Sackville resident Peter Ripley shows his Thompson submachine guns during the third annual P.E.I. Gun and Memorabilia show at North Shore Community Centre on the weekend. The firearm, often referred to as a “Tommy gun,” is one of the most recognizable in the world but is prohibited to most Canadians. ©THE GUARDIAN/Mitch MacDonald
There are likely few Canadians who have fired a Thompson submachine gun more than Peter Ripley.
The firearms enthusiast from Sackville, N.B., had two of the notorious “Tommy guns” at the third annual P.E.I. Gun and Memorabilia show in North Shore Community Centre on the weekend.
Most Thompson submachine guns owned by Canadian collectors are deactivated, although there is a limited number of Canadians who were “grandfathered” in and allowed to own automatic firearms.
Ripley is one of those Canadians and said he enjoys showing his collection.
“(The Thompson submachine has) developed quite a notoriety in today’s world but they’re basically antiques. These guns are about the newest and they’re 75 years old.”
Peter Ripley – Gun collector from Sackville, N.B.
“I like them because they’re probably the most recognizable and perhaps one of the most famous firearms ever developed,” said Ripley, pointing to the firearm’s inclusion in many films depicting the prohibition era and the Second World War. “They’ve developed quite a notoriety in today’s world but they’re basically antiques. These guns are about the newest and they’re 75 years old.”
A growing interest in firearms among Islanders was evidenced by the hundreds who went through the show on the weekend. The event saw dealers showing products as well as some individuals displaying personal collections of rare and antique firearms.
Co-organizers Ryan Jenkins and Billy Gamble said the event has grown in attendance every year since it was re-introduced to the province.
“There seems to be a bit of a resurgence lately. Across Canada, firearms licences are going up everywhere,” said Jenkins.
Gamble said until 2015, P.E.I. was the only province to not have an annual gun show.
“There hadn’t been one since about 1988 so we wanted to get one going over here,” he said.
It appears the show has helped support a growing interest in sports shooting.
Jacob Lewis, a member of the P.E.I. Rifle Association, said the group’s membership has doubled from about 20 to 40 in the past two years.
“It had kind of dwindled a bit because target shooting wasn’t as popular as it used to be and some of our members got older and weren’t doing it anymore,” said Lewis. “But it seems to be growing now… I think it’s growing in popularity because all the shooting sports, biathlon, archery and skeet shooting, all seem to be pretty appealing right now. People are enjoying them and we think that’s good.”
Robert Bracken, Atlantic director of the National Firearms Association, was behind bringing the show back to P.E.I. in 2015 and was pleased to see how it has grown.
“It’s been good, it’s something the Island hadn’t had in a long time but it’s good for people to see the interest and what’s involved and maybe jumpstart interest in other sports.”
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