Tuesday, March 19, 2013

No Weapons Allowed

Crime fiction deals with some dangerous—and violent—situations. How does your personal belief about guns affect your writing about guns?

by Vicki Delany

Let’s state right out that I am a passionate supporter of gun control. The stricter the better.  I am Canadian, so that is not at all an unusual position to take.

I know a handful of people who have long guns: rifles and shotguns. I can see the sense for a farmer, who might need to put down an injured animal swiftly and humanely, or someone living close to the wilderness, who might just find a cougar in their yard.  I suppose I can even stretch myself to think it’s okay for hunting – provided the hunter actually eats the meat.  Trophy hunting, no way.

But there is no place in a civilized society for handgun or assault weapons or high-capacity magazines. In Canada, as you may know, assault weapons are prohibited and handguns  are very tightly restricted. Which, of course, doesn’t mean they aren’t used because yes, handguns do get in (guess where they come from?).  But it’s a crime to have one without a permit, and a permit is very rarely granted.  I don’t know one single person who owns a handgun.

Police officers are armed.  But, they are not allowed to carry their weapons when not on duty or in uniform.  There are few exceptions to that.  Police either change in and out of their uniform at the station, and lock up the weapons there, or have to go directly home and put the gun into a secure place.

So, how do my books reflect that?  Well, for one thing my police are not armed when they’re not working.  Molly Smith has had occasions where she’s had to fight when not in uniform. In the first book in the series, In the Shadow of the Glacier, she’s up against the bad guy with nothing but her stiletto heels, her cell phone and her considerable wits. But he doesn't have a gun either, so they’re even!

In the new book due out in August, A Cold White Sun, a person is killed by a shotgun in a sniper-type shooting. Sergeant John Winters then takes the opportunity to reflect sadly on the “now-crumbling long-gun registry” that he once would have been able to use to help locate the owner of the weapon.  

Because in fact, just last year the Canadian government destroyed the long-gun registry that kept track of rifles and shotguns and their owners.

In the Molly Smith books, I largely deal with writing about guns… by not.  In all of the books (six so far) there is only one case where the police are involved in a shooting.  The cops use their intelligence and their wits to catch the baddies.

Much more effective, I think.

In the Klondike mystery series, it’s easy. There weren’t any.

The NWMP banned guns from Dawson City during the gold rush.  Banned them outright. The result was that in the year 1898, at the height of the gold rush there wasn’t one murder in Dawson City. Not one.

Of course, as I write mystery novels, I’ve had to introduce a couple.  But no guns are ever used.  

Although in Gold Mountain when a police expedition goes into the wilderness to rescue the kidnapped Fiona MacGillivray, they take along one rifle.  Which they use for hunting.  
In real life, the NWMP did keep a Maxim machine gun at the top of the Chilkoot Pass. 

To keep out the Skagway gangster, Soapy Smith.

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