Out in the Open

How it feels to be a gun lover in Canada

Loads of Canadians own them — legally — but hunter, sport shooter and all-round firearms enthusiast John Evers feels hated for his enjoyment of guns. He says Canadians, by and large, conflate guns with violence. “Being a gun owner doesn’t make me an aberrant personality,” he says. “I abhor violence.”
John Evers at a 3-Gun sport shooting competition in West Virginia in 2016. "We don’t shoot people,” he tells Piya. "It's a game." (Courtesy of John Evers)

John Evers readily admits that he loves guns.

He appreciates their design, their history; he's a passionate sport shooter and hunter. He owns well over a hundred, including AR-15s, and he says, as a Canadian immersed in gun culture, he feels judged, misunderstood and at times hated.

"It makes me sad that people don't — won't — take the time to understand, that they are so close-minded, and they conflate violence with me. I hope you understand I'm anything but violent. They just don't take the time to be educated."

"I'm told, flat out, I'm not Canadian," says John.

When he engages in debates about gun ownership and gun violence, he is accused of "being American" by other Canadians.They've said that he "should move to the States," that he's "an embarrassment," that he wants "to bring American violent culture to Canada." John has also received hate mail. 
A hate letter John Evers received after talking to media about what he views as the positive gun culture in Canada. (Courtesy of John Evers)

John says that few of his fellow gun enthusiasts feel able to be "out" about their passion for firearms, including his girlfriend who sat in on the interview with Piya but felt too concerned about possible ramifications to speak on the record.

Sport shooters and gun owners often fear social judgment and even career ramifications, John says, which is part of why he's chosen to put himself out there. He wants people to see that you can love guns while condemning gun violence, and that the "positive gun culture" in this country should be preserved and appreciated. 

"If you look at it — and you may say it's a facile argument — the gays came out of the closet, we went in. We hid ourselves. And just as the gay community should be out in public, and they are now, we should too because we're all just people. Different interests; different backgrounds; different experiences and that's a good thing in Canada."