You know, until yesterday, I though the position of Sergeant-At-Arms in the House of Commons was largely ceremonial – a retirement perk to the politically connected; that the man who wears antiquated costumes and carries a golden mace into Parliament is little more than an actor. One of the gratifying things I learned yesterday, in that otherwise horrible day, is that I was wrong: that it is a serious job, held by a serious man, with long experience as a peace officer, who is also properly armed to face real trouble. He is far more than just a play-actor.
On the other hand, pictures taken at the War Memorial immediately prior to the shooting showed two Canadian soldiers, both real soldiers – not actors, and both armed with serious weapons – the C-7 assault rifle. When the Islamofascist murdered Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, his fellow guardsman could not retaliate. He was helpless in the face of the enemy. The magazines of their C-7’s were empty, no doubt for reasons of safety.
Now in the military, there are many times when it is absolutely necessary for a soldier to not possess any ammunition; for instance, in a training exercise when he must shoot at other soldiers with blanks. In this case, it is absolute necessary for the officers running the exercise to inspect all weapons and magazines to make sure that no live rounds are present that could turn a training exercise into tragedy. Also, the military must keep a tight control over its firearms, magazines and ammunition; otherwise, the army will turn into a grab-bag for black-market gun dealers. Still, if we are going to post men on guard duty, they should be properly equipped to actually do real guard duty.
Now it can be argued that guarding the War Memorial is not ‘real’ guard duty but is just a ceremonial show, much like the redcoats with their black bearskin hats who guard Buckingham Palace. Nothing can be served, so this line of thinking goes, by adding live ammunition into the activity that is more for the benefit of tourists than anything else.
I think the prevalence of this sort of logic speaks volumes about the unseriousness of our society. People who reason like this don’t really believe that there are real threats in the world. These people believe, as Col. Jeff Cooper once pointed out, “that food comes from the grocery store, that safety comes from the policeman, and that bad news is something that happens to other people.” This delusion is inculcated by a too-long period of peace and prosperity. Our primitive minds often cannot handle good fortune. We end up indulging in fantasy.
Atrocities like this remind us that the people of the West need to start getting serious about life. Among other things, one thing we need to do is that if we say we are going to guard something (even if it is just for ceremonial reasons), we should damn well do it for real.