CALGARY - An off-duty Michigan police officer's public lament about not being able to carry a handgun in a Calgary park has him taking cyber fire from both sides of the border.
Walt Wawra of Kalamazoo, Mich., wrote a letter to the Calgary Herald this week complaining about a recent daylight encounter he and his wife had while visiting Nose Hill Park, a vast expanse of hilly grassland on the city's north side.
Wawra says the two men asked twice in a "very aggressive tone" whether the couple had been to the Calgary Stampede yet. They were "disrespectful" and had a "menacing manner," he recalls.
He says he ignored the two men at first, but when they moved closer he responded: "Gentlemen, I have no need to talk with you. Goodbye."
Everyone walked away peacefully. But in his letter to the editor, Wawra laments that a man should have the right to protect himself when he needs to and says it felt strange not to be able to carry his handgun off duty.
"I thank the Lord Jesus Christ they did not pull a weapon of some sort, but rather concluded it was in their best interest to leave us alone," Wawra writes.
"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 sparked a Twitter stampede under the hashtag #nosehillgentlemen. Many commenters mocked his position. Others took the opportunity to comment on the difference between Canadian and American gun culture.
"All set for my trip to Kalamazoo, got my bullet proof vest. Going to promote next years Calgary Stampede," one observer joked.
"Thank God they weren't armed with free pancakes," wrote another in a shout out to the Stampede tradition of free breakfasts.
The popular U.S. website Gawker wrote a post about Wawra's letter under the heading "American Becomes Laughingstock of Canada After Letter to Editor Lamenting Lack of Handgun During Mild Confrontation."
There was no answer Thursday at the phone number listed for Wawra in Kalamazoo. Calls went to voice mail.
The Kalamazoo Gazette reported that it wasn't able to reach Wawra either, but quoted Brian Uridge, assistant chief of Kalamazoo's Department of Public Safety, as saying officials had reviewed the letter.
"Officer Wawra was simply exercising his right to free speech as a private citizen using social media," the paper quoted Uridge as saying. "There is no need for us to comment any further."
The paper says it ran a letter from Wawra in 2011 criticizing U.S. President Barack Obama for inviting hip-hop artist Common to the White House. It said the singers lyrics celebrate violence against police.