Matt Gurney: If you’re going to shoot an intruder, use a legal gun
Matt Gurney Nov 25, 2011 – 9:54 AM ET | Last Updated: Nov 25, 2011 10:10 AM ET
http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/201 ... legal-gun/
Phillip Foster, 73, a retired Canadian diplomat, has been sentenced to house arrest after a 2010 self-defence incident in his home. Foster was attacked in his home by a drunk former romantic partner of one of Foster’s daughters. The attacker, Richard Dean Cantwell, assaulted Foster and was smashing Foster’s possessions. Foster armed himself with a .22-calibre revolver — a potent, if relatively low-powered, firearm. Cantwell attacked Foster, knocking him to the ground, and Foster shot Cantwell in the leg. Cantwell was able to wrest the gun from Foster, but fled the scene. He survived his injury.
It’s hard to imagine a more legitimate self-defence scenario than this. An older man, inside his own home, has already been attacked and seen his property destroyed when he uses a measured degree of force against the attacker, ending the confrontation. Legally, it’s textbook perfect, and Foster did exactly the right thing to protect himself and his property. Except for one minor detail: The handgun was not properly registered.
According to reports, Foster had owned the gun for more than 40 years, after buying it to protect himself while serving with Canada’s diplomatic corps in Africa. He returned to Canada in the 1960s, and kept the gun but never bothered registering it. This was illegal then, and illegal now — handguns have required registration since 1934, and Foster could have registered it when the current firearms laws went into effect in the 1990s. He declined to do so, and will serve 9 months of house arrest after pleading guilty to the reduced charge of assault with a weapon.
In reaching this plea agreement, the Crown agreed not to charge Foster with the much more serious charge of unauthorized possession of a restricted firearm, which could have carried a five-year prison term. Foster was also vulnerable to a four-year mandatory minimum sentence for using an illegally possessed firearm to injure Cantwell. The Crown prosecutor called the case “troubling” but also knew that self-defence would be a legitimate claim, and a complicating factor for her case.
Some will object on the grounds that Foster, the defender, should have received no punishment, or gripe that Cantwell, the attacker, received a lesser sentence — a 12-month conditional sentence for assault, mischief to property and disturbing the occupants of a dwelling house. But the plea bargain strikes the right balance between not punishing Foster for defending himself while recognizing that he was in possession of an illegally owned handgun.
Canadians do have a right to self defence, and to use firearms against criminal attackers. But the right to self-defence does not override all our other laws. While the right to self-defence is something that Canadians need to fight very hard to preserve and protect, they must do so lawfully at all times. Phillip Foster did the right thing in a terrible situation, and the Courts have correctly chosen not to prosecute him for defending himself and his home. But the illegal possession of a handgun, though used for a lawful purposes, could not be ignored. Let this be a lesson for all Canadians — you cannot use an illegal firearm in a legal way. If you want the option of defending yourself with a gun, get licensed, and get it registered.