The Timmins Times -- Letter to the editor

by Tony Bernardo

Dear editor:

Your article of December 27 under the oh-so-clever headline, "Timmins man facing weapons charges has a 'hired gun' for a lawyer," is a textbook example of media myopia.

It is impossible to conclude whether wrongdoing has occurred prior to a hearing, yet the media often join hands with police on firearms stories and predict the worst. Collectors, sport shooters, hunters and farmers have grown accustomed to police and media who prematurely draw a straight line from a firearm seizure to organized crime, which is preposterous.

Any suggestion that a gun collection is a "distressing arsenal" evokes the stench of "yellow journalism." And, quoting the reporter in the third person asking if a gun and martial arts collection is connected to organized crime is beyond the pale. Responsible journalists use independent sources that represent both sides -- they do not create a storyline that wouldn't exist without inserting a reporter's own bias.

The police officer so liberally quoted in your reportage appears to have little background in the shooting sports. He said, ”These prohibited weapons have a specific purpose; to cause personal injury or death. With that in mind, we are very relieved to have them out of circulation and in police custody.” Sport shooters and collectors have an avid interest in owning every type of firearm and many use them at shooting ranges, according to the law. And collectors' guns are not in circulation. Until the facts are determined every individual case, it is wrong to assume accessibility.

Police and the media need to understand that safe and responsible firearms enthusiasts are not criminals. There are hundreds of thousands of prohibited guns across the country in safe storage that have not caused "personal injury or death" and they never will. A sharp pencil in the wrong hands is far more dangerous than a firearm in the hands of a sport shooter.

Canadian sport shooters are most fortunate to have Ed Burlew, LL.B. in our midst. It is trite for your newspaper article to dismiss this firearms lawyer with more than 30 years' trial experience as a mere "hired gun." Mr. Burlew is a beacon of hope for many Canadians who fall victim to charges sometimes laid by police who are forced to interpret the poorly written Firearms Act. The insult is exacerbated when the media become a willing lap dog for the Canada Firearms Program.

Timmins was in the news recently when local M.P. Charlie Angus tabled his Private Members' Bill C-580. He espouses deceitful NDP policy to ban many different kinds of firearms that are currently enjoyed by sport shooters. It is surely time for Timmins-area sport shooters and hunters to demand fair treatment and fair media coverage.

Canadians are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Aren't we?

Tony Bernardo
Executive Director
Canadian Shooting Sports Association/
Canadian Institute for Legislative Action