Hello. My name is Owen Ferguson, and if this is the first time you’ve read of me, well, you should know that I admitted to precrime and served time in jail for merely owning a legally-registered long gun. This occurred in the district of turtle island currently known as Canada, where no federal constitutional covenant protects the right of the citizenry to self-arm. That’s because there is no federation in that territory as of yet, but that’s a discussion for another screed.
In 2001 A romantic rival pointed out to police that I had legally received a Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC), and had used it to purchase a shotgun. This was used as justification for a warrant to search my apartment and arrest me, because three other men had killed women in romantic disputes in Toronto, with guns, that same summer. Ipso facto, that must have been my plan too, right? Anyway, I was jailed, and my apartment was searched, and they found nothing. Having no need of a shotgun in Toronto, I had locked it up a my parents home, in hunting country, 2 hours north.
Nevertheless, once you are engaged with the court system, it’s impossible to disengage with grace. There’s a common belief among freemen that standing on point of principle is the easiest thing to do, if you’re really right. That’s bullshit. Even if you know you’re innocent, you can’t ever prove it. Instead, I bargained away until I got out with only minimal time served. The gun, which I still hadn’t completely paid off, was duly surrendered to police, as was my FAC and registration card. I was banned from owning a gun for 10 years, and put on probation – after a year under house arrest during pretrial negotiation. We never actually got to a trial, because I didn’t want to martyr myself for 5 years over a cause I don’t really give a shit about.
You see, I didn’t buy that gun with killing anyone in particular in mind. Just anybody who I could. During my training for the FAC, I was required to manually load and unload a number of different firearms, a Remington 12-gauge pump-action shotgun among them. As soon as I picked it up, I experienced a moment of clarity. Specifically, I had a flashback to a specific scene in a specific movie:
I knew, in that moment, what guy I would buy when my FAC finally arrived, a year-and-a-half later. The shotgun seems the ideal weapon to represent the few noble virtues to which the NRA clings like a limpet mine. Close-quarters and low-skill for home defense, versatile for hunting, a real civil militia weapon. But I didn’t give a shit about that. I gave a shit about how it made me feel in my taint when I brandished it. How the fine nickel finish gleamed in the sun like a glint in the eye of a reaper in a Viagra rage. How the syncopation of its breach mechanic slammed open and shut with amoral precision, ruthlessness, military efficiency. Like bomb release interconnect, or a Vickers gun, or a German-engineered crematory door. It satiated my death fixation.
Now, in discussions with people at the time, I would, of course, tote out the old party lines, about wanting to learn to be the responsible head of a household, and hunting, and utility (I grew up in farm country, where guns are used to kill all sorts of different things, not just folk.) I would present the tyranny argument as well, despite that fact that it’s such utter bullshit to think that small arms mater, at all, in the face of the technocratic bureaucracy of overwhelming force. In short, I bought it because I could, and I had no intention of using it on anybody, although I immediately started hoping that people would give me that opportunity.
I found that I suddenly wanted to be the victim of a home invasion, so that I would have a chance to fire my weapon in anger, legally, and thereby illustrate the value of my having purchased it in the first place. Maybe that’s a cop thing. I was an Ontario Provincial Police marine-forces cadet in high school, and while they didn’t let me carry a gun, I got to see, first hand, how the guns changed the character of the troops I served with. There was a callous brutishness, a sort of cynical sarcasm that existed there, among the ranks who are supposed to protect us, before it manifested in the popular gestalt. This was before tazers allowed Canadian cops the option of killing with impunity, of course.
Maybe I picked up the scent of death from those cops. Sharing all those cramped quarters out at sea, in the forecastles of different ship. Maybe it’s something innate. Regardless, the Justice of the Peace obviously saw something when I was dragged before her, sleepless and unshaven, with only a novice public defender, after 48 hours in rough police custody. “You look like a murder about to happen,” she said, and she was right. If I’d had my shotgun then, I would have painted the portrait of Queen Elizabeth The Second with her not-even-a-real-judge brains. But I didn’t, of course, and her body shame was enough to get me 3 weeks in jail before I could even secure a bail hearing, because she decided I was worthy of a “dangerous offender” designation, the Canadian court system’s scarlet letter. Because, you know, guns are dangerous.
So I did some jail time and saw and experienced the type of horrendous shit that you don’t talk about, and then I did a much longer period of house arrest while on bail, which is melancholic and debilitating but not the abject horror show of incarceration, and then I spent some years on probation, which basically means you can’t have any job that doesn’t involve mopping. Eventually it was over, and the two lingering effects on my life are that I was never able to join the Navy – even as a gun-free chaplain – and that I will never have credit good enough to actually live in Canada. I haven’t sought out guns since, because, ultimately, the’re some stupid bullshit that will more likely fuck up your life than save it, and who needs that?
Did my arrest prevent a specific, identifiable threat? No. Did it help prevent the occurrence of broad, general tragedy? Possibly. I honestly don’t know what my breaking point would have been, if I had been allowed to keep a gun, and if anything could have triggered me enough to set me on the path of using that Gun to do the things it was designed to do. Maybe it saved someone else’s life. Maybe it saved mine. Maybe not.
When even the best rappers are calling for gun control, I think maybe I’ve been wrong all these years, and the system that disarmed me was right.