This is the kind of story that Canadians love: A U.S. cop went for a walk in a park in Canada, was approached by two gentlemen asking whether he had been to the stampede yet, and felt unsafe because he did not have his gun.
The original letter is pretty funny. Wawra’s account does not make it sound like a particularly intimidating encounter. The men repeated themselves twice and then moved on looking “bewildered” when Wawra met their inquiry with a rude dismissal. Yet this was enough to make Wawra believe he was unsafe and needed a gun, since police cannot protect people all of the time. (As it turned out, the two were attempting to offer free tickets to the tourists, according to Gawker.com).
Canadians love this kind of story because it allows them to feel superior to their fearful and gun-loving neighbours to the south. Canadians want to mock this kind of story because it is unlikely that we would have felt threatened in a similar circumstance because we would have taken it for small-talk, or a typical greeting Calgarians might give one another when Stampede is on.
But that kind of fear is real among some Americans. I have several cousins who have told me that they don’t feel safe visiting me in Canada because they cannot bring their guns. My cousin from Detroit told me that he felt unsafe going to a bar in Toronto because in Detroit no one will mess with you because they assume you are carrying, while in Toronto he could not see what would keep someone from starting a fight. (Although the Crime rate in Toronto is actually much lower than the crime rate in Detroit) It doesn’t occur to my cousin that people in Toronto often won’t start a fight just because they have no interest in starting a fight and aren’t out to get each other.
My American cousins often tell me that guns make them feel “safe,” but from this side of the border it seems to me that guns actually just make them fearful.
As Erin at Working Mother Chronicles put it:
His Letter to the Editor was taken by many people to be a joke at first. It’s hard for many of us to understand why a grown man – a police officer at that – would be frightened of people just asking him a question. When interviewed by the CBC this morning, Mr. Wawra said that he was taken aback that someone would speak to him without being invited to. The sheer silliness of the idea that two men could have been shot for simply asking a stranger a question soon sparked the hashtag#NoseHillGentlemen on Twitter (the funniest thing we Canadians have done on Twitter since #tellViceverything) and articles on Gawker and other U.S. websites.
In between guffaws at all of the jokes being made at Mr. Wawra’s expense, I started to feel a bit sorry for the guy. Not because people were mocking his formal language or behaviour, but because I can’t imagine what it must be like to live in a world where I’m suspicious of every stranger, every casual encounter, every uninvited interaction.
I couldn’t agree more. Wawra took his letter to provide a pro-gun argument, but most Canadians will probably take it in exactly the opposite way.
The Original letter written by Walt Wawra “Nose Hill Park confrontation makes visitors feel unsafe,” in the Calgary Herald.
A follow-up article in the Herald detailing the mocking of the off-duty officer: “Paranoid Kalamazoo cop ridiculed over need to bear arms in Calgary Park“
The Toronto Star “U.S. tourist’s desire for gun in Calgary park sparks Twitter storm“
The Globe and Mail “Gun-loving U.S. cop draws Twitter jeers after ‘aggressive’ encounter with Canadians“
The Huffington Post “Walt Wawra Feels Unsafe in Canada Without Gun, Writes Letter to the Editor“
Working Mother Chronicles: “Fear Not the #NoseHillGentlemen“
This does not relate to this particular incident, but The New Yorker has an interesting article by Jill Lepore, “Battleground America” about the history of the Second Amendment and Gun laws in the U.S.A.