I’m no wuss when it come to guns. My dad introduced me to target and skeet shooting when I was just a lad so I’ve always been respectful around firearms. My neighbours at Riverrun are all hunters and that’s cool with me…I just don’t go up during deer season and I don’t mind if Charles at the end of the road picks off the odd grouse for the barbeque, or that Ron and his boys across the river go after ducks and geese in the autumn.
But for myself, I don’t play with anything more lethal than an archery set and lawn darts, did I mention lawn darts? Picked up a set at a garage sale in Thornhill, and banned everywhere in North America, but still enjoyed in the free state of Riverrun hard by the Salmon River–we are risk takers!
But when it comes to handguns, like most Canadians, I don’t see the need for them. I mean you’re not gonna take down a grouse with a Glock. The stratus of truckers with handguns gets murky and legally bizarre south of the border. I ask you, what Canadian trucking company would allow their employees to carry sidearms? But this is not unusual in the good ol’ US of A. If you’ve got a licence for a concealed carry, chances are good your employer will allow you to bring your weapon to work. There are probably a few places where you might not be welcome to bring in a gun, i.e., the US Post Office, and Columbine High School.
Gun ownership is a constitutional issue that’s deeply ingrained in the collective American psyche–a serious fixation with some Americans (and some Canadians for that matter). Who can forget the photograph of gun proponents who showed up with holstered automatic weapons at town hall meetings during the last US election. Where was that Arkansas, Arizona? Very strange.
To generalize, many pro-gun people believe owning handgun keeps them safe and free; it’s a heavily ideological stance, to say the least, and the more extreme view holds that one does not only have the right to bear arms, but it is almost one’s duty to carry a firearm (or at least a sharpened set of lawn darts).
Canada has its own microcosm of this story with the governing Harper conservatives spoiling to get the long gun registry abolished, despite the apparent distaste for this strategy among Canuck urbanites, and the fact that law enforcement officials are staunch supporters, and Canada’s police services consult the registry every day. But the governing party now has a champion in the shape of former OPP commissioner Fantino, newly elected in Vaughan, Ont., who can carry the no long gun registry banner high for Harper. (Canadians, with few exceptions, really aren’t big into handguns and it’s really not an issue here. We do, however, have our own horrendous psychotic killer in the figure of Marc Lepine, who put sexism in random mass murder by killing only women engineering students at Ecole Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989 in Montreal ).
The States are schizoid when it comes to handgun legislation: some jurisdictions like New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts have very harsh proscriptions against carrying heaters, while others seemingly format legislation to make pro-gun people feel comfortable, i.e. Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, etc.
Via Internet, I got talking to Lee who runs the Drivers Alike website along with his wife Danielle. They live in rural Kentucky and also have significant following on Facebook. Danielle, 27, takes along her pearl-handled Colt 38 when she takes her two german shepherds for a walk. This is again slightly shocking image to an urban Canadian, but it’s legal in Kentucky (home of Daniel Boone right?), as long as the weapon is holstered. “The cops drive by and wave,” she tells me on Facebook.
Lee, 31 years old, drives flatdeck across the continental US and goes with an “American-made” Highpoint 380. As you can imagine, it must be challenging traveling to stay legal running cross-country through the US packing a revolver, but as a long distance trucker and proud gun owner, Lee’s up on all the regulations in the different states he travels through. He carries a lock box where he can secure the 380 while he’s traveling through states with stricter prohibitions.
All along, I figured Lee must be an owner operator. I had an image of a White Line Fever kind of guy making a stand who won’t let himself or his rig or his family get messed with. ‘Load up the Blue Mule for Houston. My name’s Carrol Joe Hummer and I’ve come to work!’ But he’s not and O/O, he’s a company driver. Lee tells me on the phone, if he gets certified for running Canada, he’ll have to either leave his gun at home or put it in a locker in Buffalo or somewhere like that.
And just to set this straight. Lee and Danielle and their passel of kids strike me as good, moral people. I wrote down the ages of kids somewhere, there are about five of them, but two of them are 3 and 2 years old and they’ve both shot a handgun, probably one of the couple’s 22 pistols. “How else are you going to teach them about gun safety?” Danielle comments. How indeed, but two and three years old firing off rounds? Just a tad early, I tut tut, up here in Canuckistan.
These are the kind of folks you’d like to have turkey dinner with and share a drink or two. Like many of my colleagues in the trucking world, they’re often highly-principled, straight-ahead people who would do anything to help you if you asked. And it’s not that I couldn’t love them, but I’ve always been happy not to have firearms around the house. Isn’t there some statistic that most homicides are between people who know each other, and are often related? So it’s not that I don’t like guns, it’s just that I’m a whole lot more comfortable when they’re not around.
So what percentage of American truckers carry firearms? Back in 2009 I asked Don Kirk of “InterState Sportsman”, who had been featured on Dave Nemo’s satellite radio show. Kirk email back:
“That’s a pretty broad question, but I’m happy to put my two-cents worth in. Because felony and certain misdemeanor convictions are not uncommon, and especially so, among professional drivers, a sizeable percentage of the total number of drivers cannot legal have any sort of firearm in their possession.
Another factor is that some companies prohibit firearms on trucks, and in that same vein, laws in New York and Texas are quite different. The more restrictive a state’s law is, the lower the percentage of drivers with firearms.
Now, among those drivers who are no legally or job curtailed from having a firearm somewhere in their truck, I think is is better than 50%. Among independent drivers who work almost exclusively in states that recognize other state’s “carry permits” I think it may be as high as 80 to 90 percent. Conversely in Massachusetts it probably very low.
Now, when it comes to individual in individual states, the numbers differ. Alabama has liberal concealed weapon laws. I have been told that one in four adult drivers are armed. I suspect it is not so different in Florida, Texas or Arkansas. I hope this is helpful.”
It sure is Don. Wait here while I sharpen my lawn darts.
Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.
With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude. All posts by Harry Rudolfs