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Words Matter – Guest Commentary by Alex Peterson

18 May 2020 – LONDON, Ont. – In 1839 novelist Edward Lytton pointed out the power of words with the adage:

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

While the pen’s rationale should normally overcome sword-inspired fear, the recently imposed firearm ban shows that a word can paradoxically inspire fear and blind us to rational fact.

Activists and politicians who advocate for firearm prohibition continually label all firearms as “weapons”; a conscious, deliberate moniker intentionally suggesting that legally owned firearms are constantly aimed at the heart of the public.

The tactic has been effective. By successfully embedding “weapon” in the debate, reporters and even members of the firearm community have been inadvertently repeating it. That’s what prohibitionists want. It is this recurring use that built false credibility for the argument that law-abiding firearm owners need further restriction.

Consider this: despite edged instruments being used up to three times more than firearms in violent crime, knives are only referred to as weapons in the instances they are used against someone.

Usually, knives are referred to by their intended use like: “fillet”, “steak”, “hunting”, etc. In a kitchen they’re collectively called “utensils”. Nobody refers to a chef’s knife block as “weapons storage” or to home-cooks as “weapon owners.”

Knife owners aren’t vilified.

In contrast, firearms – rifles, shotguns or pistols – intended and used for target shooting, varmint control or hunting, are commonly called “weapons”, both collectively and individually.

It’s disingenuous. It implies that firearm owners will cause them to be used against people through either deliberate intent, action or negligence, and that a ban would remove this omnipresent “threat” – even though evidence says otherwise.

For instance, after the Montreal shooting 31 years ago, the coroner’s report stated that the firearm type did not factor into the magnitude of casualties, so firearm control was deliberately not addressed. However, the emergency response tactics were relevant. The time an assailant remains unchallenged continues to be a significant aspect in most mass-casualty events, including the recent Nova Scotia tragedy.

Yet, by stoking fear, activists have convinced vote-seeking legislators that it is a firearm ban which is paramount to ensure public safety.

Responsible firearm owners need to shift the conversation back to the facts. They need to make their own words count; including choosing words wisely; to accurately depict legally owned rifles, pistols and shotguns for what they are – sporting equipment.

And that starts by refusing to repeat the prohibitionists’ favourite trigger word.

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