I remember vividly at the Taccom Industry Dinner in 2019 when John Hipwell, founder of Wolverine Supplies, stated after receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award that if the Liberals held power after the Federal Election: “it’s over…we’re finished”. Mr. Hipwell was encouraging political involvement in a room full of industry members whose very professional lives depended on a political outcome. How many of them did so is unknown.
For my part, I dove right in and took the reins as the Campaign Manager for one of our local Conservative Party of Canada candidates. Political involvement has always been a big part of my life. As a firearm owner, politics is second nature and a means to an end in order to continue enjoying The Canadian Shooting Sports.
On October 21st, 2019, the numbers rolled in. My candidate lost and the Liberal Party of Canada maintained control of the House of Commons, albeit with a minority government. It was a dire outcome for The Canadian Shooting Sports Community. There was no question that soon, many firearms owned by some of the most highly-vetted and responsible citizens in the country would be prohibited. It was not a matter of if - but when.
Just like all Canadians, the events in Nova Scotia had a deep impact on all of us at Select Shooting Supplies. The evil. The methods used. The lives taken. It was a tragedy that was difficult to fathom. No matter the facts that began to come to light - that the monster did not have a firearm license and all of his firearms were acquired illegally - all I heard were Mr. Hipwell’s very poignant words.
“It’s over…we’re finished.”
The opportunity had come for Justin Trudeau and his caucus to finally unveil the plan that has been in the making for almost a year. On May 9th, 2019, Tony Clement, a one time member of the Conservative Party of Canada’s caucus and a former Cabinet Minister, stood in the House of Commons and asked about the government’s “secret plan to ban legal firearms without parliamentary debate”. This question was of course met with the standard line of looking out for the safety of Canadians by then Minister of Border Security, Bill Blair and many guffaws from the Liberal caucus.
Mr. Clement was not wrong. His timing was just off.
The Prime Minister and his cabinet did not want the exhaustingly long process of passing legislation to hold up their agenda of prohibiting lawfully-obtained property owned by some of Canada’s most highly-vetted and responsible citizens. What they required was an opportunity to harness the emotional response of Canadians who are unfamiliar with our firearm laws and focus it into a well-timed circumvention of the democratic process that would seem palatable to those naive of the truth of lawful firearm ownership in Canada.
What better factors to use to their advantage than a worldwide pandemic that shut down Parliament and the rampage of a madman still fresh on the minds of Canadians? Even before the victims were identified, the methods of the monster disclosed and the facts disseminated, the Prime Minister and now Minister of Pubic Safety Bill Blair were already turning the key on their plan. It was the perfect opportunity. There was no doubt the time had come to put it into motion with the iron a hotter red than it was ever going to be.
The Canadian Shooting Sports Community has been quick to criticize. The phones rang all day yesterday. Customers are saddened and outraged that their personal property has been relegated to their safes - and would not send one more projectile down range as the law now stands, even when we are able to return when the pandemic alleviates.
Social media has exploded with angst from those who have owned firearms for years and those who have joined the Canadian Shooting Sports Community recently - a 10% swell since 2015. Some social media interaction has been well thought out - and some not so much. As has tended to be an issue for at least the past 40 years, the Canadian Shooting Sports Community has never developed a consistent and palatable narrative or an outreach program to appeal to average Canadians. Until recently, we have kept the walls high and closed. Certain advocacy groups do a better job of being inclusive than others, but we should have started 40 years ago, cooperatively, with a united voice. It’s almost impossible to measure how much ground we have lost by not doing so.
The same can be said on the political side. This is going to be very difficult for most to read - but - Canadian firearm owners are politically lazy. A lifetime of political involvement has demonstrated that beyond a lawn sign and a promise to vote, the majority of firearm owners are happy to watch others do the heavy lifting for them - in the very arena that has the most effect on their personal property and their activities.
On May 1st, 2020, we lost a battle. It needs to be said - we put ourselves in this position after years of political apathy, poor public relations and a failure to unite as a community. We have barely been listening to each other, let alone listening to the general public to gauge their impression of The Canadian Shooting Sports Community.
We have no choice but to unite as a community - and that is going to take a lot of work to do. Egos will have to be set aside. Agreements will have to be made. Concessions will have to be given.
We have no choice but to become involved politically and that means networking in your own Electoral District Association - for a political party that has a viable chance of forming government. It means putting in volunteer hours for your local candidate and investing your money in their campaign. It means being a rational and logical political voice in your social circles.
We have no choice but to become educators. When the ranges open, we won’t be able to transport certain items we own any longer, but we can not sit idle and cease educating everyone who is willing to listen to the truth about the lawful ownership of firearms in Canada. Dedicate yourself to educating and take as many people to the range as you are able.
Much like Mr. Hipwell, I have been thinking “it’s over…we’re finished” ever since watching our very smug Prime Minister, Minister of Public Safety, Attorney General and Deputy Prime Minister address Canadians and forcefully impose further restrictions on some of the most highly-vetted and responsible citizens in Canada.
It’s only over if the Canadian Shooting Sports Community is going to stick to the status quo, seek instant gratification with minimal work and fails to innovate its communication methods and educational programs.
This community is more resilient than the Prime Minister and his caucus believes you to be. It’s a hard road and there’s hard work ahead - and there will not be quick change.
It’s not over. We’re not finished. We’ve just been knocked down, but not out. It’s time for the entire community to hit the reset button on its practices and get ready to do the heavy lifting, together. It’s all we have left.