Category Archives: Law and Legislation

The Art of Shooting. — Charles Edward Chapel


This is the latest acquisition to our library collection, something Mika found while browsing in  the Ottawa Public Library used book shop. The Art of Shooting was published in New York by A. S. Barnes and Company and in London by Thomas Yoseloff Ltd. in 1960. The author, Charles Edward Chapel, published a number of books on firearms including Field, Skeet and Trap Shooting, Forensic Ballistics, Gun Care and Repair–A Manual of Gunsmithing, Gun Collecting, The Gun Collector’s Handbook of Values and Guns of the Old West. In The Art of Shooting Chapel takes on the subject of rifle and pistol shooting. The book is well illustrated with line drawing by Sanford Strother. Chapel covers the history of the development of the rifle and the pistol in two parts: part one opens with the history of the rifle, touching on the early hand cannons of the fifteenth century, moving on to the match lock, wheellock and flintlock (muskets), then to the modern rifle (the M1 Garand rifle in this case). In part two he details the development of the pistol in the same manner, starting with the hand cannons of the fifteenth century and moving on to the match lock, wheellock and flintlock to the modern revolver and semi-automatic pistols.

The Art of Shooting goes into great detail in every aspect of owning and using a rifle and pistol, with detailed instructions on how to load, aim and fire properly, how the rifle and pistol operates, how to properly clean and maintain rifles and pistols and crucially, how to use them safely.The book includes a chapter entitled What the N.R.A. can do for you. Yes, the debate between gun owners and prohibitionists was raging as far back as the 1950s. Regarding the NRA, Chapel notes “it is not affiliated with organizations of arms and ammunition manufacturers, receives no subsidies from the arms trade, and serves as the governing body for the shooting activities in much the same capacity as the Amateur Athletic Union and the National Amateur Athletic Federation serve other sportsmen. All rifle and pistol shooters who engage in official competitions, and several thousand local shooting clubs, support the  N.R.A.” This may have been the case in the 1950s, but currently, the NRA accepts donations from fun manufacturers. See the Ruger 1 Million Gun Challenge, for example, and frankly, why not.

He concludes The Art of Shooting with a chapter entitled The truth about firearms registration laws. Interestingly, and hardly coincidentally, here are the assertions put forward by prohibitionists in the 1950s in favour of gun registration:

(1) registration of weapons reduces crime by making it more difficult for undesirable persons to obtain weapons, (2) solving crimes would be easier because the weapons used in the commission of crime could be traced through the registration records, (3) it would be possible to arrest all persons found possessing possessing unregistered weapons, thereby making it easier for the police to apprehend criminals wanted on more serious charges, (4) gun registration keeps guns out of the hands of children, mental defectives, habitual drunkards, drug addicts, and other persons who should not have firearms, and (5) stolen guns can be returned to their owners more easily.

Chapel easily refutes these assertions, pointing to the tired comparison between automobile registration and gun registration, noting the familiar refrain of since you do not object to registering your automobile, why do you object to registering your guns? The difference between the two, he points out and as we know all to well in the present, is “the registration of an automobile is automatic. When a license is granted, no one questions a person’s right to own an automobile. If the tax is paid, the license tag is issued without question… The essential feature of firearm registration is the power of law enforcement authorities to say who may own a gun. The difference between automobile and firearm registration is obvious and vital under our constitutional form of government.”

The book is 424 pages in total and includes an extensive bibliography and an index, making it a useful reference source. While some of the information is dated, on the whole The Art of Shooting remains a good read and a nice view of the gun culture and shooting sports as they existed in the United States in the mid-twentieth century.

Posted by Geoffrey


Hunter’s Guide. — Revised by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (Originally published by the National Rifle Association of America)


The Hunter’s Guide was revised by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources with permission from the National Rifle Association of America and the Alberta Department of Energy and Natural Resources. The National Rifle Association holds the copyright to the material used in this publication. It was first published in 1982. The Hunter’s guide was printed and distributed in Ontario by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and served as the text book for the Hunter Education Program prospective hunters are required to complete before being issued their first hunting license. In its 301 pages, it is a comprehensive guide to hunting, hunting regulations, wildlife management, hunter safety, proper and safe gun use and the science of wildlife management. Of those 301 pages, there is one page (shown above) which demonstrates how to use handguns safely. These were included as the safety test one was required to pass before being granted their Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC), the precursor to the current Possession and Acquisition License (PAL) included handling of handguns, whether you intended to acquire handguns or not. This was a provision mandated by the passage of Bill C-17 in 1991 by then Minister of Justice Kim Campbell in the government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

The fact that the NRA had a hand in the publication of the Hunter’s Guide did not go unnoticed by prohibitionists. In 2000 controversy erupted when the OFAH donated copies of the Hunter’s Guide to Ontario School Boards for addition to school library collections. Gail Nyberg, Chair of the Toronto School Board in 2000, objected to the donation and ordered the books returned to the OFAH. Her complaint was “it sends a message that it’s okay to me. That our government, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and a legitimate group, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters think it’s okay to have handguns. Well I don’t think it is okay to have handguns. We’ve had to deal with school violence. The possibility of guns and weapons are all over North America. I just think it’s highly insensitive.” (as cited in CBC News)

I remember when this story broke. As a librarian myself, I made a point of contacting the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and bringing to their attention the Canadian Library Association Statement on Intellectual Freedom. I pointed out that somehow these principles were lost on the the Toronto School Board in 2000.

All persons in Canada have the fundamental right, as embodied in the nation’s Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to have access to all expressions of knowledge, creativity and intellectual activity, and to express their thoughts publicly. This right to intellectual freedom, under the law, is essential to the health and development of Canadian society.

Libraries have a basic responsibility for the development and maintenance of intellectual freedom.

It is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee and facilitate access to all expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity, including those which some elements of society may consider to be unconventional, unpopular or unacceptable. To this end, libraries shall acquire and make available the widest variety of materials.

It is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee the right of free expression by making available all the library’s public facilities and services to all individuals and groups who need them.

Libraries should resist all efforts to limit the exercise of these responsibilities while recognizing the right of criticism by individuals and groups.

Both employees and employers in libraries have a duty, in addition to their institutional responsibilities, to uphold these principles.

Though the Hunter’s Guide is no longer in use as the textbook for the Hunter Education Program in Ontario, it remains a very useful source of information for new hunters and a good read.

Posted by Geoffrey


Firearms Ownership and Use in Canada: A Reporty of Survey Findings, 1976. — Philip C. Stenning and Sharon Meyer


This publication, co-authored by Philip C. Stenning and Sharon Moyer, gives an accurate and objective view of the state of gun ownership and use in Canadian society in mid-1970s. It was published in 1981, three years after Bill C-51 came into effect in 1978. Bill C-51 became law in 1978 and thereafter to lawfully purchase (but not to own) a firearm in Canada you were required to apply for and be issued a Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC). All that was required in getting an FAC was to complete the application form, pay the small fee and pass the cursory criminal background check that was carried out. My understanding of the rationale behind this legislation is that it was intended to insulate peaceful and law abiding gun owners from the elements of Canadian society that would misuse guns. Interestingly, when Bill C-51 was voted on in parliament, the Progressive Conservative Party serving as the Opposition, led by Joe Clark, voted against the Bill. My father and I, and most likely just about every gun owner in Canada, were none to pleased with this turn of events, but tried to take it in stride.

Philip Stenning is a criminologist and has an impressive list of academic credentials to his name. In carrying out his research on gun ownership and use in Canada he was neither serving the agenda of gun rights advocates, nor those of gun prohibitionists. This publication is an example of pure research. His findings, however, are very much of interest to gun rights advocates. In 1976 it was estimated there were 10,231,000 guns in civilian hands in Canada, mostly shotguns and rifles. Gun owners were overwhelmingly male, 95%. Then, 1970-1975, guns were used in approximately one third of suicides, averaging 35.2%. Between 1970-1975 there was an average number of homicides by gun of 225 per year.

The most noteworthy conclusion of the study concerns what gun prohibitionists complain about and base their assertions on: firearms availability. Access to guns is the familiar complaint you hear time and again from the varied prohibitionists across Canada and the United States. However, Stenning concluded the following: “we have noted that the data available from the Gun Ownership Survey, when compared with the limited data available on firearms incidents, disclose no credible evidence of any direct relationship between firearms incidents and firearms availability. This is not to say, however, that such a relationship does not exist. It does mean that if such a relationship does exist, the available data are currently too crude to be able to detect and measure it.” Whether or not such a relationship does exist has yet to be demonstrated, insofar as I can see, and the burden of proof falls on gun prohibitionists. To date all they offer is the tiresome complaint that access to guns is to blame, because we say so.

This publication is a good read for those who are interested in finding the truth about gun owners and gun ownership in Canadian society as it is not advocacy research. Stenning and Moyer did not have an agenda in conducting the survey and publishing their findings. That Stenning has the academic credentials, body of research and publications to his name ensures the publication is a sound piece of scholarship.

Posted by Geoffrey

Canadian Shooters Rights. — Edward L. Burlew, L.L.B. Barrister & Solicitor


This volume, published in 2000 by Edward L. Burlew is a very useful guide to wading through the tangled web that is the current state of firearms law in Canada. In particular the book addresses the reality that faces gun owners in Canada as of December 1, 1998 when the Canadian Firearms Act became law. Burlew notes the foundation of the Canadian Firearms Act is licensing and the content of this legislation is aimed at the law abiding gun owner. What this means is that when the Canadian Firearms Act became law, possession of a gun in Canada is now a crime, unless the owner is licensed. The book has chapters detailing licensing, the buying and selling of guns, storage of guns and ammunition, dealing with police and courts and the handgun prohibition (short barrelled .25 and .32 calibre handguns were prohibited with the passage of the Canadian Firearms Act) that went in to effect in 2001.

Burlew identifies two key points of which gun owners must be acutely aware: (1) Licensing and (2) Storage of guns and ammunition. Gun owners need to be licensed and see to it that their license is current, that there is no lapse between the dates of expiry and renewal. With regard to storage, he is clear on this point, stating, “read the actual regulations and be sure you are storing the guns and ammunition in strict compliance with the regulations.” He illustrates the importance of seeing that you are in strict compliance with storage regulations in the chapter titled Hunters Beware. This selection from the chapter tells the story of what happened to one peaceful and law abiding hunter.

Mr. Hunter took several guns with him hunting. He kept them in his pickup bed. The guns were cased, covered, but not trigger-locked and not in locked hard cases. Ammunition was carried in the bed and in an unlocked box. The pickup bed was covered with a locked cap, bolted down and an additional wire and lock held the cap door closed in addition to the lock. Mr. Hunter slept in a hotel. During the night thieves broke the cap door off at the hinges. The lock held fast and two guns were stolen.

The police arrested the thieves, impounded Mr. Hunter’s truck without a warrant and seized his remaining guns and ammunition. Mr. Hunter faces criminal charges of unsafe storage of guns and ammunition and unsafe transportation for leaving his guns unattended. The police say he should have had trigger locks or locked hard cases and the ammunition should have been in a locked box.

This may sound ridiculous to you, Mr. Hunter has a good defense and should be found not guilty. The police say let the judge decide. Mr. Hunter’s guns are seized until trial. He must hire a lawyer and travel from home to the court where the theft took place. The trial will be nine months after his truck was broken into.

This book, though published in 2000, is a timely reminder of the reality facing Canada’s gun owners following the passage of the Canadian Firearms Act, the intentions of the Liberal government of Prime Minister Jean Chretien that passed it and the dire straits Canada’s gun owners find themselves in until the Canadian Firearms Act is repealed.

Posted by Geoffrey

Gun control. — Robert J. Kukla


This title was added to our library collection several years ago when I found a copy in a used book shop here in Ottawa. Gun Control was written by Robert J. Kukla, a lawyer, and published by the National Rifle Association and Stackpole Books in 1973. Kukla draws on testimony given in U.S. Congressional Hearings from 1937 through 1970 concerning gun control legislation in the United States, most notably the Gun Control Act of 1968. He examines the anti-gun movement of the time, its motives, its tactics and its objectives. He includes many illustrations, notably editorial cartoons, that supported the anti-gun movement in the United States. The opening paragraph of Gun Control sets out the objectives of the anti-gun movement, which sounds all too familiar in the current debate over gun ownership in Canada.

A movement exists in our country which, if successfully continued, will serve to eliminate virtually all privately owned firearms in the hands of decent and law-abiding citizens. This abolition of arms would be accomplished by outright prohibition of possession in some cases. In other cases, possession of arms would be limited to an every narrowing category of those who were willing and able (1) to meet requirements of law and regulations imposed on law-abiding people, but not upon criminal or violent people; (2) to become suspect in the eyes of the police and one’s neighbors because one possessed a firearm and not because one had mis-used[sic] it or was even likely to do so.

Posted by Geoffrey