Firearms, Farms, and Family

Man with Rifle in Grocery Store (swiss)
While the laws are similar, I don’t think this would be culturally acceptable in Canada.

I was recently reading an article on firearms in Switzerland and was surprised to learn that their firearms laws are very similar to Canada’s. What was so surprising about it is that the public perception of firearms in the two countries is widely different.

I enjoy firearms and it drives me batty the way people view them as dark and dangerous things. When Sharon and I started dating, I wanted to ensure that Sharon had a minimal amount of training with them and to ensure that she was reasonably comfortable around something that is somewhat important to me. So I took her to a firearms safety course, and we got our firearms licenses. This was the first time Sharon ever handled anything like a firearm and it took a lot of the mystery out of it for her. Suddenly, they weren’t as scary.

This is the perception of firearms that I want in the world. The more I see people being scared of firearms, the more I feel the need to correct their perceptions.

 

Guns and Gun Crime

So many people we speak with hear the word “firearm” and instantly think gang-land shoot out, just like in the movies. This was made really evident to me the first time I offered to take Pumpkin to the shooting range: “No Way!” In her mind she saw them as a tool of the criminal. In her mind, firearms and criminal were synonymous.

I always like the quote that, “An armed society is a polite society”, implying that private ownership of firearms acts as a deterrent to crime. Sharon is always quick to correct me by pointing out that there is no correlation between gun legality and violent gun crime1.

This is most evident looking at the quantity of guns per capita in nations. If one takes the top 15 countries, with the highest number of guns per capita (excluding the USA where the numbers are way out of proportion), you find about a 50/50 split of crappy places, and happy places. What is most interesting, is you have some of the crappiest places on earth and some of the happiest. It is actually the two extremes that are present in the top of the list (which I copied from Wikipedia).

Country % Type of Place
Yemen 54.8 Crappy
Switzerland 45.7 Happy
Finland 45.3 Happy
Serbia 37.8 Crappy
Cyprus 36.4 Crappy
Saudi Arabia 25.0 Crappy
Iraq 34.2 Crappy
Uruguay 31.8 ?
Sweden 31.6 Happy
Norway 31.3 Happy
France 31.2 Happy
Canada 30.8 Happy
Austria 30.4 Happy
Germany 30.3 Happy

Also interesting is to look at the countries with the lowest guns per capita:

Country % Type of Place
Japan 0.6 Happy
Korea, North 0.6 Happy
Rwanda 0.6 Crappy
Sierra Leone 0.6 Crappy
Haiti 0.6 Crappy
Bangladesh 0.6 Crappy
Fiji 0.5 Crappy
Eritrea 0.5 ?
Indonesia 0.5 Crappy
Singapore 0.5 Happy
Ethiopia 0.5 Crappy
Ghana 0.5 Crappy
Solomon Islands 0.5 ?
East Timor 0.5 Crappy
Tunisia 0.1 Crappy

I’m not seeing any correlation between “Gun Crime” and “Guns”.

Let me break this down a little. If its not the “Guns” that cause “Gun Crime”, what on earth could it be? I could try to hazard a guess… Could it be… oh… “Crime”? Nations with a high incidence of violent behaviour have a high incidence of violent behaviour with guns. But this isn’t a function of the guns being available, this is a situation where people will be violent with whatever they can get their hands on.2

One of my favourite images is of riots taking place in South Africa. Some of the most violent situations I have ever seen. There are plenty of images of people running around with guns, and shoot-outs between police and rioters, but there is one image that stands out in my mind. A band of men who had just finished beating someone to death showed one of the rioters charging with his bloody carpenter’s hammer in hand.3

Violent people will be violent; non-violent people will not be.

Gun-Grabbers Scare Me

This leads to the next problem I often face when I tell people I enjoy shooting: they assume I am a violent person.

Canadian Women's Biathalon Team
Canadian Women’s Biathalon Team. Obviously a violent pack of hoodlums carrying their firearms openly about the city

The flaw in logic is highlighted by an ex-colleague of mine. He walked in on a conversation about shotguns where I was discussing the versatility of the shotgun. We had just finished discussing “Bear Bangers”4 when he jumps in and states that they aren’t versatile, they can only be used for one thing: killing. He stormed off before I could bring up rubber bullets, flares, paint balls, and confetti & ribbon.5

In my co-worker’s mind, guns can only be used for violence; I enjoy using firearms; therefore I must be a violent person.

This attitude is very common.

I am often reminded of something said by Aleister Crowley during alcohol prohibition in the United States: “The Prohibitionist must always be a person of no moral character; for he cannot even conceive of the possibility of a man capable of resisting temptation”.6

I sometimes wonder what kind of people these gun prohibitionists are…

Home Defense

While I am not a violent person, I do recognize that sometimes violence is necessary, that is why we have police and armies. Unfortunately (as the saying goes) when seconds count, the police are only minutes away. This holds doubly true living in the country where services are farther away; you do need to become more self-sufficient. It is very important that I learn to and am equipped to protect myself, and those who depend on me for their care.

Being out on the farm, there are many individuals I need to protect against, and many individuals that need protecting. While we don’t have any yet, Sharon and I are hoping to be keeping chickens very shortly, and chickens are pretty close to the bottom of the food chain around here (I think rabbits may be the only thing lower than them). By undertaking the care of animals, I am undertaking a responsibility to “take care of them”, and that includes keeping them safe from harm. Coyotes, foxes, falcons, and eagles, are all predators we have seen in the area and they will attack and kill our animals.

Certainly I will take measures to reduce the problem: keeping food sources away, and regular walks to scare the predators off; but all of that can only reduce the chance of the predators finding the ready source of food that is “chicken”. Fox will steal your chickens when they find them, and are notoriously apathetic towards the law. At some point I am going to have to confront these thieves and explain to them that the chickens are my property and are under my protection.

The problem with explaining ownership to predators is they speak Animaleze, not English. So, like the Horse Whisperer, I am going to have to learn to speak like the animals do:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gr0o8zRmub4

So animals communicate using violence…

Bear Paw and Human Hand

I think I’m going to need a translator.

Sport

In the end, the best justification for firearm ownership, and firearm usage is that they are fun!

Some of my fondest memories from my childhood revolve around camping with my dad. We spent a lot of time in the bush together, and a lot of time setting up targets and testing our marksmanship.

I remember spending a whole afternoon and evening out shooting together. Towards the end, we spent what must have been half an hour working on my technique. I would shoot at a pop can and my dad would call out whether I was shooting high, low, left, or right. We worked on my shooting for a long time, critiquing my stance, trigger pull, and breathing, but I always missed the can. Finally, I got frustrated, grabbed the binoculars out of his hand, and looked for myself. The pop can was a chewed up mess, every shot had hit its mark.

“Oh, I thought you were shooting at the one on the right”, was all he said…

Jerk.

All tools are inanimate objects that have no sense of right or wrong. In the end, its what the person holding the tool does with it that defines morality. For me, firearms are about afternoons on sunny days playing and joking with family and friends. Somehow I wish I could make those who see them as tools for violence, and only violence, see them the way I do.

All I can think to do is to keep talking, and keep smiling, and hope that eventually people start associating firearms with a really friendly guy. My fear is that they’ll start associating my face with the gun they fear.

Maybe innocent young girls will offer a better distraction from the gun than my ugly mug…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDKpogxS_Cc


  1. I have to call it “violent” gun crime because places that make possession criminal the stats will be skewed. For this discussion we are only interested in people that have harmful intent. 

  2. This is not an argument for making guns illegal. Making guns “Criminal” will not prevent “Criminals” from obtaining them. That is inherint in the definition of someone that is Criminal by intent. Criminals don’t respect the law, that’s what makes them criminals, therefore it is less likely they will obey Gun Laws in particular. 

  3. There was another story in a major newspaper that discussed rioters burning a house with the family inside. Everyone of the mob had rifles, but when one person tried to make a run for it, they threw a rock at him, and physically dragged him back, not a shot was fired. 

  4. Bear Bangers are basically shotgun shells with a fire-cracker in them. When fired the projectile flies out and after a pre-set time, explode with a really loud “BANG”. They are used to scare wildlife away from areas where they don’t belong; like birds around the airport, or bears near camp-grounds. The funniest story I ever heard was from a Fish and Wildlife Officer who was tasked with scaring a bear away from a camp-ground. He saw the bear, loaded a 150 foot bear banger, and fired at the bear… which (unfortunately) was only 100 feet away. The banger went 50 feet past the bear and then BANG! Suddenly the Warden had a very scared and angry bear coming directly at him. He now puts two shells in: one banger, followed by something “just in case”. 

  5. Shotguns, due to their shell configuration, lack of rifling, and large bore size, can fire a large number of projectiles. In the end, a shotgun is not so much a weapon as a high speed delivery device. What you deliver is up to you. 

  6. I am a little fuzzy on this quote. I remember it from a Biography on Tesla that I own, but that book is in a box. Sharon looked it up and found it attributed to “Absinthe: The Green Goddess” by Crowley, which I have read. I still stand by Tesla on this one. 

5 thoughts on “Firearms, Farms, and Family”

  1. You cannot quote statistics and leave out a case because “the numbers are way out of proportion.”

    While guns do not cause crime, guns do change the nature of the consequences of crime. For example, robberies committed with guns are less likely to lead to an injury (assuming you’re not an idiot and comply with the robber). But for a counter-example the difference between assault and manslaughter is often the speed at which the EMS responds (I believe the source of this idea and the evidence to support it are found in Daly and Wilson’s 1988 book “Homicide” but I don’t have book handy at the moment) — and guns greatly increase the likelihood of the more “serious” consequence by shortening the window EMS has to respond.

    That being said, the availability of guns operating through cultural perceptions IS strongly linked to crime — hence the “out of proportion” numbers you see in the US. Given that much of the culture to which we in Canada are exposed is America, there are strong similarities in our cultural conceptions. There are strong arguments suggesting that the reason Canadian levels of gun-related violent acts do not come close to American levels is due to differences in gun legislation — legislation I strongly support.

    You will never convince me that people should be able to go out and buy guns. The Crowley quote sounds good in principle, but I can imagine people resisting temptation – however as a criminologist, I am aware that given the tools and the opportunity, most people choose not to resist.

    1. BUSTED! and fair to call me on it. The numbers for the USA were 89 guns per 100 people, and is a country I would class as “happy”. I will stand by my decision not to include the USA as it is not technically a single nation, but a collection of states that are “united”. Most important to this discussion, each state is responsible for their own firearms legislation, resulting in a diverse range of laws: some more restrictive than the UK, some less restrictive than Canada. Without a state by state breakdown, I will continue to leave them out.

      I think we fundamentally disagree on people’s ability to resist temptation. I see dangerous items (cars, ktichen knives, rocks) that are not involved in an assault; attractive women that are not raped; and employees that are not stealing from the register.

      I have intentionally steered clear of Firearms Legislation…. Way too politically charged an issue, and not really relevant to my point. Canada has legislation, what it doesn’t have is a friendly culture.

      However, for the most part, I agree with what you have said. Guns are dangerous tools, and if used without proper care, or if used unethically, can cause a lot of damage (including death). The culture around guns does (in my mind) have a lot to do with their use as tools of crime; but the culture is linked to the fear of guns, and that is the exact cultural attitude that I so strongly would like to see change.

  2. As someone who has been shooting pistols for fun for years, I am always amazed that people allow the Hollywood version of guns to define their perception of firearms everywhere. Shooting is a fun activity that can be enjoyed by everyone regardless of age. I’ve even introduced my wife and, more recently, my daughter to shooting. Both see the fun and challenge and are actually quite competitive with each other when shooting targets. It’s nice to be able to share something with them that I’ve had so much fun doing over the years…and it gets us off the couch and out of the house!

    J

    1. You are a braver man than I. I was convinced that I was the wrong person to teach my wife (short track to divorce). One of my past managers enjoyed shooting and I got him to teach my wife. While she isn’t a fan of rifles (too heavy for her taste), she’s a mean shot with a .22 pistol (most embarrassingly, a better shot than me).

      Glad to hear of another generation of sport shooters in the make.

      1. I enjoy teaching & coaching and am glad to share the knowledge with my girls…fortunately, my style of sharing works for them.

        Also, I figured that teaching my daughter about the safe handling and proper use of firearms was important. That way she won’t have the fear of them that others inherently have, and if ever in a situation where a firearm is present (whether legal or other) may have the wherewithal to stay calm and if necessary take control of the situation.

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