I came across a news story from just south of the BC -- Washington State border... you know, the big imaginary line called the 49th Parallel that separates Canada from the United States. And it smacked me right in the face what a huge difference that imaginary line makes in the attitudes of police towards citizens with firearms.
Here in Canada, for example, the RCMP and every other police force in Canada absolutely hates the idea of honest citizens having firearms.
The Whidbey Island Sheriff's Department on the other hand, just a few hours south of that imaginary line, encourages it.
The Lawrence Manzer case out in New Brunswick is one of two examples I'll use that are currently before the courts.
Here is a man standing on his front porch with an unloaded shotgun, ostensibly standing there to aid his neighbour Brian Fox as Mr. Fox apprehended one of the three drunken teenagers who had been vandalizing the neighborhood for the past six months.
The three kids get off with a small fine, while Fox is charged with assault and Manzer is charged with a firearms offense.
Then there is the even worse case of Ian Thomson in Ontario, where three masked thugs are caught on surveillance cameras trying to burn his house down with him inside it, screaming that they will kill Mr. Thomson. Ian Thomson grabs a handgun from his gun safe, comes outside and fires a couple of shots to scare off the would-be murderers. It works. They run like the cowards they are.
The police response?
They charge the arsonists, not with attempted murder, which is what this was, but with attempted arson. Attempted, I guess because they were only successful in lighting his house on fire, not burning it to the ground.
But far worse than that, they charge Ian Thomson, the man fighting for his life against three men trying to kill him, with careless use of a firearm.
I mention these two cases currently before the courts because they highlight the Canadian police response to good, honest Canadian citizens using firearms completely lawfully.
The police don't care. The police believe they are the ONLY ones who should have firearms. Period.
Now, that's a very long lead-in to the actual point of this story.
The article I read this morning that so caught my eye was from the South Whidbey Record. Whidbey is a small town near Seattle, Washington.
Here's the kicker.
Guess who is teaching that class?
Two retired Island County Sherriff's Office Detectives.
I spoke with Rod Mourant from the Central Whidbey Sportsman's Association today because I was curious if the event had the sanction of the Island County Sherriff's Department.
While the Island County Sheriff's department is not officially involved with the firearms training event, they fully support firearms safety training and are happy to have two of their retired detectives as the instructors for the course.
I spoke with Detective Wallace of the Island County Sherriff’s Department this morning and asked him a couple of questions to confirm this.
CA: Is the Island County Sherriff's Department involved with this course in any official capacity?
Detective Wallace: "In an official capacity, no, but I believe the instructors are both retired Island County detectives."
CA: Does your department support of this sort of citizen training?
Detective Wallace: "Oh absolutely. Anything that teaches safety, firearms safety is a good thing."
Here in Canada laws are different, obviously, but the attitudes are the real key. Take, for example, the mandatory licensing system to own a firearm legally in Canada.
Once you've sat through the class and taken the written and practical exams, filled out all your paperwork and submitted it to the RCMP for your background and reference checks, you sit and wait to see if you will be deemed "acceptable".
But you'd better hope your references are smart enough to understand the leading nature of the questions they will be asked.
If you're like my daughter-in-law, for example, your references (of which I was one) will be asked some very leading questions about violent behaviour.
It's the way the questions are worded that is so telling of police attitudes and Canadian government attitudes toward civilian firearm ownership.
- Were you pressured in any way to act as a reference?
- Tell me about any situations where [name removed] has displayed violent behaviour in the past .
- Tell me about any circumstance where [name removed] acted in a way that caused you to feel she would become violent.
- Tell me about any circumstance or any situation where [name removed] would approve of violence to resolve a problem.
- Tell me about any circumstance where [name removed] has ever made statements showing a fascination with violence, such as school, workplace or any other types of violence.
- Is there anything else you would like to add about [name removed] that I haven't asked?
- You have no issues or concerns about [name removed] having firearms?
Now, unless you understand the goal of these questions, you might think these questions are just fine. They're trying to weed out potentially violent people.
First, let me be clear. I do not want crazy or violent people to have firearms. No rational Canadian does.
But here's the thing. With the exception of Maurice (Mom) Boucher, I'm not aware of a single violent criminal who has applied for a firearms license, yet drug dealers and violent gang members have no problem acquiring handguns, and even less problem with using them to solve their problems.
The fact that the Canadian Firearms Center issued a firearms license to the head of the Quebec Hells Angels doesn't exactly inspire confidence in me. How about you?
So, back to the questions.
It is critical to understand the purpose of both the Canadian Firearms Safety Program and the RCMP's questions for an applicant's references.
That goal is to PREVENT civilian firearm ownership in Canada.
Taking both the non-restricted (rifles and shotguns) and restricted (handguns) courses will take you three days plus exam time and cost you anywhere from $150 to $300 depending on the government-sanctioned instructor.
That's hurdle's number 1 and 2. Time and money. This stops a lot of people.
Then there are the questions for your references once you've jumped through those hurdles.
You'll notice, if you read the questions carefully, that they pre-suppose every applicant is a violent person.
The questions are NOT... "has she ever...", but "tell me when she has..."
The questions ask WHEN, not IF.
The questions all begin with the presumption that the person HAS ALREADY been violent in some fashion or other. Why else would they want a firearm, right? It's an absurd starting point.
- Tell me about any situations where [name removed] has...
- Tell me about any situations where [name removed] acted...
- Tell me about any circumstance or any situation where [name removed] would approve of violence...
What a difference that imaginary line makes.
This weekend women of all ages can attend a free firearms safety training course at the Central Whidbey Sportsman's Association, taught by retired police detectives.
Canadian police should be every bit as supportive of honest and law-abiding Canadians as the Whidbey Island Sheriff's Department is of their citizens.