Norming Away Guns: Self Defense & Disarmament in Canada


[Ed: Dr. Mauser first published this at Ammoland August 31. Norming is a powerful tool used by anti-gun activists to change culture, leading to changes in politics and policy, just as dangerous to Americans as to Canadians.]

Canadians are involved in a culture war. Traditional Canadian values such as self-reliance, personal responsibility, and patriotism are under attack. One tactic our opponents use is “norming.”

Norming is part of a deliberate strategy designed to transform culture by changing society’s expectations about what is proper and what is expected.

Norming may sound like academic bafflegab, but it is a powerful tool when marshaled by the cultural elite, who dominate the mainstream media, the entertainment industry, Silicon Valley, the K-12 education establishment, and the universities. Hearing the same “progressive” values echoed in the media every day has power. Since the cultural elite reject traditional values, it is no accident that Canada has been transformed and will continue to be unless more people decide to stand up.

Civil Disarmament

The “norm” of civil disarmament was deliberately created by decades of lies about the safety of using firearms, their benefits to society, and the kinds of people who own firearms. Yet Canadian gun owners remain handcuffed in the face of this propaganda war. Too many obediently follow what their “betters” tell them to do. The class structure of the British Empire upon which the Sun never sets persists.

Americans who are waking up in even greater numbers do not share the same kind of trust in their leadership.

Progressives magnify the costs to society of private firearm ownership. By dominating the media, progressives continually minimize the benefits of gun ownership to create widespread fear of guns and gun owners. Oft repeated lies over time become accepted as truth. The norm becomes stronger as more people come to agree, and repeat, with what they hear. Our factual arguments are ignored as they are inundated by pseudo-scientific studies that bolster the norm of citizen disarmament.

Yes, Canadians Own Guns

Generations of Canadians grew up with firearms. As recent as the early 1990s, surveys found around one-third of homes reporting they owned a firearm. Almost all gun owners report owning their guns for hunting or sport shooting. After decades of demonizing guns and gun owners, epitomized by firearms licensing and long-gun registration, firearms ownership has continuously declined.

Currently, just one-sixth of homes hold a licensed firearms owner. The actual numbers of firearms owners may be higher, but, given negative public norms, firearms owners are understandably discreet. Ownership numbers will continue to decline as firearms owners age out and are not replaced by younger hunters and sport shooters. In Canada, it’s often just too much trouble to go through the hoops of legal ownership for a sport that has been stigmatized.

Continued civilian ownership of weapons requires a strong personal self-defense norm, not a sport norm.

Yet the problem is that in Canada, self-defense has effectively been demonized by progressives.

Carrying a weapon for self-defense is illegal across the country – only handfuls of people are allowed to carry weapons (concealed or open) besides police. If guns can’t be used for protecting oneself or one’s family, why own it? It becomes an affectation, even a hindrance.

If ownership isn’t crucial and valued, it becomes easy for the government to disarm civilians by banning guns.

The Prime Minister considers it a vote-winning strategy to prohibit hundreds of thousands of “military-style” firearms held by responsible men and women. The progressive ‘norm’ of civilian disarmament surrounds Canadians and is undermining traditional rights and freedoms.  Canadians have long owned firearms for hunting, sport shooting, pest control, and defending ourselves and our families, but the traditional values that support our lives have been steadily undermined by a decadent progressive culture that undermines self-reliance and honors victimhood.


The outcome of this culture clash is still unknown as the new progressive norm will not allow for self-defense. Progressives prefer promises of government protection to personal responsibility. In contrast, all major world religions consider defense of oneself or one’s family against violent attack morally permissible, even obligatory.

Early in the 20th Century, when restrictive firearms laws were first introduced in both the UK and Canada, politicians felt it necessary to insist in Parliament that the laws would not interfere with the right to self-defense. Later, the politicians abandoned their promises.

In Canada, it is technically still legal to use deadly force in self-defense. However, the police and courts strongly discourage its use by setting a variety of legal and financial roadblocks making this option realistically out of reach for most people. Firearms become useless, even an encumbrance so that citizens are easily disarmed.

In jurisdictions that respect individual rights, authorities can often decide quite quickly if a case involves legitimate armed self-defense. If so, the firearm is quickly returned to the owner, who is not charged. This situation of uneven treatment of self-defenders by authorities is now occurring in various American jurisdictions governed by progressives, but in a more vicious manner that is creating backlash and organized resistance.

Self-defense and the Courts

In Canada, authorities push the new norm of passivity in the face of aggression. Individuals who use violent force to stop a criminal attack in Canada are arrested and charged with serious crimes, their firearms are confiscated and they are jailed. This may not cause problems for gangbangers, but it does for law-abiding citizens.

Frequently, law-abiding firearm owners face charges worse than those of the criminals who attacked them. An effective legal defense costs tens of thousands of dollars, takes multiple years, and very likely may not succeed.

The cases of Ian Thomson and Gerald Stanley illustrate the challenges faced by Canadians who legitimately use firearms to defend themselves or their families. After three men tried to burn down his home while he was inside it, Ian Thomson shot at them with a legally owned gun.

The government even charged him with “unsafe” storage because it was possible for him to retrieve his legally stored firearm in time to shoot at his attackers!

Thomson required more than 2-1/2 years to win his freedom. Similarly, with Gerald Stanley, who faced a murder charge in 2016 for defending himself against a carload of drunks. Stanley managed to convince the jury in 2018 that his gun went off ‘accidentally’ while attempting to discourage the aggressive drunks on his remote property. The government forced these law-abiding citizens to fight years of expensive court battles to finally vindicate their actions.

The Canadian Supreme Court is currently considering an interesting case of defensive gun use. Peter Khill shot and killed an intruder in self-defense in 2016. After he was found “not guilty,” his acquittal was overturned by the Ontario Court of Appeal after the government appealed the decision. In response, Mr. Khill appealed his case to the Supreme Court and it heard his case early in 2020. The court has reserved its decision.

The basic facts of the case are straightforward. Mr. Khill, was asleep at about 3:00 a.m. when he was awakened due to a loud banging. From the window, he could see his pickup truck parked in the driveway. Believing that somebody might be in the truck, Mr. Khill perceived a potential threat to himself and his wife and went outside with his loaded shotgun to investigate the noise.

Mr. Khill said in a loud voice, “Hey, hands up.” The intruder began to rise and turn toward Mr. Khill. As he turned, Mr. Khill fired a shot. He immediately racked the shotgun and fired a second shot. Both shots hit the intruder in the chest and he died almost immediately. Mr. Khill believed the intruder’s hand and arm movements indicated that he had a gun and was turning to shoot Mr. Khill. Mr. Khill believed that he had no choice but to shoot.

Now What?

Will the Court support defensive firearm use or will it conform to the progressive norm that discourages private firearm ownership and use? Will this be another step along the slippery slope to total firearms confiscation in Canada? Whatever the court decides, Canadians have long ago given up the fight. Firearms owners are a demonized minority opposed by the government and the elites. Over the past one hundred years, Canadians have gradually compromised away the right to defend themselves against violent attacks.

Americans have watched as the Canadians lost the battle. Canadians have been snookered with lies and deceit to abandon their rights. Do not compromise with the statists. Doing so means losing your freedom.




— Gary Mauser, PhD is professor emeritus in the Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies and the Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia. He specializes in criminology and economics, has published extensively on firearms legislation, firearms and violence, and has provided expert testimony on criminal justice issues to the Canadian government.

All DRGO articles by Gary Mauser, PhD