Tim Belford: Short Takes On Life
Tim Belford
Tim Belford
CBC logo
Tim Belford is host of Quebec A.M. -- CBC Radio's popular English- language morning show (91.7 FM, 6-9, Mon.-Fri). He also is said to know a thing or three about wine.

Posted 02.04.05
Quebec City


You want to place a pistol in their hands, eh?

So, Canada's customs officers want to be armed.

They want to slap on the old Colt .45 or maybe a Dirty Harry-style .357 magnum so they can make some border-running scofflaw's day.

Staring across the border at their American counterparts, who wear everything but bandoleers, I guess it's to be expected.

Maybe they've got a good cause. Then again, maybe it's just a classic case of pistol envy.

I'm the first person to support their right to feel safe on the job but I'm also pretty sure arming our customs officers is a bad idea.

Let me elaborate.

The last time I fired a handgun was a number of years ago but the experience has stuck with me.

It was a nine millimeter Browning.

It looked just like those square-handled .45s that our American neighbours used during the last disagreement with our German friends.

It's a little bit lighter and, if I recall correctly, with much less of a kick.

What I do recall vividly was the fact on the firing range probably the safest place to be was directly behind the target.

The twelve military trainees, firing fifteen rounds each at a snarling, cardboard enemy about thirty feet away, accounted for probably six direct hits.

At least three of these were in the foot of the target, one dead centre, and two in the post holding the target up.

Most of the other shots took out tree branches, rocks, and a fence post.

The point being, the average marksmanship of a typical Canadian male - we were all men - leaves something to be desired.

In a real situation it would have probably also left anyone passing within sixty feet and the cars they were travelling in bullet-riddled, at best.

In George Bernard Shaw's play 'The Devil's Disciple' one of the characters, the famous 18th century British Lieut-General John Burgoyne, attempts to convince a captured rebel colonist that he'd be better off hanged rather than shot as he has requested.

Burgoyne points out that the marksmanship of the average Redcoat was so abysmal that he himself would have to finish the job with a pistol.

Both Shaw and Burgoyne knew what they were talking about.

On top of that, if you give a boy a toy, he's going to want to use it.

I don't know about you, but I'd much rather hear, "Open your trunk, please&;quot; instead of, "Put your hands over your head."

Or worse still, "Duck!"

Nope. If someone runs the border crossing, let 'em go. If a customs officer thinks a visitor to this fair land is armed, wave goodbye with a hearty &;quot;Have a nice day!"

Then let the police do what they're trained to do.