Gun fever is on the rise in British Columbia and Alberta, and for a reason so comically Canadian, I feel like clown music should be playing as you read this article. This weapondemic (weapon+epidemic) paired with the Conservative’s newly proposed gun law changes is enough to light a fire under any left-winged ass. NDP public safety critic Randall Garrison says, “the Conservatives are playing to their base here,” claiming that these laws will be reversing public safety considerations based on political motivation. Applications to carry handguns have skyrocketed in Western Canada and the Territories the past three years, doubling in B.C. and Alberta between 2011 and 2012 alone, while the rest of Canada’s trigger-happiness has remained tempered.
The cause? A fierce, newly discovered species found dwelling in the Canadian hinterlands: chainsaw-wielding bears! They don’t wield chainsaws? Oh, alright then. Just bears.
That isn’t to say non-chainsaw-wielding bears don’t still prove frightening (and if they don’t, you clearly haven’t seen Christopher Nolan’s gritty Winnie-the-Pooh reboot). The presence of predators has become concerning for people working in the wilderness, like geologists and prospectors, as well as those living in remoter municipalities who like to leave their jerky out to dry overnight. Eric Beer, a use-of-force instructor at a B.C. firearms training company says, “We find that there has been growing concern about the bears, just generally, both among corporations and the general public…there has been an increase in interest in bear defense, specifically.”
With more and more weapons being carried, discussion has been sparked on how police and firearm-trainers like Beer can ensure that newly licensed carriers are only using the lowest powered and least dangerous handguns for fending off bears as to guarantee the safety of the general populous. Beer says, “The largest handgun, with the biggest caliber that the student can handle effectively – that’s what I recommend.” Oh, “largest handgun, with the biggest caliber”, you say?
So now police officers, those sworn to serve and protect those of us without our own means of personal defence, have a bone to pick with a firearms instructor potentially putting the safety of others at risk. OPP staff-sergeant Doug Carlson says, “With brown bears, carrying a handgun is just absolutely stupid,” of course! There must be ways of ensuring the safety of wilderness workers without giving them dangerous firearms and jeopardizing the lives others, he argues, “You’re dealing with such a humongous bear – you’ll have a hard time knocking it down with a handgun. You might get lucky, but more likely it would just bounce off his skull, or aggravate him. You really need a high-powered rifle for something like that. Anybody who was truthful would tell you that.” Alright…again, not what I expected, but did he just say handgun bullets would just bounce of the bear’s skull? Holy crap.
Maybe it isn’t so crazy to think that Canadians are in need to lock n’ load. To be fair, between 2003 and 2006, 70% of firearms used to commit homicide were unregistered and firearm-related homicides have been at its lowest in almost 50 years. In respect to handguns, Ottawa lawyer Solomon Friedman says these permits are “almost impossible to get.” Maybe liberating wilderness workers from Canada’s strict handgun procession laws will save more lives than it will cost. And what of the Conservative’s newly proposed Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act? It seems that it will only be making gun owning safer by making firearms-safety courses mandatory for first-time gun owners and preventing people convicted of spousal assault from legally owning guns.
For Torontonians like myself, these bear-things you Westerners speak of aren’t as problematic. I hope those who do encounter one will handle the situation with more respite than we do when dealing with our furry-foes.