Of guns and citizenship

Peter Jackson
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“Farmers, hunters, sport shooters and other firearms owners … are treated as suspect, as second-class citizens, their only crime being that they legally own and operate a firearm.”

— Candice Hoeppner, Conservative MP

for Portage-Lisgar

I’m not sure when I became a second-class citizen. It may have been the first time I wore jeans and a T-shirt to a symphony concert.

But there’s no doubt that any aspirations I may have had to rub shoulders with the elite movers and shakers of society are all but dashed. I am doomed to lurk in the underbrush with the lesser crowds, far beneath the enviable canopy of aristocracy.

You see, I have a long gun — a 12-gauge, to be exact.

It’s not technically my gun. It’s my father’s gun. But considering the commonality of residence, I feel I should wear the indelible stain it’s left on our otherwise pristine citizenship. My father is a good and moral man, and it’s just not right he should bear the brunt of the shame.

Fortunately, the gun is registered. A family friend took care of that, thank heavens. We were spared the humiliation of showing our faces, like indigents at the dole office. I can imagine the scowl on the registrar’s face as he studies us unscrupulously. “Dirty, smelly gun owners,” he would say. “Go shoot a squirrel for dinner, you filthy heathens.”

(Of course, you can register your gun online, but that’s not the point.)

What’s most unsettling about our demoted citizenship is that no one ever uses this 12-gauge.

I used it once or twice in my early teens when we lived for a time in St. Mary’s Bay. A local boy and I were in the woods one day and inadvertently flushed two or three grouse out of the bushes.

“Y’all wanna come up heah in da mornin’ and shoot ourselves a couple o’ dem critters,” my friend said. Actually, he didn’t have a southern accent, but it seems appropriate for some reason.

“I show would, suh,” I replied.

I woke up at 5:30 a.m., grabbed the gun and a few shells and went out to rendezvous with my fellow outdoorsman.

We spent at least an hour or two back in the woods. Not one solitary grouse. Nothing. Obviously, someone had tipped them off.

We did manage to show off our marksmanship by liberating a couple of twigs from their branches. Then we called it a morning.

That shotgun now leans against a stud in my basement. It has a lock on the trigger. The key is in a drawer somewhere, and the cartridges are in another drawer. If an intruder decides to break into the house, I can only hope he has the decency to help me find the keys and shells so I can successfully ward him off.

My problem, of course, is that I’m really a city boy. I venture around the bay now and then, but I’ll never truly fit in. I smile and nod and pretend to appreciate their quaint ways, but I soon feel the need to escape back to the cocoon of urban life. A life where people don’t just walk in on each other without calling first. Where people don’t just offer you a big meal at any time of the day without batting an eye. Where people don’t spontaneously come together to help a neighbour in need, or reach out to a total stranger with welcome arms.

That is so … well, so second-class. That’s not me.

I like anonymity. I like suspicious glances and locked doors. I like living in the centre of the universe, where only the coldest and most sophisticated people can survive. Where all the comforts of life are at the tip of a credit card. Where only the creme de la creme venture out to theatres and concert halls, to see and be seen, and to pretend they appreciate art beyond all appreciating.

Guns have no place in such a civilized society. They are crude, archaic tools that belong to a bygone era of raw subsistence and lawlessness. They belong in museums, next to wax figures of early pioneers and Dick Cheney.

Gun owners must be shunned if we are to ever drag ourselves into modernity. Let’s help farmers and hunters cast off their primitive ways and start living like modern, educated citizens. You don’t need to shoot animals. Just drive to the grocery store like everyone else.

I cringe to think I still have one of these vestiges of human savagery lurking in the bowels of my home. It haunts me at night. It burrows into my conscience every day. It is holding me back from achieving the ultimate apex of existence: becoming a true modern man — an übermensch, if you will —  fully married to the march towards a perfect civilization.

And so, I must rid myself of this awful curse, this dreaded symbol of anarchy from earlier, dimmer times.

The gun will have to go.

That is, unless someone wants to go grouse-hunting.

Yes? I’ll look for those shells.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s commentary editor. He can be contacted by e-mail at pjackson@thetelegram.com.

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