This article originally appeared on VICE Canada
I first met gun-wielding private eye Derrick Snowdy when working on a top-secret story I can't tell you about for legal reasons. When I asked him to fill me in on the story, he texted back, "That's going to take a weekend, two bottles of vodka, an eight ball, and a shotgun."
That's how I wound up at a gun range north of Toronto several weeks ago with Snowdy, a high-rolling private investigator with a dark sense of humor and connections to many a court case and political scandal. He was about to teach me how to shoot my first gun.
He said he brought "a smattering" of his firearms from home—as if we were attending a wine tasting instead of a gun range. They ranged from little pistols to large rifles—including his prohibited and soon-to-be-illegal-in-Canada (but not if he gets his way) Swiss Arms Classic Green rifle. In a statement of claim filed in May 2014, he threatened to sue the Canadian government for an absurdly hilarious $65 million if they take his Swiss Arms away.
He refused to tell me how many guns he actually owns, but did say he doesn't understand why people focus on his firearm collection when he owns just as much scuba gear.
Snowdy, who started firing guns at age seven and finds the activity relaxing, told me to pick one of the 20 or so freshly cleaned firearms on the table. I wanted to start small since it was my first time ever firing a gun.
I asked him which one a private eye in a classic film noir would choose, and he pointed to the smallest gun on the table, an all-black prohibited pistol not much longer than my hand.
He guided my sweaty palms to cup the handle and my pointer finger to sit along the side of the gun until I was ready to pull the trigger. Absolutely terrified, I leaned away from the weapon, but Snowdy directed me to straighten up. I took aim at a mean-looking cartoon zombie wielding a butcher knife and meat hook, and fired.
Though I expected the loud bang, I screamed a bit when it went off, startled by the sheer power of the weapon in my hands.
I was hooked and wanted more.
After a few more guns, I was getting the hang of it, and the generous private eye allowed me to shoot his personal fave, a silver 10-millimeter semi-automatic Smith and Wesson 1026 engraved with his name.
At first, Snowdy's off-color jokes and hilarious anecdotes (for example, overhearing an iconic fashion designer's hotel room threesome) can lower your guard, but when you get to know him you realize he's a sippy-cup of privileged information: he doesn't spill.
Still, I insisted on asking him about a major scandal he was involved in, namely the so-called "busty hookers" affair, in which Conservative MP Helena Guergis was kicked out of cabinet following allegations she had snorted coke off a sex worker's boobs. The former MP was never charged, and the allegations against her have not been proven in court.
The scandal went off like one of the grenades I'm guessing Snowdy also owns.
It all started around 2009, when the private eye was investigating a scheme involving some sketchy folks who knew Guergis' husband, former Tory MP Rahim Jaffer. In the course of the investigation, he stumbled upon some very interesting information.
According to Snowdy's statement of defense when he was named in a Guergis lawsuit, he had a conversation with Kevin Donovan at the Toronto Star in which they discussed "curious facts," including allegations that Guergis was socializing with the person he was investigating while in the company of a sex worker.
Following explosive reports by Donovan for the Star, Snowdy says a Conservative Party lawyer called him on the evening of April 8, 2010 to confirm some of the information in the story.
Snowdy told VICE he believed Guergis was seated under a security camera at a restaurant at the time of the alleged incident and told the Conservative party lawyer he could not definitely say there were not photos of the alleged incident. But he maintains he never alleged there was video of her doing such a thing.
The private eye was called before a parliamentary committee, leading to wide speculation by the press and the public. The scandal was so explosive that the Globe and Mail deemed Snowdy's bankruptcy and $13 million in liabilities newsworthy.
After Guergis was canned, she decided to sue everyone involved. Snowdy was originally named on the suit, but his name was later mysteriously dropped. "I think somebody gave her a bit of a reality check and she chose not to engage," he told me.
We went gun by gun, each a little bigger than the last, until we reached what looked like a long rifle with a scope, but was actually a gun-within-a-gun (I know, right?). By this point, my enthusiastic swearing had reached a level my grandmother would not tolerate.
"I'm going to kill this mother fucking zombie," I said, aiming the green laser point at the zombie target's stomach. I squeezed the trigger.
The safety was on.
Snowdy clicked it off and I started pummeling bullets into that dickhole zombie's evil guts.
I could see the undead butcher shivering in his little paper hat. It was time to step up to the biggest guns and finish the maggot-filled bastard off.
Next I picked up Snowdy's Israeli Tavor, a heavy assault rifle with a scope and some major kick to it.
"You are stiff as a board," Snowdy told me as I tried to aim.
"'Cause I'm terrified, man," I replied.
"Loosen up," Snowdy directed me.
I aimed at the living dead again and showered him with bullets.
"I think this one's my favorite," I told him.
I squeezed off another magazine of five bullets, as rapid fire as I could manage, which wasn't fast at all—picture the way the first person to die in a zombie apocalypse would fire a gun.
"Know what this means? You can't vote Liberal anymore," Snowdy, a card-carrying Conservative, quipped.
"Oh, no. I'm a Conservative," I lamented.
To be clear, the private eye doesn't know how I vote.
Apparently Snowdy isn't a typical example of his ilk. The idea that private investigators carry guns and roll over cars is a fallacy, he told me. He also doesn't do a whole lot of surveillance work or cases for disgruntled ex-spouses. Actually, he's more of a paper trail guy.
By this point the bouquet of spent bullets filled the air.
Finally, we reached the Swiss Arms rifle. I was amped to shoot it.
"Are you sure? It's very prohibited," Snowdy joked dryly. "The RCMP says it's evil."
To be precise, according to a CBC report, the RCMP told Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney that the gun could potentially be converted into a fully-automatic weapon.
Following Blaney's public fit against the RCMP's reclassification, even though he knew well in advance it would be reclassified, the minister declared a two-year amnesty on owning the Swiss Arms rifle. Now, Snowdy's weapon is more than one year into its amnesty order—a document he calls "an odd duck piece of work."
Snowdy brought an Israeli Tavor and a restricted AR15 variant to demonstrate how similar the three giant guns were to each other. Despite his argument that the Swiss Arms rifle was just like the other two and in no way more dangerous, it was certainly the heaviest of the bunch, and took different magazines than the others.
As I shot the giant weapon, it kicked back into my shoulder and my weakling arms quickly buckled.
"It'll be illegal in a year," I told him.
"Ah, who knows," Snowdy replied. "Not if I have anything to say about it."
When we had finished shooting, we inspected the zombie target. To my horror, we had mainly blown up his belly, with no bullets through his brain. I'll have to practice more if I want to survive the zombie apocalypse.
At the end of our range outing, Snowdy gifted me a live bullet to take home as a souvenir. His personal rule is, you only haul ammo one way—to the range. He suggested I glue it to my desk for a laugh if someone tries to pick it up.
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