Saturday, February 25, 2006


Whatcom County sheriff's Deputy Stuart Smith spotted two murder suspects in a vehicle at a rest stop about five miles south of Blaine, Wash. When Deputy Smith tried to arrest the pair, they sped north toward the Canadian border on Interstate 5. The deputy gave chase.

The murder suspects blew past the U.S. Customs station, and at that point the deputy sheriff took his last chance, managing to ram their vehicle with his squad car, spinning it down an embankment and across a broad lawn that separates the U.S. border checkpoint from its opposite number on the Canadian side. The suspects fled on foot. In a blaze of gunfire at the Peace Arch, a graceful marble monument that straddles the U.S.-Canadian border near Blaine, one suspect was wounded. In the end, both were captured.

The shots that stopped them were fired by U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors, according to Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo. And how did the Canadian border guards a few yards away prepare themselves, in case the fleeing murder suspects made it across into their jurisdiction? They ran away. And were the Canadian guards later disciplined or dismissed for this abandonment of their posts?

Just the opposite. They were responding appropriately to the risk by "walking off" their posts until the danger had passed, explains Ron Moran, president of the Canadian border guards' union. Canadian border guards are not armed. Their standard operating procedure if danger looms is to run away -- the Los Angeles Times in a recent article adopted Mr. Moran's more diplomatic term "walk off" -- and call in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to give chase. "Primarily this has been an image thing," Mr. Moran explained. "We're a peaceful nation, with Canadians being proud of the fact that we don't greet people at the border crossings with someone who's armed. ... It is strictly a question of these men and women wanting to make sure they get back to their families at the end of the shift."

Canada disallows visitors from carrying self-defense arms almost entirely. This is the nation, after all, that demurred a few years ago when the United States military offered some of its most prized decorations to members of the Canadian armed forces who had saved American lives in Afghanistan. In al-Qaida's eastern mountain redoubt, Canadian snipers using .50-caliber rifles from hard-to-believe ranges took out a machine gun nest that had U.S. forces pinned down in open ground. But the Canadians said no, it was not appropriate to honor members of their military for actually, you know, shooting enemy soldiers.

Where has this attitude led? Roughly a dozen times in the past four months, Canadian border crossings have been closed for as long as several hours, backing up border traffic for miles, as Canadian guards have "walked away" from their posts in response to reports of dangerous suspects heading north. The practice became an issue in the recent Canadian national elections, with victorious Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowing during his campaign to "give our customs and border guards the training and equipment they need, including sidearms."

Mr. Moran of the border guards' union agrees the time has come. "The reality is that we don't live in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood anymore," Mr. Moran told the Times. "The reality is that our officers should be armed." It is indeed nice to see a country where -- unlike much of the Third World, and nowadays even Britain and Spain -- police and border guards still look more like civilian helpers and less like shock troops, suited up in combat boots and machine carbines. But in a day and age when those "running the border" almost certainly include would-be terrorists and members of a drug culture for whom murder and torture are standard business methods, Canada's anti-gun fetish may have reached the point of absurdity.


Pro-gun bills signed by S.D. Governor: "Governor Rounds signed the self-defense bill on Friday, Feb. 17. As many will recall, HB 1134 strengthens South Dakota�s existing self-defense laws and explicitly states that you do not have a duty to retreat from any place you have the right to be. The concealed carry in parks bill was signed by the Governor on Tuesday, Feb. 21. This bill limits the authority of state agencies to promulgate rules restricting concealed carry by pistol permit holders. Under the current administrative rules, not even folks who have a permit are allowed to carry a handgun for self-defense in any state park, campground, lakeside or recreational area. A change that would partially remedy this situation has been proposed... By requiring the individual to obtain a government license before he can exercise his right to bear arms, this language stops short of recognizing the Right to Carry. However, it is definitely a step in the right direction."

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