Updated: Nov 13, 2020
Welcome! This is the first of a series of articles I’ll be contributing as a centrist firearms owner. This article in particular will look at how we can enable a more thoughtful and nuanced discussion about firearms in Canada.
The public discussion on firearms in Canada today has become an ugly scene, especially since May 1st of this year when the Trudeau government announced their Order in Council (O.I.C.). The divisive topic has drawn out nasty vitriol from impassioned people that hold opposing views of this issue across media, politics, forums and social engagement. Whether it is self-serving politicians seeking to fire up their base, industry die-hard personalities attempting to incite owners to mass action, anti-gun activists trying to end private ownership or anti-government reactionaries seeking total deregulation—ugliness taints our present discourse and hinders our capacity to have an honest and meaningful discussion about firearms in Canada. Before anything, I'd first like to lay out a pathway for a more subtle and respectful discussion for my fellow Canadians. I believe that the first step for firearms owners is to stop offering attention to the extreme perspectives currently present in Canada—we know that they are increasingly present across Canadian society which, more often than not, accentuates a toxic and psychologically stressful discourse. Collectively as firearms owners, we must speak up to re-establish an effective dialogue in order to diminish the vitriol associated with these issues.
Reducing the amount of attention given to extreme points of view allows Canadians to consider more rational perspectives which will create a better environment for the exchange of ideas across society. We must be diligent in our application of these efforts to make sure that extremes on both the pro-firearms side and the anti-firearms side are confined adequately. This step is not intended to restrict debate or to stifle those raising difficult, uncomfortable, or inconvenient truths such as those relating to firearms and firearms ownership. Instead, doing so will most likely result in increased engagement and more productive exchanges between interested parties.
The second of my recommended steps is to acknowledge and challenge intentionally false and misleading information. Any interested party seeking to clean up the firearms discussion in Canada will agree that there is a lot of disinformation and misinformation present, particularly coming from the extremes. In this article, I'll utilize examples from anti-firearms activists, and in future articles, I'll be partial and touch on examples from the supporters of firearms. Misinformation refers to a person or organization unknowingly communicating false or misleading information. An example of this would be an activist stating that "the majority of guns used in crimes are stolen from legal owners". While seemingly plausible, and certainly an extremely concerning case if true, this statement is not supported by any statistical evidence from either the government or private sector sources. Rather, it would be correct to say that the primary source of illegal firearms in Canada is cross-border smuggling operations linked to organized street crime, and indigenous crime networks; a small percentage are stolen from legal owners in criminal activities, and an even smaller percentage are diverted to criminal markets by legal owners (both knowingly, and via failure to adhere to license verification procedures during private sales).
Disinformation is more insidious, it refers to when a person or organization intentionally, or knowingly, communicates false or misleading information. An example of this would be a group or organization publishing a social media post that states ‘no hunter in Canada needs an assault rifle to hunt deer - no hunter needs an AR-15’. It is seemingly correct that no hunter needs an assault rifle to hunt medium-sized game – but there are flaws that make this statement both false and misleading. Assault rifles (select-fire, automatic) firearms have been prohibited in Canada for decades already, and it is also, quite clearly, already illegal to hunt with prohibited weapons (misleading element). And, contrary to uninformed opinion, Canadian hunters have used semi-automatic firearms to ethically harvest game across our great nation for over 100 years (false element). Meaning, with proper ammunition selection, practice, and careful shot placement, the little Armalite rifle is an excellent harvesting rifle for deer, varmint, and seal sized Canadian game. The small .22 caliber, AR-15 rifle (1959), has also been the selection of choice for precision and technical competition winners from sea to shining sea for generations.
Acknowledging the problem and correcting instances of false or misleading statements requires a strong command of the associated topics. A well-rounded knowledge base in this circumstance includes related research and statistics, applicable laws and regulations (that is, to stay abreast of changes), and keeping one’s ear to the pulse of current firearms-related discourse and events (whether domestic or abroad). This leads me to our final step for today. We must build better awareness and an understanding of legal firearms ownership for reasonable and responsible firearms use in Canada. This seems a little obvious, but I can assure you it represents a monumental challenge. The hard truth is that a majority of Canadians have little knowledge—if any—about firearms, firearms ownership, or firearms use in Canada. If we are to be completely honest, the lack of knowledge extends to most licensed Canadians as well—they (or we) have passed the minimum learning requirements necessary to legally purchase, and safely possess, transport, and use firearms. This isn't to say that license holders are not educated to an appropriate standard; I am merely stating that the Canada Firearms Safety Courses are only the beginning of a prospective firearm owner’s learning and knowledge development. It is thus necessary for knowledgeable voices and organizations, from the reasonable and responsible majority, to contribute to awareness and education activities for all Canadians to learn from. Those voices are best suited to convey the in-depth and highly technical knowledge, discipline, and understanding required for responsible and reasonable use. Olympians, competitive shooters, professional hunters, clubs, associations, teams, instructors, and experienced shooters—I'm urging you all to step up and help me clean up the discussion. In conclusion, things aren't good for licensed firearms owners in Canada at the moment. We are facing unnecessary and arbitrary new restrictions. Collectively, we have been both unjustly compared to mass-murders using illegal weapons and falsely associated with violent far-right extremists, by federal leaders, the media, and anti-gun activists alike—simply because we are licensed to own firearms. Our response should not be to push back and "fight." Rather, we must raise the bar for discussion and debate by bringing informed opinion, education, and factual information to the forefront. We will work together to clean up the ugly, polarized mess of discourse that exists today and, by doing so, we will better protect and safeguard our privileges through exceptional, targeted, and accurate discourse engagement.