The importance of passing on our Canadian traditions to the younger generation can not be understated. Forget about COVID: there has been a shift in our culture in the past 10 years. We are forgetting our identity as people of one of the best (if not the best) nations in the world. Instead of coming together as a community and supporting each other we divide and segregate. Instead of being kind and caring citizens of an absolutely beautiful country, we fight and squabble. Instead of honoring our families, friends, culture, traditions and history, we try to erase our past and are lonelier than ever. Instead of using technology to bring us closer, we allow it to push us further apart. However, there is hope. We can use technology to improve our society. We can take a small moment out of each day to honor our Canadian heroes. Roméo Dallaire. Terry Fox. Chris Hadfield. The real fellas. We can talk about our differences, have honest and open discussions about polarizing issues, and still be friends at the end of the day. And we can remember how lucky we are to have the opportunity to live in such a wonderful country. The key is it must be “we”.
So how does this all relate to guns? Pause and reflect on your experiences as a firearms owner, collector, enthusiast. How come everyone at the range is so nice, yet so different from each other. How come so many people spend so much time living and breathing firearms? Why do you find peace, relaxation and joy behind the trigger of a rifle, pistol or shotgun? I believe the answer lies in two places: values and community. In Canada, our system of gun control ensures that only stand up citizens have legal access to firearms. These individuals come from all walks of life, be it doctors or plumbers, immigrants or indigenous, old or young. But they all have the same values that firearms ownership implies: responsibility, respect for the rule of law, a reasonable temperament, and the focus and aptitude that comes from hunting, sport shooting and collecting. So, what does a gathering of these people entail? It does not mean that all these people will be best friends, but they will have respect for others. It does not mean that they will share the same political views, but they will understand how we can reduce gun violence. And it does not mean that they will be happy, but they will have a community of like-minded individuals to support them no matter the troubles.
I do not pretend to have all the solutions to the ills of society. There are many other alternatives to guns that people may find is a better fit for them. However, recognize that we are a unique breed, and for those that firearms does appeal to it is often an endless lifelong pursuit, whether it be a bigger Buck, better score, or best collection. And we are behooved to pass this passion on to the next generation. So, take your family out to the range, go out with your friends, get involved in a youth program and support your local advocacy and political groups of choice. I do have one suggestion that is near and dear to my heart, and you may or may not have heard of it: the Canadian University Shooting Federation.
The Canadian University Shooting Federation was founded on a little principle that I learnt once upon a time: if you build it, they will come. We were originally founded as a solution to a problem: I had revived the Carleton Trap and Skeet team, but there was no league for us to shoot in. Hence, with assistance from a couple of key groups, a nationwide non-profit was formed. All it took was a few beers, many long conversations, and true passion that really came from the hearts of all involved. We started to believe that we could change the world one student at a time. That this could be more than just a sport shooting league. It could be a way to educate people. It could be a way to change perceptions. It could be a way to change the conversation.
So then it took off. Seven clubs started in just as many months. Countless volunteers. New partners and sponsors every month. Cabelas. Beretta. Vortex. Savage. Hundreds of students. The possibility of thousands. Support coast to coast. And couldn’t be happier with everyone involved. Everybody has their heart in the right place. Genuine people. People who care. That wouldn’t turn the blind eye to someone in distress. Who I could either laugh with or confide in. Honest Canadians. Fun people. Nice people. And I can tell you that each and every one of them wants to completely end gun violence through effective fact-based policy. Unsurprisingly none are gangsters or mentally unstable. The point is moot, because as we get stereotyped, we stereotype the other just as much.
There are two types of people who oppose legal gun ownership in Canada. The first is politicians who want to appeal to their base. These are citizens who want to get elected and will say anything to elicit an emotional response from their base. Not worth my time. They will change their tune if the masses have the veil of ignorance lifted. Which brings us to type number two: the average ignorant Canadian. This is not meant as slander, merely as a comment on how we generally view firearms if we have no experience with them. What very few people understand is how little opposition there is on campus to guns at Canadian post-secondaries. Most young adults conflate the United States and their laws, issues and politics with the situation in the great white north. While at Carleton, I talked to hundreds, maybe thousands, of students in the hallways to raise awareness for the Shotgun and Firearms clubs. Being raised in Alberta, I believed that everyone out east was a brainwashed into believing untruths about our system. Boy was I wrong. I was the one who was brainwashed. People are smart. Do not underestimate the influence that you can have when you present the truth and let someone come to their own conclusion.
So that’s what I did. I led people down the path, guiding them along the way, educating them about our laws, helping set up new shooter range days, and making PAL courses easily available. And the vast majority of people came to the same conclusion as I did in my youth: guns don’t kill people. People kill people. But I never forced my views upon them, I merely presented what I believed to be the truth, the only truth, and nothing but the genuine truth, and let them make their own choices from there. But there is something strange about when it came to them pulling the trigger. Almost universally, everyone gets it. They have been initiated. They have joined us. And they have fun! What pushback I did get, I met with compassion, positivity, and optimism. If you are a genuinely nice to people, treat them with respect (even if they do not treat you with respect), and have empathy and understanding for where their beliefs come from, anything is possible.
In 20 years, when this generation that is educated gets involved as politicians and bureaucrats, I know what will happen. Gun violence will drop drastically. We will find actual solutions to our problems instead of arguing about semantics. Not gun control, crime control. Fact will prevail over emotion. And gun policy will be a non-partisan issue where everyone will work together. Laws will be pushed in whatever direction needed to protect the general populace in every way possible. Perhaps some gun control laws will be passed that are more restrictive. Who knows, but I am in favour of doing whatever we can do to end gun violence, while allowing the citizens of this great nation as much freedom to do whatever they love. I think that makes a lot of sense.
Whether you are a shooter or not, I really want you to know a few things about me and the Canadian University Shooting Federation. We are not a political organization. We are a sport shooting league. We are not an elitist society. We are an organization open to all, university educated or not. People have told us that our guns are dangerous. That access to guns for post-secondary students is dangerous. I know one thing that is dangerous: narrow minded dogma, and lack of compassion for someone with dissimilar views. So again, shooter or not, go out and have a conversation with someone from a different background. Someone that enjoys hobbies that you look down upon. And emphasize with them. Understand that everyone is unique, and if it makes them happy without harming others then how can you judge? So, after reading this I implore you to do one thing: get involved in your community. Being apathetic, complaining about the current state of affairs, telling yourself “it doesn’t affect me”. These things do absolutely nothing for anybody. Pretty much the opposite. Being positive, having compassion and understanding for the “other”, working together to build a better future. These things improve Canadian society, bring happiness and satisfaction, and help better the world. And if we can do this all while getting the next generation involved in our passion, well I really can’t think of a better way to spend my time and energy. Can you?