What’s so special about the AR-15?

Emma Teitel on who needs military assault weapons

JENN ACKERMAN/THE NEW YORK TIMES/REDUX

In place of a Second Amendment, Canadians have collective head-scratching about why it isn’t obvious that an assault rifle doesn’t belong in the hands of an ordinary citizen. “Who needs that?” is the typical Canadian question. “Nobody,” is the typical refrain. And yet it seems that a lot of people do “need that,” or claim to. This month—in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre, and which saw another school shooting, this time at Lone Star College in Houston—the National Rifle Association added more than 200,000 Obama-wary members to its four-million-plus ranks. And last weekend, Guns Across America—an online community of American gun enthusiasts—drew thousands of people in state capitals to protest President Obama’s new gun-control proposal. Obama’s inauguration this week followed a series of proposed congressional actions that would, among other things, reinstate the Clinton-era ban on assault weapons and limit legal ammunition magazines to 10 rounds. According to a new poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, 41 per cent of Americans are fond of the NRA—loony Wayne LaPierre and all—meaning 41 per cent of Americans are also fond of military assault weapons. Who needs that? Apparently, they do.

But why? I don’t know anything about guns, and I’ve never in my life shot one (unless you count a Super Soaker), which means that, really, I have no business answering this question. So I thought I’d ask someone else. Willem Veenhof is a 71-year-old gun owner and resident of Brevard, a small town of about 7,000 people in western North Carolina. He owns an indoor shooting range called Bear Arms. I asked him why any normal, mentally stable person would need an AR-15, the big black shiny gun we see on TV—the same kind of gun Adam Lanza and James Holmes used to commit unspeakable crimes—and he told me this: “It’s an ideal weapon for varmint hunting.”

“The AR-15,” said Veenhof, “has its specific place in the hunting scene.” That place is for shooting small animals at short range, because a “long-range gun is a high-powered round” that “would blow to pieces whatever you hit, and when you’re hunting for meat, you don’t want to blow the meat to pieces.” So why not use a less formidable old-school hunting rifle? Because, says John Anderson, editor of The Varmint Hunter magazine, “Let’s say you were out hunting. If [the game] was running,” the AR-15 allows “you to get a shot off faster” than a typical hunting rifle would. Faster as in 45 rounds per minute. That’s a lot of varmint.

Veenhof and Anderson don’t come off as guys who loathe President Obama, or anyone. They’re just annoyed that the people trying to disarm them know little to nothing about the arms they carry. (The popular notion that hunters do not use semi-automatic weapons is a perfect example of this.) Explaining marksmanship to gun control activists is, from their perspective, I imagine, a lot like explaining evolution to a group of creationists. You’ve lost the game before you’ve begun.

Still, justified as they think they are in using so-called assault rifles, the question remains: who needs that? Even Anderson will admit that the AR-15 is not essential for varmint hunting—“I don’t know if anybody needs a gun like that, but certainly a lot of people like a gun like that”—nor is it the most popular gun for hunting small animals. So why the American obsession with guns that can kill so many so fast?

Veenhof said that beyond hunting, he “needs” a semi-automatic to protect himself from would-be home invaders or potential gang threats. “If you are involved in a gang situation, what’s good about a gun with a couple of rounds in it?” he asked. Veenhof keeps a gun in his night table and another one in an undisclosed location in his house. He also carries one on his person, in case he is attacked on the go. Like millions of his countrymen, he is perpetually prepared for the absolute worst eventuality, with weapons capable of inflicting the absolute worst, and yet he has never, in all his 71 years, been in a shooting. Maybe the operative question then isn’t “Who needs that?” but “Who—or what—makes someone think he does?”

Greg Bell is a 24-year-old Albertan gun owner and Canadian soldier. The first time he fired a gun, he was 10 years old. He owns a semi-automatic. I asked him why, unlike Veenhof, he doesn’t feel the need to sleep close to his guns; why he is perfectly content with Canada’s gun laws, which are draconian by U.S. standards. Because we don’t have “a right to bear arms in our Constitution,” he said, “you don’t have millions of people screaming out for the open forum of guns.” In other words, Canada lacks a constitutionally validated paranoia, and the firearm neuroses that follow. America’s paranoia has been festering for centuries. Perhaps Bell is onto something, an evolutionary shift the gun-control lobby cannot stop: the American right to bear arms has morphed into a pathological need that is not quelled but bolstered by each school shooting. Guns in the United States are like sleeping pills—millions of Americans can’t sleep without them.




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What’s so special about the AR-15?

  1. “[T]he American right to bear arms has morphed into a pathological need that is not quelled but bolstered by each school shooting.”

    The way guns sales spike after each shooting, I’d have to agree.

    After 9/11 many Americans wanted to build a wall along our border. Maybe we should have encouraged them. Time we institute strip searches for every American entering Canada. [Joking... sort of]

    • That was to keep the cannabis out of their country. Nothing is more dangerous than BC Gold.

      • LOL!

  2. Fantastic story, with an ending full of nationalistic sentiment, xenophobia and vilification of the stupid Yankee “other”.

    It reinforced all the traditional aspersions originally invented by demagogic American prog’s about their cultural arch-enemies (and subsequently swallowed whole by all right-thinking Canadians), gun lovers, creationists, religious fanatics, conservatives, constitution admirers, etcetera… and even encouraged a bit of douchey bellicism from my fellow commentators down here in the thread.

    Immediately after reading the piece I forwarded it to a co-worker (a vociferous anti-American and passionate Canadian chauvinist) with the comment; “Sure glad we’re not stupid, evil and bitter gun clingers like those retarded Yanks (excluding of course Obama christ, the Democrats, and the editorial board of the New York Times, ‘good Americans’)”. She
    loooooved it.

    • Your co-worker isn’t wrong. I personally like living in a country where I’m not surrounded by neurotic whack-jobs who think an assault rifle is their only guarantee of safety.

      • Didn’t some guy cut a guy’s head off on one of your Greyhound buses here a couple years back?

        • Ya that did happen. I would have hated to see what that mental case would have done with easy access to a gun. A hell of a lot more then one dead on that bus I think.

          • Just wanted to make sure Max understands we don’t have an monopoly on neurotic whack-jobs. ;)

            Oh, and since criminals do what criminals will do, even w/an Australian-like ban we don’t enforce our borders like you guys do so there would still be plenty of these types of weapons to go around. So the net effect would be taking guns away from legal gun owners, or as Max calls them, those neurotic whack jobs.

          • The man who cut a person’s head off on the bus was an immigrant to Canada from an Asian country. He suffers from Schizophrenia. He is mentally ill and he likely was when he arrived here. He is not a “neurotic whack-job” but an ill person who was obviously off of his medication.
            He is now in a forensic mental health unit rather than a prison. I understand that the person who dressed up as Batman and killed so many in the theatre also suffers from Schizophrenia. Do you think he will end up in a mental health facility?

          • I was actually talking about your typical American gun advocate, who I’m more then certain should never be allowed near anything more dangerous then a spork.

          • If you don’t have a gun in your house, you are less likely to accidentally shoot someone. You are less likely to be shot by someone breaking into your house and stealing your gun.

            No one’s property is worth taking a life over. Most armed criminals breaking into your home won’t shoot you unless they feel threatened (or unless the reason the came there in the first place was to kill you, in which case you probably aren’t a typical citizen but a criminal of some sort yourself).

            Worse, if you carry a weapon around with you with the intent to use it (and if you don’t intend to use it, why carry?), you may have it taken from you and used against you or if you pull it and start firing on someone you may hit an innocent bystander.

            The reality is that, under normal conditions, guns do not make you safer.

            A friend of mine owned a shotgun and a rifle, safely (he thought) stored in a gun safe. Someone broke into his home while the family was out and stole them. All he kept thinking about is what would have happened if they returned home while the thieves were still at their house – and what use the thieves made of the guns afterwards. He decided he was better off not replacing the guns.

            I think he is a wise man.

          • Have you seen all the home invasions in the news over the last couple of years? They like to tie you up and make you watch as they rape and kill your wife and children. then they Kill you. Look up the stories. And this did not happen just once. And the guns used were not legal. and the homeowners had no weapons to defend themselves. And these did not happen in inner cities, for the most part it takes place in suburban areas, where inner city thugs know they dont have to worry about well defended homes.

          • I’m not at all convinced that more guns can solve that problem. Sure the odd person may actually get to their weapon and successfully defend themselves. I’m betting that unless you’re already packing and have nerves of steel, it would happen too fast to do anything – and you may well end up hitting a family member in the crossfire if you do get the gun out.

            In the meantime, more guns around = more accidental shootings; more gun thefts; etc.

            What you are suggesting is anarchy and vigilante justice.

            America is in social decay, and the guns are escalating that, not slowing it down.

            And if you are advocating something similar for Canada, please stay on (or move to) the US side of the border.

          • Oh how wrong you are. In the Czech Republic it is a common citizen’s right to
            conceal carry. Guess what? You need to get trained, certified, register
            all your arms, be a good shot (to prevent accidental shootings in case
            you need to defend yourself), get a note from your doctor and have a
            clean criminal record.

            Did you know that in 2009 the Czech Republic had a murder rate of 1.7
            per 100,000 and in the same year Canada had a murder rate of 1.8 per
            100,000?

            The reason the US has such high shooting rates/murder rates is because
            they don’t require any training, licences, etc. to get a firearm. The
            Czech Republic proves that you don’t have to have draconian gun laws
            banning concealed carry like Canada does; you just have to prevent
            crazies and criminals from getting them easily, that’s all you ever need
            to do.

            There are over 2 million gun owners in Canada, closer to 3 million. Yet
            you don’t hear of them going on shooting sprees? It’s not the guns; it’s
            how easy it is to get them that’s the problem.

            Why do people like you oppress people from being more
            individual/libertarian? What you’re doing is wrong and you are allowing
            so many people to be victims of preventable crimes. You don’t even allow
            people to be licenced for pepper spray or Tasers. There are far more rapes in Canada than the Czech Republic, look it up.

            I know you want to use the argument that people will go shooting each
            other over parking spaces, yet, that does not happen in the Czech
            Republic, that argument is a myth. There are proper training procedures
            to follow when conceal carrying and misuse will lead to serious jail
            time.

  3. Two AR-15′s: the Canadian style hunting rifle and the assault rifle. What’s the difference aside from the look? Well, the #1 attachment for the assault-rifle is a grenade launcher.

    • I don’t know a single person w/a grenade launcher on their “assault rifle” so I’m going to call you out on it being the “#1 attachment”. Why don’t you post some proof?

      And what exactly is a “Canadian style” hunting rifle? Even Google has NO idea what you are trying to say. Perhaps you meant “bolt action”, which by the way, is what I and most of my fellow American hunters use to hunt deer, elk and caribou.

      You know, if you were somewhat literate on the topic it would make you appear like the intellectual whom you are trying to be, so superior to us moron cowboy Yankees clinging to our guns, religion…and our Constitution. Instead, you look like a buffoon because it’s obvious you are experiencing diarrhea of the mouth, translated into internet babble.

      Reading is GOOD!!!

      • I like to read comments from gun owners in these forums, because they at least know what they’re talking about.

      • Do your own research troll. :)

        Tina Brooks
        Mobile communication

        • I’m supposed to research your erroneous claim? Or are you SO lazy you won’t even try to back up rehashing something you heard on Piers Morgan?

          Those that have nothing intelligent to say resort to name calling. But I’m the crazy, right?

          Classy.

          • Classy? Perhaps if you were to behave in a civilised manner, you would receive the intellectual discussion you suggest you desire.
            Feel free to continue to foam at the mouth. I have decided that the conversation possible with you would just bring more foaming at the mouth. Yours.
            Goodbye.

            Tina Brooks
            Mobile communication

          • You were trying to be civilized by mischaracterizing something? Seriously? What’s next? We shoot people for target practice? And you are the one pretending to be offended?

            A good way to START a civilized conversation (especially when you intend to demean those of the opposite opinion) would be to get your facts straight. So I’ll start for you. It’s extremely hard to legally possess a grenade, meaning there is no need for a grenade launcher. I know many people w/the evil black gun and I’ve never seen a grenade launcher. Therefore, the #1 accessory is most likely an optic. Outside of an optic, it’s probably…a flashlight.

            Now if you would care to tell me what you meant by a “Canadian style hunting rifle” I’m all ears. I’ve already asked several of my hunting buddies, some of whom that have hunted in your beautiful country, and no one knows of what the heck you may be speaking.

            So now since I have been civil enough to TWICE address what you erroneously mischaracterized, the civil (and classy) thing to do would be to admit you didn’t know about that to which you were speaking. But I imagine you will now choose to stay mum on a subject on which you should have never spoke in the first place. :)

            Better yet, rather than bash someone or something about which you know nothing, maybe do a few seconds of research the next time.

          • If you thought after personally attacking me I would converse with you in a civilised manner, you are not only a troll, you are mistaken.
            I’m now removing notifications from this thread.

            Goodbye for the last time, Troll.

            Tina Brooks
            Mobile communication

    • For those who doubt me… Google buy AR-15 Grenade Launcher. It wasn’t worth the pissing contest with the troll.

      McCleans Don’t you monitor your boards?

      Won’t be back.

      • No ordinary civilian can just go out and legally purchase a functioning “grenade launcher”. Either the launcher will be “deactivated”, a replica, or adapted to fire flares. In no way is it a common, or even legal attachment.

        Fact of the matter is that, supposing you illegally acquired a grenade launcher, you could attach it onto any firearm. You don’t need an “AR-15″ to have a grenade launcher work.

        The amount of misleading information you’re providing is almost offensive. If you wish to take a stab at gun owners, please do so in a respectful manner.

  4. When the right to bare arms was written into the American constitution it was with the thought of killing people. Therefore an assault rifle is as fitting, if not more so, than a hunting rifle. The right is for the common person to have the means to combat tyranny and protect their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness even if that means going up against a trained army. The idea that “the government should fear the people” holds a lot more weight when the people have the means of enforcing their will should the government forget its democratic mandate.

    • Go watch any video of an airstrike on youtube and then tell me more about how your AR-15/Glock is a sufficient check against a government that commands a modern military.

    • It must be difficult to live with the fear that your government is going to “forget its democratic mandate” and come after you with a trained army. I suppose if I worried about that happening or “Red Dawn” coming true, I might build myself a bunker and arm myself to the teeth. It is sad though when some of these people who in their desire to combat tyranny and protect their right to life, liberty, etc. mistaken their own children for “bad guys” and shoot them to death as we have seen happen too many times in the past few months. I wonder if after their children are dead, they are still as excited about their right to bear arms.

    • First of all I don’t think corporations will ever let the US government forget its democratic mandate. They get more profits by making sure a government is in power that having a totalitarian one. Also if a government wanted to get get people it would do it through the water supply or through biological means. Question, what type of government would be more willing to screw the people, Democrat or Republican?

    • OK, to begin with, the right to “bare” arms means you can go sleeveless.

      As to the rest… well, I hope you live on the other side of the Canada / US border.

  5. The irony of people who claim to be so enlightened and open-minded, yet have NO tolerance for another viewpoint, never fails to amaze me.

    • You are right. We don’t “get it”. We didn’t grow up in a gun culture. We don’t understand the desire to have a gun or the need to have a gun…not unless you are a rancher and your livestock are being threatened. Even then, you would likely use poison. Of course if you hunt or like to shoot skeets, that’s understandable but to have a gun to protect yourself…why do you need it if no one else has a gun?
      In fact a fellow from the US came to the Calgary Stampede and complained in felt threatened in a park in Calgary during the day when two young men approached he and his wife to ask them if they had attended the stampede. The man complained that he wasn’t allowed to carry his gun and found the two young men intimidating. It turned out that the Chamber of Commerce had people in the park handing out free Stampede tickets. The whole situation caused an uproar in Calgary and across the country. This man from the US was a police officer. He admitted the young men never physically intimated him and when he told them to “get away” from he and his wife, they did so. So why did he need a gun?

    • I have a tolerance for your viewpoint. I don’t have a tolerance for your guns.

      • you obviously never lived in a bad neighborhood. I have seen people shot for a pair of shoes or a jacket. and the guns used were handguns(in one case a revolver) not assault weapons. If you have always lived in an area where there is no perceivable danger to you or your family it is easy to downplay my need to own a gun. Go live in chicago or miami or hartford or any other large city and see if the gangs dont make you re-think your gun views.

        • I think you need a realtor, not an arms dealer.

        • But it’s a security dilemma. The area is dangerous so you want a gun. But the more people there are walking around with handguns, the more likely people are to view one another as a danger. My security is your insecurity. This is not to mention that it is easier for gangs to get guns when they are freely available (even Canada has greater challenges than say, Britain, because it is next to the gun-mad US).

          Incidentally, guns are terrible for protection. Gun owners are much more likely to be shot during altercations than those without guns. Drawing a handgun forces the other person to shoot or be shot. And you can get insurance to cover the risk of being robbed.

        • Sorry – you’ll never catch me living in the States precisely because there are too many guns and too many paranoid, trigger-happy idiots who might just shoot me by mistake.

          It is a vicious circle: the more people there are with guns, the more shootings there are – which makes everyone paranoid so they go and buy more guns.

          Why not just make it mandatory that everyone packs heat 24/7, and jail anyone found unarmed?

  6. Always been curious as to why “sport” hunters believe that they’re better hunters with advanced guns. Isn’t the hunters’ skill better tested with an old single shot?

    • Always been curious is to why the anti-gunners try to make the 2nd amendment in the American Constitution about hunting when there is zero correlation. Wouldn’t being able to read and comprehend simple English make it easier to be a snob liberal who wants to run everyone’s lives???

      • You’re right, it’s actually about how civilian rifles presented a credible threat to professional armies of the day. Or were you trying to make your position look less stupid?

        • Yeah, that hasn’t worked out OK for for the Taliban, has it? Or insurgencies throughout history. All the might of a professional military against them, and yet… Maybe there’s more to that calculation than you saw at first glance.

          Or were you trying to make your poorly-thought out position sound valid?

          • No it actually hasn’t, partially because the Taliban are running around with machine guns, anti-tank weapons, and powerful explosives instead of semi-automatic rifles and Glocks, and partially because the casualty ratio is STILL hideously lopsided in favour of western forces.

          • You seem to be under the impression that, under those conditions, all of the chemists, engineers and machinists in America would be working for the government.

            That would not be a likely scenario.

          • Most of them would, but that really has absolutely nothing to do with guns, (civilians aren’t allowed to have them at all in case you didn’t notice) which still makes the second worthless as far as an insurrection is concerned.

          • A: No, most of them would not. Only a tiny fraction of those professions are employed by the government.

            B: It in not besides the point. All of those professions have knowledge that can easily be turned towards the manufacture of weapons in case of an insurgency against tyranny. A tyranny which, let me reiterate, I believe is unlikely in my lifetime but safeguarding against which is still prudent in the long term.

          • A: The manufacture of the type of weapons employed by semi-successful (I use this term VERY loosely) insurgents requires precision machinery and often chemicals that are very easy to trace, which is why the most powerful insurgencies tend to just steal or smuggle in stockpiles of foreign gear instead of making their own.

            B:Those weapons would be IEDs, not semi-automatic rifles and pistols. IEDs are not protected under the second, which means that the second amendment is still outdated and worthless.

          • A: Precision machinery? I have personally made a trigger for an AR out of a chuck of 4140 steel with a drill, hacksaw, file and hand-operated vertical mill. This guy made an AK receiver and stock out of a shovel from a hardware store.

            http://www.northeastshooters.com/vbulletin/build-yourself/179192-diy-shovel-ak-photo-tsunami-warning.html

            B: So these weapons are dangerous killing machines when owned by civilians, but ineffective against agents of a tyrannical government? Seems like you use whichever angle fits the point you are currently making.

          • You made a tiny piece of a gun. Good for you.

            Pistols are dangerous killings machines AGAINST civilians, but horribly ineffective against aircraft, armoured vehicles, artillery, and basically any professionally trained soldiers with assault rifles and heavy support weapons. Either pick up a goddamn book and learn about how your own country has carried out warfare over the last 237 years, or just watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nf0ZjsNB02A

            Tell me more about your AR trigger.

          • Your ability to remain willfully oblivious to the thrust of an argument while simultaneously nitpicking the details will serve you well in internet arguments. The point is that guns can be made. The only way to stop that is to ban knowledge and skills relevant to manufacturing.

            Your research about how war is conducted seems to consist of a YouTube video with impressive explosions and not a single thought as to how much work on the ground led up to that video. Or that drone technology goes two ways. Homemade guided missiles? Impossible.

            But in the end you are correct. Member of the military are impenetrably armored perfectly skilled warriors who are led by omniscient commanders. That’s why we have had no deaths in any modern theater of war.

            But certainly idiot civilians cannot take down the pinnacle of armored firepower and thus any resistance would be futile.

            http://lmgtfy.com/?q=abrams+IED

            Next you’re going to tell me that you watched ‘Platoon’ and are an expert on small unit movements and tactics.

            I’m not saying that a popularly supported insurgency would not be costly in terms of lives lost, but there are worse things than death. To say that a rebellion cannot win is to deny the evidence of history.

          • What a pathetic strawman. I said that real insurgent groups just use bombs instead of small arms and hunting rifles, which are still hilariously illegal in the states, not that civilian insurgencies can never succeed (although they very rarely do without massive amounts of outside support, and that’s just foreign occupations).

            The guns currently flooding the market in the US on the other hand aren’t good for much else besides shooting other civilians.

          • Bombs are even easier to make than firearms. I figured you knew that so I left it unsaid. Also, foreign aid isn’t a bad thing per se. While it can come with strings attached, you’ll notice that the US is not a part nor pawn of France at the moment., despite their support, both material and monetary, of our revolution.

            Are you aware of the plethora of calibers that these rifles which ‘aren’t good for much else besides shooting other civilians’ come in? Or how accurate they are? Anything you can do with a rifle you can do with an AR-15 or variant. From rimfire caliber suitable for squirrels and rabbits and target shooting to calibers capable of downing a buffalo at 1000 yards and everything in between.

            Beyond the hunting aspect, your statement that they ‘aren’t good for much else besides shooting other civilians’ seems to rely on the idea that violence is wrong. I would agree with that idea with one addendum: the INITIATION of violence is wrong. If someone initiates violence against you to achieve selfish goals you are justified in responding with force sufficient to nullify the threat. That doesn’t necessarily mean killing them, but it happens to be that the fastest way to stop someone is by causing trauma sufficient to send them into shock. It also happens that the fastest, surest, most portable and accessible means of doing that is through the use of firearms.

            There is an saying in the firearms community ‘God made man, Sam Colt made them equal’. Trite but true. Firearms, especially repeating firearms, actualize the democratization of force. The frailest people in a society can defend against aggression from the strongest.

            So yes, AR-15s are good for shooting other people as well as hunting and target shooting. I think the question becomes ‘why would someone else want to deny law-abiding citizens the most effective tools to do these things?’

          • You keep talking about bombs like it supports your point, but I’m not really sure you understand the implications it has for your argument. I’m not arguing the potential for success of American insurrection or lack thereof. I’m saying that the firearms available on the civilian market don’t actually make the slightest bit of difference against a modern army, much less one as spectacularly overpowered and effective as the US armed forces. Successful terrorists (sorry, ‘patriots’) use bombs because there’s no point in trying to take on that sort of overmatch even with anti-tank weapons and machine guns. Bombs aren’t covered under the second amendment and are very illegal, which (as I’ve said several times now) makes the second a thoroughly outdated and worthless ‘check’ as far as the power of the government is concerned. You’re better off just voting.

            All of the above applies to foreign support as well, because last time I checked that isn’t covered by the right to bear arms either (and last I heard the US also still has a navy, so it’s kind of a hypothetical anyways).

            ‘why would someone else want to deny law-abiding citizens the most effective tools to do these things?’

            Maybe because the benefits of having the ability to do so are mostly illusory and the ability to mow down a horde of gangsters while guarding your five screaming children (or whatever the weepy hypothetical of the week is) really isn’t that necessary. You’re quite literally only slightly more likely to be struck by lighting then you are to be thrust into a situation where your right to bear arms actually comes to bear (pun intended). It’s simply not worth the tens of thousands of murders, injuries, and suicides.

          • http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-8

            I’m curious to hear your interpretation of these figures, particularly where they relate to ‘assault rifles’, a small subsection of the ‘rifles’ category. Pay attention to the trends and keep in mind that there are even more guns (particularly of that variety) present in each successive year.

            I’m also interested in any data you might have regarding increased rates of suicide attempts in homes with guns. Failing that, a logical explanation as to why a suicide with a firearm is more meaningful.

            I’m curious what it is about ‘gun death’ that makes it a meaningful subset of ‘death’.

          • What makes ‘gun death’ a meaningful subset of death? There’s a lot of it:
            Suicide statistics:
            http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/pi/rs/rep-rap/1998/wd98_4-dt98_4/p4.html
            http://www.afsp.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewpage&page_id=050fea9f-b064-4092-b1135c3a70de1fda
            http://www.stripes.com/news/experts-restricting-troops-access-to-firearms-is-necessary-to-reduce-rate-of-suicides-1.199216
            Firearms are responsible for a ludicrously disproportionate percent of suicides.

          • Ah, so your claim is that the presence of firearms increases suicide attempts, and that the substitution effect has no bearing on suicide methods. If firearms were not present no alternative method would be used.

            What is it about firearms that causes depression? I’m sure the American Psychiatric Association would be pleased to include your information in the next revision of the DSM.

          • I can tell you don’t know know anything about either depression nor suicide, or much of anything, so you should probably shut up before you make yourself look more like an ignorant blowhard then you already do.

            “What is it about firearms that causes depression?”

            Case in point.

          • Resorting to ad hominem attacks? I guess that’s what you have to do when your convictions are stronger than the facts that support them.

            Try again. This time think about not only what I said, but what I *meant*.

            You say that firearms are bad because people use them to commit suicide. I challenged that by pointing out the flaw in your logic. People *use* firearms to commit suicide, but firearms do not *cause* suicide. Japan, for instance: high suicide rate, low firearm ownership rate. Obviously people have found alternative means (substitution effect).

            I suppose the real question here, before either of us use any more of our time this way, is: can you be convinced? Will any amount of facts and logical debate convince you that your current position is wrong?

            If not, that’s fine. We can both go on our ways thinking that we won the argument.

          • Actually click on my links. Studies have found that disallowing the practice of letting soldiers take their weapons home reduces soldier suicide by a significant margin. Gee, it’s like trying to apply a rational economic mindset to an extremely emotionally charged and irrational one is nonsensical or something.

            “I suppose the real question here, before either of us use any more of our time this way, is: can you be convinced? Will any amount of facts and logical debate convince you that your current position is wrong?”

            If you had any, then I’d consider it.

          • Could you find the actual studies instead of bits and pieces picked from them for specific news articles? I might be willing to concede the ‘means restriction’ point in specific instances, but the articles you posted links to were maddeningly vague and included no links to the actual studies, so it’s impossible to judge whether the stats were taken out of context or how the studies were conducted.

            Additionally, you’re using a specific, very suicide-prone (29.36 per 100,000) group (US Army soldiers in 2011) to justify restrictions to a much larger civilian base (12 per 100k in 2009). Would you care to compare that to another nation’s total population base?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate

            It’s a ramshackle table because of the different reporting years and standards of the various countries, but it does show that countries with varying levels of gun control appear all over the list. South Korea, Japan and China appear near the top with severely restricted access to firearms by the civilian population (and yet somehow people find a way) while Greenland, with moderately liberal gun laws, appears right at the top. People in other countries who do not have access to firearms still manage to commit suicide at much higher rates than in the US or Canada. My point has never been ‘guns prevent suicide’ but rather ‘guns aren’t the problem’.

          • You might have missed my post when you were responding to MEoverHERE, but I really was hoping for a response.

          • Sooo…. nothing?

          • So you’re in favour of killing your own people, including unarmed civilians, who don’t share your point of view on how society should be structured? You support terrorism? Because when you validate the likes of the Taliban, that’s the message you are sending.

            Psssst… the US has a ballot box for getting rid of the “oppressors”…

          • If you look up ‘strawman’ in the dictionary…

            No, I didn’t say that, because I am not in favor of killing innocent civilians. Interesting that that’s where your mind goes though… Two can play that game, see?

            I was using the Taliban as an example of a low-funds insurgency that survives and makes it’s mark against the most powerful army in the world.

            If you’d like to go to a less modern example where the population overwhelmingly supported the insurgency you could look to the example of America’s birth.

            I don’t think that the American government is tyrannical, nor do I think it likely to turn into a tyranny within my lifetime or my grandchildren’s lifetimes. I do know that there are a great many examples in history of democracies going that path and I am not so naive as to think that it can NEVER happen here.

            If the ballots of Canadians ever fail, what recourse do you have?

          • The Taliban is a stupid comparison to make because they’re ludicrously better equipped then american civilians, and they use all sorts of illegal things like bombs and anti-tank weapons. They’re also fighting a foreign occupation, which really has no obligation to stick around and take their abuse.

            The American Revolution is an even worse comparison, because that was during a time when simply having a bunch of muskets and a few cannons made you proportionately as well equipped as the best European continental armies of the day.

            If the ballots ever fail? Then we’d be exactly as screwed as you are, only fewer of us would get pointlessly blown up by artillery and aircraft trying to reenact the battle of bunker hill with hunting rifles and pistols.

            The bottom line is that your vote has millions of times more stopping power (heh) then your biggest gun.

          • The bottom line is that your vote only has power as long as someone cares to count it.

          • If the ballots have failed then you’ve already lost. Guns are neither a ‘check’, nor a deterrent.

          • The only reason to argue for keeping arms to overthrow your government is that you think (a) it is likely to become necessary and (b) it is a reasonable approach to change of government.

            The circumstances of your nation’s birth are well distanced from today’s reality; thus so is the original reason for the Second Amendment. It is an anachronism used by gun lovers to uphold their unfettered right to weapons.

            On the other hand, though, given the increasing polarization of politics in the US, coupled with how well-armed people are generally, and militias and other crackpots doing all kinds of sabre-rattling, I’m far less confident of your nation’s future than you are. I don’t think it would take much to send your nation into collapse and turn it into a sea of armed camps. China calling your nation’s loans would likely be enough.

            As for Canada, as you pointed out with your Taliban reference, armed insurrection seldom involves direct confrontation with military, so there are all kinds of options should it come down to that. Given our proximity to the US, it wouldn’t take long to arm ourselves if we wanted to go that route. Not that I expect we would…

        • This is entirely true. Civilian rifles will always pose a threat to any government.regardless of what weaponry you have. It is common military knowledge that in order to TAKE ground you need infantry- not nukes or jets. FEET ON THE GROUND to both capture and hold territory. When you consider a civil war this is even more easy to see as a government’s WMDs are less an option lest they destroy their own buildings, own natural resources, and of most importance your own civilians! If you can’t tell your own civilians from the “terrorists” you will kill them with your advanced technology- your napalm, nukes, bombs, rockets. Kill too many of your own and you make MORE enemy out of your own civilians- you cant use the high tech weapons, you need infantry. Also consider that the US government sees its own army as a potential threat (source = DHS) in that many are militia members and ALL have sworn to protected the US constitution.

          ERGO this is very much true: “civilian rifles presented a credible threat to professional armies of the day”

          • Out of the hundreds of thousands of coalition troops deployed to Afghanistan, approximately 380 soldiers have been killed by hostile fire. Total. In fact, just the past few weeks in Mali, the French lost a single guy wiping out hundreds of rebels in Mali.

            I won’t even adress the rest of the dribble because it’s clear with comments about ‘nukes’ and ‘napalm’ that you haven’t got the faintest clue about what you’re talking about.

      • Always been curious why gun enthusiasts can’t have a conversation about reasonable gun control measures, without flinging invective and name-calling. If you’re trying to shore up your argument with nods to responsible gun ownership, it hardly helps your case when you behave like an immature child.

  7. Thank you for writing this piece about firearms. As a gun owner, I think it is crucial to create a dialogue in Canada surrounding firearms. This is because there are many misconceptions surrounding firearms and the laws over them, particularly so among Canadians. I find it seriously disconcerting that the author would delve headstrongly into the topic of firearms when she admits zero knowledge in this area. Please take a few minutes and go onto the Canadian Firearms Program website.

    First and foremost, Greg Bell, a soldier (thank you for your service), is not a constitutional lawyer or historian. If you want to comment on the constitutionality of firearms in Canada please consult an expert. And just because Bell is content with the current firearms laws does not mean the vast majority of firearms owners are also. Go to any gun show or shooting range and you will hear or, with a little bit of effort, can start a heated conversation about the intrusiveness and stupidity of our current firearms laws.

    Although I agree that Canadians do not have the constitutional right to “a right to keep and bear arms”, Canadians do have a RIGHT to arms. This constitutional right dates back to the Glorious Revolution and the English Bill of Rights (1689) which enumerates certain rights including: “That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence, suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law.” This right to arms is recognized by the English jurist and judge, William Blackstone, who in his Commentaries on the Laws of England notes that:

    “The fifth and last auxiliary right of the subject, that I shall at present mention, is that of having arms for their defense, suitable to their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law. Which is also declared by the same statute I W. & M. st.2. c. 2. [English Bill of Rights] and is indeed a public allowance, under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.”

    Although I frequently refer to England, you may be wondering how this applies to Canada. Well, it was only until 1931, with the Statue of Westminster that Canada became independent of the United Kingdom : “established legislative equality for the self-governing Dominions of the British Empire with the United Kingdom, thereby marking the effective legislative independence of these countries” Although Canada was made independent, it still kept centuries of English Common-law jurisprudence. Some rights in Canada are established by jurisprudence, for example, property rights. Although property rights are not entrenched in either the Constitutional Act of 1867 or the Constitutional Act of 1982 (section 26 of the Charter, however, says:“The guarantee in this Charter of certain rights and freedoms shall not be construed as denying the existence of any other rights and freedoms that exist in Canada.’) they are still recognized as a right by the courts in the case Harrison v Carswell (1975): “Anglo-Canadian jurisprudence has traditionally recognized, as a fundamental freedom, the right of the individual to the enjoyment of property and the right not to be deprived thereof, of any interest therein, save by due process of law.”

    I am not an expert, only an amateur historian and lawyer. Please get some constitutional historian/experts and tell me what they think! Maybe R. Blake Brown who wrote a book, I have recently ordered, Arming and Disarming: A History of Gun control in Canada (Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History.

    Thank you

    James

    • James, that is a well thought-out post.

      I don’t think the author had any intention of understanding gun ownership or gun owners. She starts out building a straw house by asking these people why they “need” an AR-15. Obviously that is a high bar to clear, just like asking a person why their house needs to be so big or why they drive the vehicle they drive, and it makes it very easy to set that straw house ablaze.

      Furthermore, the vehicle the anti-gun left uses is hunting. If many of them they are honest, they don’t like the fact some of us hunt any more than they like us owning firearms, but for now they will suffer that. Because once they limit gun ownership they can ask us why we “need” to hunt. And again, that bar is much higher, at which point they can take that, too.

      The reality is there are several valid reasons people prefer to have an AR, whether that be target shooting, competition shooting, varmint hunting, home defense, plinking, or just because they want one, and at least in America, that is enough. But that isn’t the answer she wants because she is more interested in trying to discredit the loonies, rather than understand the other side of the spectrum and in the process treat them like intelligent fellow human beings.

      • The reason you idiots have to ‘need’ something like that in the eyes of the sensible public is because ‘I want it’ is quite frankly not worth schools full of dead children. Welcome to the real world folks.

        • Except banning AR-style weapons would not have prevented any shooting.

          My sister was in a really bad car accident not too long ago. She was driving an SUV. Would banning SUV’s prevent these kinds of things?

    • Really? William Blackstone? You do know that he died in 1780, don’t you? And that law you cite was so Protestants could defend themselves against Roman Catholics. Truly relevant in today’s society.

      You may want to check out Britain’s current gun laws…

      • Thank you for the reply. My point regarding Blackstone was to point out that the right to arms was recognized in English law almost a century after the English bill of rights 1689. Additionally, just because a law is old does not mean it is any less valid. For example, few americans would want to repeal the first amendment because it is an old right. Yes the right did initially only apply to protestant. I am not particularly familiar with religious rights in Canada or US but section 2 of the constitutional act of 1982 guarantees religious freedom. In the , only a protestant can be come king or queen legally.

        Yes Britain does have tough if not draconian gun laws but comparing Britain to the UK is comparing apples with oranges. The UK does not have a written constitution with entretched rights while Canada has two constitutional documents. The Parliament in the UK is supreme which means that they have nearly unlimited power to pass legislation. In Canadan we have two levels of government: federal and provincial (which are given jurisdiction over property). Furthermore the courts are able to overturn federal and provincial legislation. Yes Britain and Canada share common law but only until 1931.

        • Sorry actually Canada must pass legislation before we can have a non-protestant monarch. Weird.

        • Canada’s laws stem from Britain’s, but are now independent from them. If the law you used to argue gun rights can be overridden in the land where it was written, then it surely can be here as well. It is an anachronism and should be treated as such.

          The law must and does move forward to meet the needs of the people.

          Americans could, in theory, repeal the Second Amendment – though I suspect trying to do so would result in armed insurrection. Despite the fact that the original reason for the Amendment has long since become irrelevant, too many Americans are either too much in love with their guns or too afraid of their neighbours to make the necessary mental shift. So their society becomes ever more prone to gun violence. It is a nasty downward spiral.

    • OTTOMH, I think the supreme court’s determination in Reference Re: firearms overrides any validity any of that might have had. The power to regulate includes the power, if a government chose, to ban.

      • Thank you for the reply. Yes government can regulate and yes ban certain things but not extinguish our right. the charter or rights and freedoms guarantees all Canadians from unreasonable search and seizure, the right to not be subject to cruel and unusual punishment and the rights to life, liberty and security of person. What can and cannot be done must be decided by our courts in accordance to the principle of fundamental justice. And yes, rights are not absolute.

  8. It drives me so insane when people such as yourself set out to write an informative and un biased article on gun issues when you don’t have the slightest informative knowledge on the subject beyond a super soaker, and just as the phrase you yourself use “its over before it even begins”. You clearly have your own agenda, and its clearly left wing liberal propaganda, you speak as though your opinions are the opinions of an entire nation, and it certainly doesn’t reflect the views of every Canadian. I have so much to say, but at the end of the day, Ill decide not to waste my time informing those who will never allow themselves to be informed. But, may I educate you more on a basic history lesson than on useless stats. You ask why, why an AR15..but why not some other form of semi auto rifle, of the exactly the same calibre, such as a ruger mini 14, I ask you to explain to me the difference between these two rifles and why one is classified as a “restricted assault weapon” while the other is simply just a hunting rifle, at the end of the day, its appearances, appearances are everything in our society, its all about how this firearm has been portrayed in the media and on film. You ask why, well what these subjects failed to answer is that the AR is unique to the fact that its a modular system, a user can choose between thousands of parts from hundreds of suppliers/manufacturers based upon specific requirements and the purpose intended. Unfortunately we can’t use this rifle for hunting here in canada,because of its rediculous classification, but if we could, we could choose a barrel from multiple different calibers and barrel lengths, multiple different stocks and grips, sights etc. No other rifle has this abilty, and what’s not to like about that, sure it “looks scary”, but you can thank the media for that. When it comes to the term “assault weapon” I refuse to use both, a gun is a firearm, it is only a weapon after it has been used as such, and is only an “assault weapon” after it has been used to commit an assault. You don’t go around calling your kitchen knife a weapon do you, until after it has been used to commit an assault on someone, a gun is a firearm, not a weapon. Lastly, the black powder musket was an “assault rifle” used to kill British and american sldiers during the war of 1812, its intended purpose was to kill people, but was also a great tool for taking game, same as the lever action “cowboy rifles” used to kill indians by the thousands, truly a state of the art assault rifle of its time, but, do you refer to this firearm as an “assault rifle”, next , the bolt action rifles, used in WWII, standard firearm for killing germans but also great for taking deer and moose. So today we arrive at the AR15, our “assault rifle” of today, but tomorrow will be something else, as technology never ceases to develop in the search for better arms, and in 50 years when we look back at this rediculous political debate, over a rife that most will then be using as a simple tool to take game, and remeber the insanity that surrounded it, it will be laughable. I appologize for type mistakes in my comments, but it was created using my blackberry, if you want to spend your time on banning something, ban this thing, Ill gladly be on boared with that!!

    • Want a sensible discussion about gun issues? Then drop the holier then thou attitude, because nobody really cares about the intricacies of your Selectfire-laser sight-vaiable scope-tacticool Bushshooter 52000, and the fact that you think an ‘assault weapon’ is actually just a term for a weapon that’s been used in an assault shows you know less about the topic then I do.

  9. I, too, was surprised about the popularity of the AR15, but after asking around, I’ve found out that the owners really enjoy having them. The rifles are modular, so you can swap stocks, receivers, barrels etc., and tinker with them the way some people like to tinker. They are apparently accurate, reliable and fun to shoot. The owners don’t really see any connection between what they are doing and the recent mass shootings. To be fair to the AR15 owners, the AR15 is not really any more dangerous than many other rifles, except for the fact that they can be equipped with high capacity magazines. 20 or 30 round magazines are common with 100 round versions available. Up here, most hunting rifles are limited to 5 rounds.

    Given the popularity of the AR15, Obama will have a very tough battle banning them. However, he may have some success limiting magazine size.

    Just to see how fervent the gun owners in the US can be, check out this link about Jim Zumbo, an outdoor writer who stepped on some toes.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Zumbo

  10. Look at that photo. Nobody there is overcompensating for anything, are they? Looks like the AV club at my high school broke into an armoury.

    • that would be a gun safety class. You think thats not a good idea?

      • I think that band of “warriors” would benefit more from a couple of dates with real girls, than the Freudian gong show depicted above.

  11. Part of understanding the gun debate in the US is understanding the nature of the Constitution. The Bill of Rights expressly declares that the rights protected by the constitutional amendments therein “shall not be infringed”. This is a strict limitation imposed upon Congress specifically intended to limit the powers of Congress and the Presidency. The gun owners fear, quite rightly, that infringements upon the Second Amendment, unopposed, will necessarily lead to infringements upon other rights such as a free press, religion, and freedom of assembly. That is why non-gun owners also support upholding the Second Amendment.

    • The second amendment was infringed a long time ago by virtue of the fact that there are ‘arms’ that are not allowed in civilian hands.

  12. Amid all the noise on both sides of this argument a fundamental question seems to be far from front of mind in these threads. When you buy a gun are you REALLY prepared to kill another human being? When you pull out your gun to confront an armed intruder you have to shoot first or die first. Even seasoned law enforcement officers often have to seek professional help for the side effects of the trauma associated with killing someone.

    • Actually I am – if my life or the lives of loved ones were being threatened – you bet I would have NO PROBLEM.

      • The operative word in your comment is “IF”. Intellectual conviction is one thing: emotional consequences are quite another. A moment’s hesitation and you are dead. A successful conclusion to the gunfight could leave scars beyond the benefit of the killing.

  13. How different really is Canada? In truth, we do have a gun culture here(ask Justin Trudeau). Canada is ranked the nation with the 13th highest rate of gun ownership by the UN’s small arms survey. Canadians are almost five times more likely to own a gun than a Brit. More than twice as likely as an Australian. The gap between 5th place Serbia and Canada is not that wide. In addition, gun purchases seem to be going up in this country. The recent court case(together with the Conservatives strengthening of the self defense laws) will probably further acclerate the rise in gun ownership.The laws are tighter here but it is a joke to think that we don’t have a gun culture. We live in a country where the population owns almost 10 million guns. There is a large hunting population here. Also, 20% of the population lives in rural areas where it might take the RCMP or OPP quite some time to respond to an emergency. Interestingly,progressive low crime countries such as Norway(#11), Sweden(#10), Finland(#4), and Switzerland(#3) had even higher rates of gun ownership than Canada. In Switzerland, reservists keep their automatic rifles and a clip in their house. Crime is low there and home invasion almost nonexistent. In all these countries(except for recently Sweden), young men are required to perform military service.They are trained in the careful use of weapons. The key answers would seem to be tougher mental health laws making it easier to committ disturbed people and mandatory training classes.

  14. Another ill-informed Canadian passing judgment on the American Constitution.

    The Constitution is a wonderful document that anticipated the overreach of governments into the lives of individuals. The attempt at gun control is just one more way that governments overreach – witness the farce that is Chicago – it has some of the most restricted laws against guns and it is also has the highest rate of death by guns that any American city – how’s that working out? But then government always knows best – NOT!

    The only thing that this writer states that is true is that she doesn’t know anything about guns, but then proceeds to inform us all what should be done about something that she doesn’t know anything about!!

    • Why is it that American firearms owners tout the importance of upholding this ONE portion of the constitution (and an arguably mis-represented one at that – I agree that your founding fathers were very smart when they wrote the thing), yet stand idly by while your government enacted laws against MANY of the other (in my humble opinion; more important) ones?

    • This just in! State-specific gun laws are worthless in a country with freedom of mobility! In other news, the sky is still blue.

  15. Written by a woman who had made up her mind long before any facts even entered it.

  16. Just FYI go ask your dad, your granddad, you son, anyone you know what gun they use to hunt. Ask them if it was ever used in a WAR. Odds are it was. I don’t care what it looks like “military style weapons” could mean just about any damn gun out there. That Lee Enfield 303, your M1 Garand and other common “ok” hunting rifles, all designed to KILL PEOPLE but also ideal for hunting. Sorry guys its not the guns that kill people, its sick twisted individuals with guns.

  17. Emma Teitel great opinion with no in-depth research, after this can you please do an article on assault spoons, they’re getting people fat.

  18. Lets see: I have a strong non-factual bias against {topic X}, so I think I’ll write an article about it. I’ll limit my research to that of the anecdotal variety and make sure I reframe any results to match my biases. I am a Macleans “reporter”.

    The issues of firearms ownership in the US and are complex. There are irrational “whackjobs” on both sides.

    We, in the US, maintain firearms as per our Constitution, as a last resort against a tyrannical government. This concept is ingrained in us and seems very alien to Canadians. We chose to throw off an oppressor and Canadians waited them out. We’re still not that patient, but we don’t disparage you for being so tolerant of their lingering or for your love of the Crown. OK, maybe for the love of the Crown…

    Our government has steamrolled over the 10th Amendment (limits on Federal power). They have long disregarded the 4th and 6th. The 2nd, relating to firearms is the only credible firewall for further erosion of freedoms.

    There is no Constitutional test for “sporting purpose” with regard to our firearms and we certainly don’t concern ourselves with how you view the aesthetics or function of our firearms.

    Canada is a wonderful country, but neither your thinking nor your solutions fit or scale to our problems.

    Now, I’m off to write an article about the sad state of Canadian journalism. I’ll interview a blogger and the kid that delivers my in-law’s newspaper in Saint John.

  19. It is discouraging how people judge the validity of individuals owning firearms. It is a sport, recreation, and hobby enjoyed by many. How can being in the great outdoors with friends and family enjoying a wholesome activity be vilified so easily?
    People who are not involved in the sporting aspect of firearms would be well served to honestly educate themselves about firearms, prove themselves competent by acquiring a PAL(possession and acquisition license), and at that point moving on to express an educated opinion. And go out and do some shooting! Hitting bulls-eyes with speed and precision is incredibly fun and rewarding.
    It is impossible to evaluate and judge what others desire, need, or feel passionate about without restricting the personal liberties of others. This is not what Canada is about.
    Here is a statement that may serve to illustrate the mentality that restricts many Canadian gun owners in pursuing their passion. I hope you can see the parallels and try to gain some understanding.
    “Sports cars should be banned. We don’t need them. The maximum speed limit anywhere in Canada is 110 Km/Hr. Why do you need something that will go 300? People are killed by speed every day.” What if minivans were non restricted, 4 door sport sedans were restricted, and good looking 400+ HP two doors were prohibited? (It’s exactly the same thing!).
    Pro-gun and anti-gun are going to have to work together to keep each other safe (let’s be honest – there are people who should never, ever be allowed to have a gun). At the same time we have to respect the rights and liberties of one another.
    What are we going to do?

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