Guns don’t kill people, bullets do. 32,000 should be just about enough to kill 95.5 percent of the full time undergraduate students at this university, assuming that your aim is true.
32,000 rounds of ammunition and 54 guns, it seems, is also what it takes to kill the Hart House Rifle Range, Revolver Club, and U of T Rifle Association. Although, students may wonder whether the Hart House rifle range ever had an “aim.”
Comments like these may seem extreme, but an extreme controversy has arisen on our campus. Extreme enough to warrant front page coverage in the National Post. Extreme enough that it looks as though the Hart House Revolver Club, the U of T Rifle Club and the Hart House rifle range will finally be shut down.
Michael Brassard, long time range control officers safety course instructor with Hart House, was taken into custody after an incident on a subway. He was carrying a loaded weapon. A search of his home uncovered 32, 000 rounds of ammunition and 54 prohibited firearms. A detective investigating the case has commented that he doesn’t think the police department owns that many rounds of ammunition.
In response, Hart House has suspended Brassard’s duties and the continued presence of the rifle range at Hart House, the Hart House Revolver Club and the U of T Rifle Association are all up for review. But students are still left to wonder: What the hell was the rifle range doing there to begin with?
Arguments that people enjoy firing weapons at targets or that marksmanship is a legitimate sport and/or hobby seem especially flimsy given what has happened. Similarly, the history of the range, which dates back to post-WWII, stands as a ready-at-hand excuse rather than an meaningful explanation. If you will pardon the pun, this isn’t the first time that the rifle range has come under “fire.”
A decade ago, a Hart House review committee found that it was inappropriate that space at the university be used for practice with revolvers and rifles. (As well as noting that the space could be put to better use.) The committee said, “We have found it hard to reconcile the use of firearms in an urban environment in which they have become associated with violence.”
The Board of Stewards at Hart House decided not to implement these recommendations. What has happened since then? One, Toronto and the St. George campus have become an even more urban environment. Two, federal initatives suggest firearms are even more closely associated with violence. And three, Hart House has finally decided to seriously review the range—not for the extremely good reasons listed above—but because of a public embarassment involving firearms (and the fear of violence?) in an urban area.
Has anyone heard that before?