Gunning for trouble

Published: Monday | December 9, 2013 Comments 0

By Garth A. Rattray

One window-and-door company used to advertise the impenetrability of their products (on television) by depicting someone relaxing as solid objects, converted into high-speed missiles, are repelled by their window during a storm/hurricane. Then, its ads started depicting a would-be burglar failing in his attempt to shatter a glass door with a claw hammer.

It's okay to use the prevention of a crime as a selling point; however, I am very concerned about the impression being portrayed by its recent television advertisements.

In the first scenario, shots are fired at a group of 'management' staff standing behind their product to demonstrate its efficiency. Of course, it's an ad, so we all know that no gun was ever fired at anything. However, the perception of discharging a semi-automatic pistol in a work environment and putting a group of people at serious risk was given. There was no warning to never attempt it and no visual or verbal disclaimer regarding its illegality.

In the second scenario, there is another ad portraying an alleged thief making off with a flat-screen television. By the time the homeowner sees him, the alleged thief is walking on the outside of the glass door, yet the homeowner aims and fires several rounds at him. The glass stops the bullets. This is 'movie magic', but the wrong message is nonetheless sent. Again, there is no warning and no visual or verbal disclaimer.

Both ads demonstrate the illegal, cavalier and dangerous use of a deadly weapon. In real life, I believe that the shooters (in both cases) would be arrested and charged with illegal use of a firearm, reckless endangerment and, perhaps, even attempted murder. Their weapons would definitely be confiscated and their firearm licences revoked permanently.


The Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) has been very efficient at bringing order, equity and probity into the processes of acquiring and renewing firearm licences/permits. Because of the increasing fear of crime and violence, it processes and approves a large number of applicants each year.

Although the FLA puts each applicant through a mandatory period of proficiency training, which includes some knowledge of the laws governing the care and use of the firearm, I have heard of owners of legal firearms planning to shoot at retreating (alleged) intruders, trespassers and at anyone attempting to steal their car.

Guns can be used on a properly constructed and certified firing range for recreation, practice or for competition. Outside of that, they are only used to kill someone or something. It is an offence to brandish a gun or to use it to threaten anyone.

The police are always reiterating that deadly force should only be employed if you feel that your life is in imminent danger and if you experience genuine fear for your life. This defensive rule of thumb may also be extended to protect the life of someone else.

A firearm should never be used simply to protect just any property. If the property is inhabited and someone is attempting to destroy it, deadly force (discharging the firearm) may be justified. However, if someone is stealing a motor vehicle (for instance), that is not otherwise occupied and the theft of which is not conceivably threatening the life of anyone, deadly force is not justified.

In general, the protection of life using a licensed firearm is straightforward. But, the protection of property is dependent on whether or not the loss of that property could threaten someone's life in some way.

It's a pity that some citizens feel the need to carry guns. So, although ads are scripted and unreal - shooting at people to prove the efficacy of a protective window/door and shooting at a retreating, alleged thief are not the types of things that we should be portraying to them.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and

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