Guns and rights

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Congratulations to the federal Liberals for their ban on assault weapons. Despite the opposition by assault-gun owners, claiming to speak for all gun owners and all hunters, polls tell us Canadians want all guns designed specifically to kill humans banned. 

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Congratulations to the federal Liberals for their ban on assault weapons. Despite the opposition by assault-gun owners, claiming to speak for all gun owners and all hunters, polls tell us Canadians want all guns designed specifically to kill humans banned. 
My father gave me my first rifle when I was twelve, a single-shot .22. No mandatory lessons and permits (apart from hunting licenses) back then, but I grew up around hunting rifles, and did a fair amount of hunting, living in Northern Ontario. I knew nothing of assault or military weaponry; these have nothing to do with the sport (or necessity) of hunting. Likewise sidearms. It was the time of the Korean War, but military weaponry was still not for sport, especially hunting. 
Hunting is a legitimate sport, with clear and humane rules. It’s circumscribed by seasons and limits, permits and training, and by our neighbours. I feel great regret for having shot a large black bear, myself, but we relished the grouse, rabbits, and ducks which my mother prepared so well. These dishes fit well with the trout, walleye and pike we also ate. Our home was the Boreal Forest!
But the question of guns does not come down to logic, culture, history, psychology, or even good sense – it comes down to “rights”. Gun owners claim it is their “right” to own guns, legal guns. And while “rights” do make a dramatic argument, living as we do in the shadow of the Land of Personal Rights, it’s worth considering the question of rights.
Where do rights come from? The right to own a gun? Canada has no amendment to a national constitution specifically awarding this “right” to citizens, as has the States. The right of self-defence? The right to hunt, when assault weapons are not for hunting? But all these rights – why are they rights? They may be considered rights needed to survive (self-defence), but we have an efficient food system, plus police and a legal structure to protect our communities.
The focus on rights is very interesting – and complex. There are individual rights and community rights. When they conflict, when one guy says he has a right to own an assault weapon with multiple clips, and the surrounding community says they have a right to live without fearing those armaments’ use, which side has justice and morality supporting it? 
Why would we feel one person’s “right” should trump a whole community’s rights?
Even more, if rights are so important, all rights, how do we decide which merit protection? For example, what about other rights, even more important rights? Long-term, community-strengthening, individual-enhancing rights? The right to an education? The right to a job? The right to a roof over your head? Health care – including the right of seniors to enjoy their final years, as best we can provide? There are other, bigger, “rights”: right to fresh air, uncontaminated food, a clean environment, an honest government? Aren’t these rights, and important ones, too?
And, really, aren’t they more important than the “right” to own a military assault weapon?
Do they even compare?
Speaking as, historically, a hunter and, presently, an admirer of the natural world, but also as a father and grandfather, a businessman and a member of a community (which I expect to be well-governed and supportive of all its members), a traveller, a continual student – all these things add “rights” in our society. Let the assault-gun advocates support free college education, a living minimum wage, a cleaner environment, or even better care for seniors – and then we can talk about sport hunting (and cars and sports and …..). Shouldn’t first things come first?