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Gun owners say they're wrong target

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Drizzt, Jan 8, 2006.

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  1. Drizzt

    Drizzt Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Moscow on the Colorado, TX
    Gun owners say they're wrong target
    Jan. 7, 2006. 10:51 AM
    A.B. SMITH

    Here's a true story from 50 years ago that could never happen today. Two teenage boys were swaying back and forth in a Toronto streetcar, .22 rifles propped between their knees, headed for the dump to do some shooting. A police officer boarded and walked past them, eyed the two rifles, and said in a firm, fatherly voice, "Those wouldn't be loaded now, would they, boys?"

    "No, sir!"

    "Be careful, now."

    And that was that. Of course, those days are past. What used to be seen as tools or mundane pieces of sporting equipment don't fit into urban Canadian society today. Forget about intent; guns are weapons and as removed from the lives of most citizens of Toronto as woodstoves and horse stables.

    But, for a minority of law-abiding citizens, the city's registered shooters, they do have a place.

    What is it about guns? Why bother?

    That question can be answered on two levels. The obvious one is what law-abiding citizens use guns for. Almost none uses them for self-defence. This is Canada, after all. Most firearms are owned for hunting, fewer for target or sport shooting, fewer still as collectors' pieces.

    The other to answer the question has to do with mastery and growth and self-expression. Also beauty. Guns can be beautiful pieces of engineering.

    A man who holds the Canadian record for an unusual version of skeet — firing at airborne clay targets with muzzle-loading shotguns of a type used 300 and 400 years ago — speaks of his relationship with shooting in the same terms you would expect of a professional golfer, going beyond the technical and physical challenges required to win consistently.

    He shoots in matches around the world and thrives on the competition and the challenge of the sport. The "mental aspect" he stresses involves more than a positive attitude. Like Jack Nicklaus, who said he "never missed a putt in my mind," this man can see a successful shot before it occurs.

    The gun he holds extends his world and opens his mind without needing to study Zen or to enter a yoga studio. There is more of him than he'd otherwise have.

    Corey Keeble, a curator at the Royal Ontario Museum, understands the fascination with firearms as an art form and with the brilliance shown in both design and manufacture.

    He deplores the negative attitude of many in Toronto towards firearms as inane. "People don't think of firearms as part of the whole culture," he says. "The problem is not the technology but the way it's used."

    Jim Gooding, now with the Canadian Guild of Antique Arms Collectors and a founder of the Ontario Arms Collectors Association, shakes his head at the idea of a ban on the private ownership of guns.

    "There's a fascination with the technology, the emotional appeal of the craftsmanship involved in a 17th-century flintlock that would be utterly impossible to duplicate today."

    But what of the run-of-the-mill firearm owner. Most of us hunt. We don't need the food, although we appreciate it. We particularly relish the connection to an earlier time and the more direct role of provider that hunting evokes, an honesty in the getting of meat.

    And there is a deeper reason still, for some. No matter how much we might enjoy hiking, canoeing, camping and the like, some of us find the experience lacking. We are visitors, spectators at a show of birth and death and change. As hunters, we become participants. For a short while, we are part of the flow of something that is vast and inexorable but still moves over a little to make room for us.

    In honing our skill as shooters, there is the personal challenge that any individual sport holds. We have the camaraderie of recreational target shooting at local clubs, but once in a while even we may be faced with a mystery encountered by elite shooters. We achieve our most consistent results with the help of extra equipment, but our very best may come when we keep it simple and draw only upon will and focus. "Where did that come from?"

    As collectors, we may not own the work of a master gunsmith and artist, but there is reason to appreciate what we have. Take a Colt model 1911 .45 ACP semi-automatic pistol, slightly over a kilogram of blued steel and walnut.

    It was not made to punch closely spaced 0.45-inch holes in paper, which is what I use it for. It was not made to build the strength in my arm or to challenge the co-ordination of my hand and eye. It was not born as a piece of sporting equipment. It was made to stop angry people in their tracks. Whatever served that end was tweaked and honed; what did not was eliminated. What remains, after almost a century of refinement, is focused and elegant. It is not something you struggle to hold; rather, it is a device that extends your arm.

    Yes, it conveys an aura of menace, but there is challenge and satisfaction in mastering that power and using it safely.

    Back home in the city, my guns are locked away. I know they seem a dangerous luxury to some, that young lives and whole neighbourhoods that have been destroyed by guns. I tell myself that the alcohol in my cupboard and the car in my driveway can be even more dangerous.

    I believe that desperation is what must be addressed to stop the desperate acts of desperate young men. I tell myself I'm not the problem; my guns are not the problem. But I keep them locked away. And I keep quiet about them.

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