Volume 95, Issue 15
Wednesday, September 26, 2001
Gas mask panic
Fearing bilogical attack, Londoners scurry for protection
By Jessica Leeder
With the threat of terrorism now on their door steps, more and more Londoners are gearing themselves up to fight the battle.
While some Ontario arms manufacturers experience a giant boom in business over the last two weeks due to massive orders from both the Canadian and American governments, London surplus store owners are starting to relay news of their own boom.
Jack Parkinson, owner of the Parkinson Gun Shop, on King Street in London, said although he has not seen an increase in gun sales mostly due to Canadian laws preventing citizens from purchasing firearms without licenses he has noticed an abnormal increase in the number of women calling for information about purchasing guns for their own protection.
"There have been lots of calls from people wondering if they can join a gun club or from people looking for places to go to learn how to use guns," he said.
Parkinson also said he cannot help but wonder if womens' new interest in guns has been sparked largely by recent terrorist attacks.
Meanwhile Londoners are clamouring to local army surplus stores in search of gas masks, as fears of biological or chemical warfare spread.
Roy Thomas, manager of Surplus World, said he has received an unusually high number of phone calls lately, mostly from people looking to purchase gas masks.
"There have been at least twenty calls [yesterday] and ten or so the day before that," Thomas said, noting similar trends have been reported in the Toronto area.
John McDougal, a Western political science professor, speculated the increased government orders for anti-terrorist gear may not be anything to worry about, although he said he was not surprised to hear many individuals are taking extra precautions.
"It's not surprising to hear there are individuals out there who are taking extra precautions they would not normally think to take. Some are going to think it is the most natural thing in the world to go out and buy things to protect themselves," he said.
McDougal compared the recent paranoia to that of the legendary Y2K crisis and also to the 1998 Quebec ice storm, noting, in each case, individuals took rabid interest to protect themselves from disaster.
"I don't think people should be in a panic yet," he said. "It's too early to have any idea of what is really being indicated by this other than certain parts of the population thinks they have to look after themselves."
Caryl Newbery, a third-year administrative and commercial studies student said she was surprised with the public's reaction. "The threat doesn't seem to be here in Canada, it's in the States. I think people are just paranoid."
with files from Trina Melatti
Copyright © The Gazette 2001