Thursday, May 20

GUNS OR BUTTER?

Ken Dryden was asked by a listener this week if he would vote to ban all gun sales if he wins a Liberal seat in the House of Commons.

The listener clearly wanted it. Dryden paused ... then, with quiet deliberation, expressed concern for the ease with which a gun can be used in a dispute.

"We've all been pushed too far at some point," said the great goaltender. "We've all snapped. If a gun was there, the temptation might be there too."

Fair enough. The availability of guns in the U.S. logically contributes to more gun use. There are many people brandishing guns in America who wouldn't be fit to walk the streets here.

But what would banning gun sales in Canada really accomplish?

There is no problem with firearms here. Not from collectors. Not from legal owners and hunters. In fact, very few guns on the streets of Toronto originated from legal hands.

The guns come from Buffalo and across the border from the native reserve in Cornwall, and from Windsor via Detroit, and from Boston to Vermont and into Montreal. These guns are duct-taped to mufflers, among other sneaky tactics.

So, why pick on gun retailers and gun owners and collectors? The illusion of maintaining law and order? Or are they just easy targets?

The reason appears to be a concern for the development of a U.S.-style gun culture in Canada. For it is that proliferation of firearms that would spark an American-style crisis.

Guns are a part of our neighbors to the south to such an ingrained degree that the gun is the single biggest totem of power in the culture. More than money even. The gun is also the great equalizer. It's the "Peacemaker". Guns serve as the arbiter of all dramatic resolution in the biggest medium of narrative fiction, the movies.

The gun is loved with the violence of a Hindu God. A deity that inspired the Manhattan Project's Robert J. Oppenheimer to intone the Bhagavad-Gita while standing in the shadow of a mushroom cloud: "I am become death: the destroyer of worlds."

The consumer-driven secularity of America really only approaches spirituality through the oblique representation of death. Death inherent in the gun.

Next to the funeral industry, the gun is the spiritual representation of American consumerism. The only conscious and declarative psychological discussion of death is the image and the thing.

Guns: Sexy. Cold. Final.

Clint Eastwood says in Unforgiven: "When you kill a man, you take away everything a man has, and everything he's ever gonna have."

Clint himself is the personification of the gun: assertive individuality, restoration of order, and, through death, transcendence. Justice. The immortality of the spirit.

The aggressive American, the American gun and the American gun owner are concepts as foreign to Canadians as "The Star-Spangled Banner". We may know some of the words, but we don't sing it. We watch others singing.

Canadians who own guns apply the same passion and care that they display for expensive fishing rods. There's no swagger with gun ownership. Just a fear of being labeled ... or scaring a neighbour. The open discussion of gun ownership here is about as popular as herpes. Such is our Canadian gun pathology, a reverse cultural attraction.

We may devour Hollywood action movies, but the context for the gun here is decidedly un-American.

Ken Dryden won't need to be awoken in the middle of the night to be warned, because there will always be fewer people owning guns in Canada; those that do, statistically, will look after them.

So, let Clint Eastwood squint under the rocket's red glare. And the mushroom cloud. Not to mention the cold, sexy steel. And let us pray.

Now, please. Kindly leave the gun owners alone.

You heard me. Fuck off. DON'T MAKE ME LOSE IT!