Monday, December 24, 2012

A Reader's Response

Two days ago, I published a post on Stephen Harper and guns. Yesterday, I received an email from a reader. That term, while accurate, is a bit misleading. Like me, the reader is a retired teacher. But, unlike me, he has been an officer in the Canadian Forces. And, during summers, he used to shoot competitively at paper targets. He has been a friend for twenty-seven years. This is his response:


Until I read your blog yesterday, I had never heard of the National Rifle Association of Canada, despite its existence since 1978. I was, however a member of two other shooting groups, the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association and another Canadian federation from which Canada's Olympic shooters are drawn. I've forgotten its name. Where these two federations differ from the NRA of Canada is that neither attempts to justify firearms as a means of protection. Their purpose is to promote sports shooting through competitions, training, and weapons safety.

The older of the two federations, the DCRA, had a more serious role early in its history. Like Fort Henry and RMC, It was founded in the mid to late 1800's as Britain was scaling back its military support for Canada, and it was intended as a means of creating a body of shooters who could be assimilated into a colonial militia in an "emergency" (like an American invasion) with less training time. Numerous military ranges were built close to towns across the Country - one, I've been told, was just outside Picton. The rifles used by the DCRA were military issue, while the government supplied ammunition. Until the 1970's, DCRA members competed with customized military rifles, using issue ammunition supplied by DND.

At no time have I heard either federation argue that owning firearms was valuable for self-defence. It's a shame such a "nut" organization as the NRA of Canada has seen the light of day in our country. A Wikipedia search revealed it's headquartered in Edmonton. Doesn't anything worthwhile come out of that province?

This morning on CNN, Fareed Zakaria made an interesting point about gun control in the States. As you know, President Obama responded to the Newtown shootings by stating something had to change, that solving gun violence would be a complex process because the reasons for the violence are complex. Not only is there a need for gun control, but a need to examine how mental illness is handled, as well as to examine how gun violence is promoted by movies and video games. The NRA, of course, lept on the last two solutions, in addition to arming even more Americans. Zakaria maintained solving gun violence is not a complex affair: the solution is as plain as the nose on

He pointed out that while the USA has a mere 5% of the world's population, Americans own 50 % of the world's firearms, and in general are by far the most heavily armed citizenry in the world, well ahead of Ethiopians. US Gun killings are twelve times greater than in any other developed country. Is mental illness an important cause? Zakaria claimed the USA has one of the best mental health systems in the world. How about movies and video games? Europeans see the same violent movies and play the same video games as Americans. But in Europe killings by firearms are a twelfth of the USA's. In Japan, where violent movies and video games are always on the cutting edge, the murder rate by firearms is 0%! Strict gun controls are a fact of life in all those countries.

I can't believe Obama is ignorant of this kind of information, Owen. Once again, he's showing himself "full of it", playing on the hearts of Americans who desperately want change, all the while signalling the NRA and its supporters that they have nothing to fear from him.

Americans may have concluded some time ago that the 2nd Amendment gives them to right to own and bear arms - any arms of their choice, it seems. But knowing how the American constitution was drafted by some very bright men, I doubt this was the intention of the amendment. It would have been a counterproductive way of creating a nation where its citizens felt secure. I think modern Americans have bastardized the intent of the 2nd, which was to provide a military balance between the rulers and the ruled by enabling citizens to arm themselves in militias to discourage executive attempts to overturn the constitution by force of arms. There would have been nothing startling about this approach to those who drafted the amendment.

A little more than 100 years earlier, when Charles II was restored to the English throne, a very similar arrangement was agreed. To protect the monarch from the citizenry, a small standing army was formed comprised of the "Guards" regiments (the Coldstreams, Grenadiers, etc.). To protect citizens from the Monarch, a much larger body of part-time, armed militias were formed throughout the country. It provided an effective stand-off until commoners had control of government, and there was no further need for such armed guarantees. 

There's a huge difference between a citizenry being armed this way, and the way in which today's Americans are arming themselves.

Perhaps you've studied this matter before. If so, I hope I haven't bored you with the detail.

I wrote back to say that, indeed, I was not bored; and I asked permission to publish his response.

I only have one thing to add. In the 1960's, my friend was stationed in Cyprus, as a member of the peacekeeping force which was sent there by the United Nations. More than most, he understands how difficult it is to actualize a policy of Peace On Earth Good Will To Men. But we live in hope. Happy Holidays.


Lorne said...

Thanks for posting your friend's letter, Owen. It has a wisdom and historical context that Americans are badly in need of. I will be sure to post a link on my Twitter account.

Happy holidays.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Lorne. My friend is a man of exceedingly good judgement.

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, thanks for this, Owen. If Zakaria actually said America has one of the best mental health systems in the world, he must have been referring to its penal system. From what I have read, America's prisons are the repository of choice for that country's mentally ill.

Owen Gray said...

America's decline is rooted in paranoia, Mound. The paranoid control the penal system.

Now they're setting their sights on schools.

Beijing York said...

A very thoughtful and informative response.

Best holiday wishes to you and yours, Owen.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Bejiing. And happy holidays to you and yours, as well.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Avery interesting post. Americans have an element in their population who are fearful of the Central government. We in Canada trust our government and welcome its involvement in our lives. Our different histories are three reason for these differences.

Owen Gray said...

We have very different histories, Philip. However, it's hard not to believe that Stephen Harper would prefer being president to being prime minister.