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The right to defend yourself

By Clive Edwards
web posted January 7, 2008

Periodically I find myself in conversation with co-workers or acquaintances and the topic inevitably turns, once my firearms interests emerge, towards personal protection. "Sure, target shooting is OK," they say, "Even hunting. But self defense? Could you ever really shoot someone?"

When I hear such sentiments I know for an absolute fact that person has never given serious thought to what they would do when confronted by a survival situation. I recognize them for the potential victims they are no matter how successful they are in their careers. Ironically many people pay thousands of dollars every year for car insurance, house insurance and life insurance but never seem to give much thought to personal protection against violent crime or surviving natural disasters. They will spend hours every week working out at the gym but no time working on an emergency plan. We often don't understand that the time to come up with options and a game plan is not after the starting whistle.

For now, let's leave the gun out of it. I know people who couldn't kill a dog if it was chewing on their leg. For these people, using hands, feet, a rock or a baseball bat effectively are also out of the question. They are conditioned to play nice in all circumstances. You haven't needed survival skills yet in your life, so you haven't bothered to learn them.

For some people the mental shift comes first then they seek training in law and martial arts. For others the mental shift comes as part of the training process. For others no thought is required. Their first response is one of survival – their fight or flight instinct suffers no conditioned hesitation. It is this conditioned hesitation that most of us must address before we can safely and effectively handle personal protection and survival situations.

Conditioned hesitation occurs when we over think the situation. Often we are looking in our mind for solutions we don't have, or that shock us by their very nature. The result of conditioned hesitation is that our actual physical response always lags behind the required physical response. This is true in every aspect of our lives, not just personal protection.

Other times we act without thinking. This situation can be dangerous too, but proper training allows you to do much of the hard work before you actually need it – the opposite of conditioned hesitation - in effect conditioning you to do what the situation requires "without thinking" when you really need to. That is the reason everyone from actors to the military spend much of their time rehearsing. It is not merely to increase skill level, but to ingrain those skills to the point that under pressure training kicks in without further thought. The mind is still there overseeing events and actions but a specific conscious decision is no longer required to initiate action. Ideally the response is as good as the training.

Dialing 911 alone will rarely result in the crime being averted. The number of violent or potentially violent encounters settled without injury or death to the victim is significantly greater when the civilian is armed. Think about it. When you dial 911 you are asking someone with a gun to come bail you out of a bad situation. If you "don't believe in guns" you are exposed as a hypocrite. In any case help is seven to twenty minutes away in most urban areas. In rural areas you could be looking at hours. When mistakes are made, and they are, help might never come. You must take whatever measures you can to safeguard your life until, and if the police arrive. Statistically, the most effective means of avoiding injury or death is a defensive firearm.

In about ninety percent of cases a defensive firearm never needs to be discharged. An authoritative voice and visual presentation of a firearm are all that are required to convince the criminal to move on and find a weaker victim. The problem for even the strongest and most brutal criminal is that a firearm in the hands of a small, elderly, crippled individual is still a strong deterrent. The criminal's only consideration is, "How much heart does this victim have? Do they really have a gun and will they use it?" Most criminals interviewed in prison say they would not wait around to answer the question and indeed feared an armed victim more than they did the police.

Now is the time to answer "the Question". I have spent a significant portion of my life training in one form or another. I have learned to deal with my adrenalin. I know the rules. I also know my personal morality – everyone has the right to life. Everyone also has the right to protect their life, and that of those under their care who cannot effectively protect their own life.

My training is to retreat to a safe room and call 911 if there is time. My next step would be to state clearly and loudly to the intruder, "Stop. I have a gun. Leave now." My training continues into dealing with the situation either until help arrives or the situation is no longer a threat. If I have a loaded firearm in my hand I am not breaking any laws as long as I adhere to the Criminal Code of Canada.

As Judge Wright noted in his Reasons for Judgment in the Bruce Montague case -

The defendants argue, and the Crown concedes:

  • that Canadians have an undoubted right of self defence, and
  • that they have a right to use firearms for self defence in appropriate circumstances.
    (Ontario Superior Court, 2007-11-06)

In Canada we are not arguing about the legal right to use firearms for personal protection. It is a right we have always had extending back to the same British roots from which the Americans derived their 2nd Amendment. What we are arguing about is how to legally have a firearm in our hands when we need one.

The Canadian Firearms Center refuses to acknowledge the law of the land and refuses to issue personal protection carry permits even though, as Judge Wright affirmed, we have the right. The Canadian firearms Center also lists "protection of life" as a reason for applying to register a firearm, although they request that you phone a 1-800 number before checking that box on the application.

Dave Tomlinson had two very salient comments on the Firearms Act. He pointed out that "safe storage laws" only apply when a firearm is not in actual use. If it is under your care and control it is being used, not stored. While the law states that a firearm cannot legally be loaded anywhere it cannot legally be discharged no such place exists in Canada. As Judge Wright pointed out, a firearm is a legal means of personal protection "in appropriate circumstances".

We are in a political as well as legal fight to clarify those circumstances. Please support this fight by contributing to the National Firearms Association and to the Bruce Montague Court Challenge. ESR

Clive Edwards is a British Columbia based writer. (c) 2008 Clive Edwards






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