Letter: Canadian journalism and firearms terminology

…irresponsible use of pejoratives terms casts a dark shadow over firearms…used by hundreds of thousands of law abiding Canadians.

To the editor:

If there was ever a time we needed journalistic integrity it is today. Integrity in this sense refers to both thoroughness and honesty of reporting. Social media rapidly escalates the dissemination of information, whether good or bad, and most readers take what is reported at face value without further investigation. Considering this, what is reported should intend to be objective and honest. It should endeavour to be very clear about facts and very careful with the use of labels and pejoratives. When it comes to the reporting of firearms related news, care for such credibility appears to go right out the window.

There are over two million law abiding Canadian citizens who hold firearms licenses. In order to receive a license, we accept criminal background and reference checks and in the case of owning what are designated as restricted firearms, like handguns and some semi-automatic sporting rifles, we agree to constant screening. It is a fact that licensed firearms owners are some of the most or are in fact, the most, law abiding and screened citizens in Canada.

Sport shooting is a passion for many of us. Others within our culture like to hunt and collect firearms for their intrinsic or other values. Some of us like to do all three.

Sport shooters compete in local, provincial, national and international competitions. Sport shooters; let’s say IPSC, IPDA or trapshooting competitors, to name but a few, use a variety of firearms. They also use a lot of ammunition while training and competing. It is not uncommon for a couple hundred rounds of ammunition to be fired over the course of just one day in training.

Sport shooting competitors often own and use a variety of different firearms while trying to hone their skills as competitors. If something new, more accurate or highly ergonomic appears on the market, sport shooters are all about trying it out to see if an edge can be gained. The sporting side of shooting is a ton of fun and in many events, a male has no edge over the female. Heck, my own wife has out-shot me on occasion and I expect she will more and more as she prepares to be an IPSC competitor.

Members of the licensed firearms community come from all walks of life and it is just as common to see a blue collar worker out hunting or competing as it is to see a businessman, lawyer, doctor, retired senior citizen, businesswoman or dedicated housewife.

The point, the media appears to incessantly and intentionally use pejoratives like ‘”arsenal,” “weapon,” “assault rifle’ and “stockpiling ammunition” when reporting about anything firearms related. They do so in cases where it is clear that criminals are involved, which I have less of an issue with, but they also do so when the circumstances and intentions are unclear or when firearms are confiscated due to storage-related issues or when there was a complaint filed and the police are simply investigating and no charge or conviction has yet been laid.

The irresponsible use of these pejoratives casts a dark shadow over firearms in general which are owned and used by hundreds of thousands of law abiding Canadians. Journalists throw all firearms and all firearms owners under the bus when they use these terms incorrectly and or prematurely. For example, the use of “assault rifle” by the media is often used to describe a commonly owned rifle, an SKS, which is not an assault rifle at all.

An assault rifle is a very specific thing and something that a citizen cannot acquire a license to obtain as an individual. To be technical and accurate, an assault rifle is labeled such because it can fire in both semi and fully automatic modes. In 99 per cent of the times a journalist uses this label they stick it on a rifle that is not an assault rifle. This causes harm to law-abiding citizens who legally own and use these exact firearms. The misuse of these terms can effect a law abiding citizens very civil liberties and property rights due to the propagation of fear mongering and discrimination whether intentional or not. In regards to firearms we need less of this in the media and in politics.

Our firearms collections, whatever the legal purpose they may be owned for, are not weapons, are not assault rifles, are not arsenals and we are not stockpiling ammunition even if we purchase 1,000 rounds at a time to save money. Some sport shooters use thousands of rounds of ammunition over a shooting season and while doing so their hobby supports the Canadian economy through their purchases.

The last position a law-abiding firearms owner wants to be placed in is where we are forced to consider our firearms as weapons due to the actions of criminals i.e.: A home invasion etc. Remember, a ‘weapon’ implies intent and anything can be used as a weapon.

Journalists, please, I implore you, take more time to reach out to your local and extremely law-abiding firearms community to seek to become more educated about firearms in Canada so you can separate the majority from the negative minority while reporting. Law-abiding firearms owners in Canada far outweigh the criminals. Let’s all try to remain objective and remember that.

In the spirit of responsible firearms ownership and use—husband, father, hard-working tax-paying Canadian, member of the Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights,

Steve Boissoin, Kelowna