Thursday, December 15, 2022

How important is hunting in Canada?

Canada is back, yet again, in gun control negotiations. The Liberal government is attempting to ban a host of assault-style guns, some of which are commonly used by hunters, and, of course, they are hitting the expected brick wall.

Hunting seems to be a sacred cow in Canada, our equivalent to the 2nd Amendment in the USA. Technically, guns used in hunting should be licensed, although in practice most aren't, partly because the hunting-fishing crowd tend not to be huge fans of government regulation. For most, it's just a hobby, something they like to do, for whatever reason, kind of like stamp collecting or kick-boxing. For a small few - the relatively few Indigenous hunters who kill animals to live on, and farmers in some remote areas where farming is a potentially dangerous activity - guns may be something approaching a necessity. But mainly guns are just some people's idea of fun.

Personally, like most Canadians, I've never understood the attraction of guns or hunting. It is that far outside my field of experience and interest that it may as well not exist. Most Canadians would like to see guns banned, ALL guns, at least in cities. And every year, hundreds of people die from gunshots, mainly in cities. So, you can see the conundrum - what's a responsible government to do?

In an attempt to understand better just how popular guns and hunting are (i.e. how big the problem is, from a different perspective), I came across Canada Gun Facts and Stats, the most-accessed page on website, and it makes for some interesting reading. Apparently:

  • An estimated 4 million Canadians probably have a gun or some sort, although only 2.2 million of them have a valid license, a number that is gradually increasing each year.
  • That 2.2 million represents about 7% of the adult population, or 13% of the adult male population. Because, yes, it's very much a guy thing - only about 13% of gun license owners are female.
  • Most of those gun owners have at least one gun, because there are an estimated 20 million guns in the country, which suggests an AVERAGE of 5 gun per owner! Weird.
  • These gun owners spend an estimated $1 million every day on their guns, ammunition and accoutrements, and rattle off a million bullets every day.
  • About 90,000 professionals (police officers, military personnel and armoured car guards) have permission to carry guns for personal and public safety, and ONE INDIVIDUAL has official permission to carry a loaded handgun for personal safety (and the RCMP are not saying who).
  • There are as many shooting ranges in Canada as McDonalds restaurants, a stat that not many people know (and why would they?).
  • They claim that gun use as a pastime is more popular than golf, soccer, hockey or basketball, and that hunting and shooting contributes billions to to the Canadian economy every year.
  • More than three-quarters of gun licenses are concentrated in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia (although so is most of the population, so no big surprise there).
  • In percentage terms, Yukon has by far the largest number of gun owners (23% of adults), followed by Newfoundland and Labrador and Northwest Territories (17%) and then Nunavut (15%). Alberta is at less than 10%, while Ontario is down at 5%.

Most of the rest of the webpage also makes interesting reading. This is clearly not the strident American NRA crowd. They are at pains to stress that they are reasonable, responsible people who want nothing to do with criminals and law-breakers. They claim that guns are "at the heart of Canadian culture, heritage and tradition, and the economy". They describe the main laws, rules and checks on gun ownership in factual, but very slightly disparaging, terms, as though to say, "Gee, I wonder why all these rules are necessary?"

So, yes, gun ownership is quite a popular pastime, and some people are REALLY into it. The problem is that the eminently reasonable and pleasant folks who run are probably not the problem.

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