A vacationing American police officer's letter to a Canadian newspaper lamenting that country's strict gun controls has made him the laughing stock of Canada.
Walt Wawra wrote a now-famous letter to the Calgary Herald after going for an afternoon stroll with his wife in the city's Nose Hill Park-- where the only 'criminals' are dog-snatching coyotes-- and feeling threatened by a couple of strangers. What did these two ne'er-do-wells do to spook the American visitors so much? In Wawra's own words:
"The men stepped in front of us, and said in a very aggressive tone: 'Been to the Stampede yet?' We ignored them. The two moved closer, repeating: 'Hey, you been to the Stampede yet?'
I quickly moved between these two and my wife, replying 'Gentle-men, I have no need to talk to you. Goodbye.' They looked bewildered, and we then walked past them."
The Calgary Stampede, for the un-initiated, is the city's most famous event, drawing more than a million visitors to celebrate more than a week of rodeos, exhibitions, concerts and other festivities.
Later in his letter, Wawra writes:
"I thank the Lord Jesus Christ they did not pull a weapon of some sort... Would we not expect a uniformed officer to pull his or her weapon to intercede in a life-or-death encounter to protect self or another? Why then should the expectation be lower for a citizen of Canada or a visitor? Wait, I know-- it's because in Canada, only the criminals and the police carry handguns."
Wawra's letter has 'gone viral' in Canada, sparking national ridicule, even sympathy of the pathetic variety, for the paranoid, trigger-happy American.
"The concept of needing to carry a gun anywhere in Calgary is a completely foreign concept to me," one local wrote in response to Wawra's letter. "And in Nose Hill Park... the very last place imaginable."
"Here's the thing, in Calgary during the Stampede, everyone asks you if you've been to Stampede yet," wrote one commenter on Gawker. "The waiter, your neighbor, the bus driver, the priest, the lady walking her dog, the kids on the playground... it's like 'hello,' 'how ya doing' or 'hot enough for ya?'"
"Wait, tell me what you would have done to these guys if you had been packing your pistol. They didn't ask for your money, they didn't assault you, but asked a question, and you would defend yourself with a gun?" Dunston commented in the Herald. Maybe consider staying in the USA, where you could blow these guys away for asking you a question."
Wawra's paranoid gun lust has even earned him his own Twitter hashtag-- #NoseHillGentlemen.
"Hey Walt. The 2 men approached you because in #Canada we're friendly to each other," wrote @KabalGuy.
"Note to self, don't strike up a conversation with an American. They'll shoot you," quipped @Chris_Morris.
@BigtimeYYC correctly noted that Wawra's hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan, population 74,000, had 14 murders in 2010, while Calgary, with 1.1 million people, had 15. If Kalamazoo had Calgary's population, it would have more than 200 yearly murders.
Naomi Lakritz, a columnist for the Calgary Herald who is both a Canadian and American citizen, slammed Wawra, and US gun culture, in an editorial. A couple of highlights:
"[Wawra] complained about Canadian gun laws, saying that in Canada, only the police and criminals carry handguns. Yes, that's true, and it's probably one of the reasons when there's a dispute over a parking space in Canada, nobody dies from bullet wounds as a result."
"Americans argue that they need that they need to carry guns, because having a concealed weapon makes them feel safe. Their thinking seems to be that at any given moment, they could be under attack from the very next person they meet on the street, and they'll need to shoot in self-defense. Whereas, you walk down a street in Canada, you don't assume you're at risk of being suddenly assaulted or killed. You just see ordinary people going about their day and you give their motives no further thought."
"And so, Americans, unaware of just how sick their handgun mentality is, continue to fight like crazy to prevent any kind of handgun control... A 9mm handgun, purchased legally, was the weapon of choice in Oak Creek, Wisconsin on Sunday when six people were killed and three more were wounded by a white supremacist at a Sikh temple...
"As an American who is also a Canadian citizen, all I can say is, thank God I live in Canada."
Undaunted, Wawra told CBC that he does not regret writing the letter.
"What concerned me is that two young men just approached us and stopped us... and [began] talking to us without even being welcome to talk to us," he explained. "They just took it upon themselves to yell at us."
It is unclear whether or not Wawra and wife went to the Stampede.