Even if the thieves are brandishing weapons themselves, if they don't threaten to shoot you, you can't shoot them first. Legally. Besides, you'd have fun explaining to the police, how you managed to get your weapon and ammunition unlocked and put together, if they were locked up properly. If you did so before the thieves entered your home, you're potentially in deep legal trouble because there was no imminent danger at the time.

So when I saw how a farmer was found not guilty of killing another man who tried to steal a vehicle from his farm, I get why folks would be upset that the farmer was found not guilty in a court of law. He shot a man who was not armed. Never mind that the man who was killed was first nations. But I also understand the point of view of farmers in general, who feel that it should be their right to defend their property, like it is in the US, especially when a growing number of rural residents feel that the police could be unable to answer the call in a timely manner in many cases. If I lived on a rural farm many kilometres away from any law enforcement, I'd freak out if someone came on my property with ill intent. Hell, I'd freak out even in suburbia. But one thing I do know, is that it would not be a good idea to kill anyone, or even try to. It's just not right. And I believe that the farmer could have just gotten everyone inside and locked the door. He'd probably be out one ATV and there would still be a man alive today. I know, I wasn't there, so I don't know the whole story.

See, I told you it was a bad idea to attempt to explain this..........

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