Historical foundations of Second Amendment

To the Editor

As both a teacher of Grade 11 American history and a holder of a Canadian Firearms Acquisition permit I read “Website Brings Gun Violence Awareness” with both professional and personal interest.

While I find Ms. Craden’s grassroots movement admirable I think that she like many other activists misunderstand the historical foundations of the Second Amendment while conflating gun laws in Canada with those in the United States.

They are very different.

The Second Amendment or the right to bear arms was instituted by a nascent country that was justifiably concerned by existential threats both from the within and beyond their borders. In order to protect their fledgling democracy it was crucial that citizens be able to repel invaders and overthrow tyrants. With a small standing army the United States relied on citizen militias that could be quickly raised. The remnants of this can still be seen in the U.S. National Guard. Canadians tend to be sanctimonious when it comes to the Second Amendment but our history is profoundly different. We never had to fight for our country much less defend it. As a dominion of Great Britain others provided for our defence.

In the ensuing 200 odd years a great deal has changed and the muskets and black powder rifles that guaranteed the American experiment have been replaced by semi-automatic assault rifles and armor-piercing bullets; weapons in other words that the framers of the US Constitution never would have foreseen. I agree with Ms Craden on this aspect. There is a toxic gun culture in the United States that goes against the original intention of their Constitution but the right to bear arms isn’t a dangerous libertarian blunder but a necessary solution to the United States’ precarious position at the end of the 18th century.

Ms. Craden’s conflation of the laws that rule firearms in the United States and Canada respectively suggest that she doesn’t understand the laws in either country.  In Canada if citizens wish to purchase and use a long rifle they need to take a three-day training course where they practice with a decommissioned firearm. They have to pass a written and practical exam. Additionally they must pass a background check and then wait three months for their licence to arrive in the mail. Firearms by law are required to be kept under lock and key at all times. Ammunition must be stored separately. If people wish to purchase and use a handgun an additional three-day course is required again with a practical and written test. Handguns (or restricted weapons) need to be stored securely and can only be used at a sanctioned range. Assault rifles and automatic weapons are prohibited.

My guess is that Ms. Craden doesn’t know a great deal about the laws that govern firearms in either the United States much less where she lives; simply that she finds firearms distasteful and is going to write a song about her confusion. This is her right. However I hope my letter inspires her to seek a better understanding of the laws that govern this country as well as fostering deeper insight regarding the historical forces that have helped shape our neighbours to the south.

Rory Gilfillan
Eagle Lake