My late brother in law used to talk about his career as a well-site geologist back in the 60s. His job involved life in some of Canada’s less traveled wilderness regions where his fear of a bear attack was alleviated by his 44 Magnum sidekick. He never had to prove whether the gun was mightier than the bear. These days he would not be legally allowed to carry a handgun in the Canadian wilderness . . .
So most law-abiding Canucks will carry bear spray or flare pens (colloquially known as bear-bangers) as their sole defense against Yogi’s less funny relatives. Neither is likely to provide a rock solid defense against an angry bear, but a leaky dinghy is better than a poor swim stroke in a stormy sea.
The bear spray has proven to be a pretty effective weapon for use in commission of a crime in Canada, whether it is a robbery, assault or a combination platter of both misdeeds. The bear spray statistics for its use as a defense against bears are not quite as accurate as bear spray statistics for its use against crime victims.
The flare pen is a sound and visual device ostensibly designed to scare the hell out of a bear. They dispense a loud bang and a brief smoke show that will make a bear think big bore rifle instead of smoke and mirrors.
The physics behind the flare pen are similar to the physics behind every firearm, and that makes some flare pen owners want to adjust the pens into an unlikely firearm. It is a highly illegal weapon once it is converted into a gun because it still looks more like a pen than a gun.
A recent court case involved an accidental death in which a young teenaged male was accidentally (and fatally) shot by his young friend. The converted pen rolled out from under the seat of a truck owned by the shooter’s father, his son found it, and had no idea that it was a weapon.
The teenager shot his buddy in the chest after messing with the device and discharging it into the victim’s chest. It had been converted into a .22 caliber gun that was not entirely reliable according to its defendant/owner, 42 year old James Alexander Rose.
Rose claimed that he had difficulty making the weapon fire bullets after its conversion, which was not officially done by him, according to testimony. The incident spurred a host of charges that were complicated by the definition of an illegal weapon (instead of illegal device) in one of the charges against Rose.
The most serious charge was criminal negligence causing death; which is the Canadian version of an American manslaughter style of charge-very serious and usually accompanied by an extended adventure in the Canadian penal system.
Ultimately most charges were dropped and Rose was convicted of storing a firearm without reasonable caution to the safety of others and given a six month conditional sentence. Conditional sentences are served in the community in Canada and it means that Rose will have no criminal record upon completion of his sentence.
Was justice was served? Can’t say. But gun control advocates should note that the law of unintended consequences was evoked, with tragic consequences.