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Nov/Dec 2012 – On Firearms

On firearms

A not-always comfortable relationship with a useful farm tool

?For someone raised in a home that had guns, and who has two—a .22 and a 12-gauge shotgun, that I use reasonably often—I remain uncomfortable with them. I get jittery as soon as I unlock the firearms cabinet and draw out one of the guns, and I remain on edge until I place it back.The short and easy explanation is that I don’t use guns enough to get comfortable with them. I am not a hunter, so there are no extended periods handling a firearm in all sorts of conditions. The typical situation requiring a firearm is something like this: I get a call that geese are on one of the grain fields. I put the shotgun behind the seat of the truck, drive to the field, and trudge across the field with the gun slung on my shoulder. Two out of three times the geese take off before I can get within range; the rest of the time I get in a shot. Sometimes I kill a couple, sometimes I don’t. Start to finish the process is 20 minutes. At that rate it is hard to get to what Malcolm Gladwell calls the magical 10,000 hours—that being the amount of time required to truly master a skill.As a result there has been some er, ineptness in my kills. You learn the effective range of a shotgun through trial and error, and one of the errors resulted in a wounded Canada goose that rose up off our field to an altitude just high enough to clear a line of trees, then promptly augered in, like a Messerschmitt trailing smoke, landing in the back yard of the one neighbour in the area who really opposes the use of firearms in goose control. Outraged, she has requested, and we have agreed, to use the shotgun to scare off the geese on that field, but not actually kill them. Aim. Fire. Miss. That’s me.In another case, my ex-wife asked me to come dispatch an old and favorite ewe named Alfie, so named after hockey star Daniel Alfredsson. What was supposed to be the killing shot in fact passed right through the head, exiting Alfie’s lower jaw. Alfie took off, not in the least bit dead. I’ll spare the rest of the details, because they are all bad. I finished the job with a sledgehammer.

There is a tragic–comedic aspect to these events, perhaps explainable and excusable as the necessarily awkward steps in learning how to deal with pests and how to put down livestock. But I have to wonder if, as writer Ray Ford says in the article on firearms and farms in this issue, I am one of those people who simply shouldn’t have firearms. Rash, hasty, hot-tempered, prone to making bad decisions when under stress, I should perhaps recognize that some skills are best left to others. I know I’d be happy to never pick up another gun.

If Ray’s article provokes some serious reflection on guns—even if only for the editor of this publication—then I will consider it a resounding success.

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Speaking of Ray Ford. . . . a long-time Small Farm Canada columnist, Ray received Silver for best Press Column at the recent Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation Awards. Small Farm Canada also received Silver for Best Press Editorial. Both articles can be accessed through Facebook.