Kristian Kuznak knows there is a stigma surrounding firearm ownership in Canada.
He knows of this stigma firsthand because he is a firearms owner himself.
Speaking at the New Ontario Shooters Association gun show at the Oliver Paipoonge Community Centre Sunday, Kuznak said there have been instances where people have treated him differently because he owns firearms, even though he has fulfilled the necessary legal requirements.
He said the process to obtain a firearms license isn’t easy and involves courses, one of the most thorough background checks available as well as a continued monitoring.
“These are law abiding citizens,” he said of his fellow firearm owners.
He believes that when firearms are used as weapons, there is too much focus on the gun and not enough on the intent of the perpetrator.
Pointing to the recent Kumming Station massacre in China, where more than 30 people were stabbed to death by at least 10 assailants, Kuznak said eliminating guns would not eliminate violence as people looking to commit violent acts would just select a different tool.
Even though he admitted it was a tired cliche, he said guns don’t hurt people. Rather, people hurt people.
The change in public perception surrounding firearms has completely flipped during the lifetime of Wes Werbowy.
He wonders if gun control has worked.
“When I was a young fella I used to get on the school bus with my (.22-calibre) rifle because the range was in the school. Now, that would be a SWAT team event,” Werbowy said.
“Interestingly, we had fewer restrictions and fewer laws and no one ever thought of mayhem and homicide...It would be unthinkable to put a bullet into another human being.”
Werbowy said a greater appreciation of the power of firearms is required for younger generations. He was first exposed to guns while hunting and was able to observe the impact a bullet would have on a wild animal.
He thinks that now most youth are first exposed to guns as an abstract concept in mediums such as video games, television and movies; thus not seeing the damage and power they wield.
There is also a misconception around the reason some people own firearms. Some, like Rob Sereda, use guns purely for the purpose of sport.
He competes in shooting events where speed and accuracy are paramount and says it is a competition just like a race.
Sereda disputes the perception that guns only serve to commit violence, or protect from violence.
“This is the only thing I do with a gun. I’ve never turned a gun on a living thing, ever,” Sereda said.
“Violence is not perpetrated in this sort of environment. We all enjoy the sport and don’t want to lose that.”
At the show, Kuznak was protesting the reclassification of a pair of semi-automatic rifles from non-restricted to prohibited status by the RCMP in February.
He was distributing form letters to be sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney as well as local MPs John Rafferty and Bruce Hyer expressing concern with the reclassification.
He is worried that without a substantial review, the arbitrary nature of existing laws could mean all firearm owners might find themselves in legal trouble.
“It’s extremely frustrating. It’s unbelievable the RCMP can sign a piece of paper and steal people’s property that was legally purchased,” Kuznak said.
“It’s scary because if they can do this with 20,000 Canadians, what’s stopping them from doing it with two million Canadian firearms owners.”