Category Archives: Firearms UK Articles

Trust in the United Kingdom

Submitted by Joel Hall, Firearms UK supporter.

In 2010 the BBC, on their current affairs show, Big Questions addressed the subject of gun control. Graham Showell, at that time a campaigner for more freedoms over firearm ownership and founder of campaign organisation Britain Needs Guns, spoke in defence of his position. Although the debate itself eventually broke down to an emotional argument due to Lucy Cope’s inability to discuss the subject objectively, there were several valid points raised on both sides (although questionable statistics were used by several from the gun control camp, which is another essay in itself). Perhaps the most telling moment was the audience reaction to Showell’s reply after being asked why farmers should have to keep their shotguns and firearms at home, and I would like to forever enshrine this as a “quotable quote”, as it is one of the most precise epithets I have heard during a televised debate:

Well… You’ve got to trust peopleGraham Showell

Sadly, in this instance, Showell was laughed and jeered at, for reasons that were not entirely clear, although the presenter, Nicky Campbell, agreed that it was a good point. And how can it not be? Has British society become so complacent that the very idea of trusting other people is laughable? It certainly appears so, and the chief offender for this lack of trust appears to be the government of the United Kingdom itself.
In October 2014, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) announced that those owning firearms or shotguns would be subject to random police checks on themselves and their guns. There was no known event which led to this decision, as is usually the case. It was simply announced, as was the creation of a hotline for reporting ‘concerns’ about firearms owners. In the event it seemed the police were keen to learn if anyone owning a gun was suffering emotional upset at any time although, as has become common in the modern era, it was insisted that there might exist concerns over links with “terrorism”. Although ACPO soon reversed these decisions, the implication was clear – secretly inform authorities if you have concerns that something may be wrong with someone else. In short, do not simply trust someone.
Of course this is nothing new in the UK when it comes to guns. The 1997 amendments to the Firearms Act 1968, demonstrated an inherent lack of trust towards those owning pistols. In the wake of the Dunblane tragedy, government sought to create draconian rules on the security and storage of privately-held pistols. So much so, in fact that shooting clubs, gun smiths and shooters themselves informed MPs that they would prefer a blanket ban to the proposals which would have crippled pistol shooting in the UK. Prime Minister John Major oversaw the first amendments to the act prohibiting private ownership of “short firearms” except in exceptional circumstances. The exception was regarding those guns chambered for .22lr rimfire cartridges as used in international target competition. Later the same year, the new Prime Minister Tony Blair introduced the second amendment to the act, prohibiting the small calibre pistols as well.
The gun control lobby were ecstatic. The new legislation would prevent the crimes seen at Dunblane from ever happening again. Except that this wasn’t actually the case. Indeed gun crime and specifically crime with hand guns rose quickly in the years following the amendments. Of course, it can be argued that there was no way that criminal use of handguns would decrease over simple legislation as criminals, by definition, do not obey the law. However, there was a deeper meaning to the legislation itself, which may have been lost in translation by media: the government were telling people “you cannot be trusted”. In fact many pieces of legislation passed by the UK government strengthen this message, but this particular case had far-reaching consequences. It also told the public that they cannot trust one another. Indeed, since 1997, there is suspicion of those who have guns, and this suspicion has led to the general public, if not actually supporting actions such as ACPO’s proposals this year, then refusing to object to them, barring a minority, and failing to see why gun owners feel threatened. Indeed it was striking that during that episode of Big Questions; a peculiar set of questions presented themselves regarding Lucy Cope and those calling for more gun control.

Why the insistence on relying on the police and government for protection?
Why the insistence that all arms are held by the government or those working on its behalf?
Why the insistence that trust should be placed in government and police, a small minority of society, and not in the majority?

It seems as if there is a cultural phenomenon which is pervading society. That phenomenon is that despite widespread criticism of various government actions, from expenses scandals, to arguments surrounding immigration, cover ups of alleged child sex crimes, illegal wars in the middle east, the advent of “terrorism” in response to those wars, police mishaps with firearms and rising sexual offences and a high levels of violent crime, many people believe the government can be trusted with dangerous weapons used to inflict suffering, but members of society cannot for peaceful means or to protect themselves.
Add to this, that the police are becoming more heavily armed in the UK, with more firearms officers, police carrying incapacitant sprays and wearing body armour as “protective equipment”, stock-piling weapons and even armoured vehicles while the citizens of the country are not permitted by law to own any object for the purposes of protection of self-defence, and it is no wonder people may feel threatened. Increasingly, people without thinking are going along with the government’s plan and insisting people simply cannot be trusted. But why is it we trust our own government so much? After all, members of the government are simply people, and citizens of the country. Likewise the police and members of HM Armed Forces. Why is so much trust placed in the hands of these people, but denied to us not only by those in power, but by ourselves?

"Run, Tell Hide"

“Run, Hide,Tell”

The latest “anti-terror” campaign is aimed at the citizens themselves. “Run, hide, tell”. This is of course a meaningless campaign, as many people would indeed do this if they came up against someone with a bomb or guns in public. But there is no mention of fighting, or standing up for ourselves. Another intriguing complication of this campaign is that the leaflets giving the advice to “run, hide, tell”, do not mention “terrorism” at all, but refer to “firearms and weapons attacks”. Indeed the conclusion that can be drawn from this publicised campaign is that the aim is to heighten collective public fear and mistrust of guns and those who own them, or for that matter anything which constitutes a weapon. The insistence by government that there is something to be scared of and we should be scared is paying off. The fear of the people is creating mistrust among ourselves, and leading to a state where government has the monopoly of force and power. In a so-called democracy! The saddest part of this is that we are willingly going along with it, and the majority are now so used to being part of a culture of this type, that we baulk at the idea of trusting people in case there may be a problem. The government simply tells us what to do, and we follow. This is dangerous. It leads to government becoming so strong that change is impossible, and tyranny can replace democracy without challenge. One could argue this is already happening in piecemeal fashion. As government becomes bigger, now to the extent of encompassing most of a continent under a single government, more and more freedom and power is taken from the people, and laws are becoming ever more restrictive, albeit in mostly subtle ways, while power in consolidated within the grasp of a few.
Perhaps the most alarming aspect is certainly the focus on “terrorism”. In November, there were announcements of tougher anti-terrorism laws, including police being able to force companies to name those using a phone or computer at any particular time, without a court giving its authority. This smacks of the same destruction of liberty seen when “terror” suspects can be put in prison without trial, or indeed evidence being made publicly available. The government it seems, is circumventing the courts to impose its own will on people by force. It is disturbing how little people seem to be worried by this turn of events. And if people believe that life will not become more restrictive they are sadly mistaken. Government has now become so full of its own self-importance that the Home Secretary has announced a plan to rush through parliament bans on UK-based insurance firms reimbursing companies and individuals who pay ransom demands. The supposed thinking behind this is that they will not pay up and so “fund terrorism” if they cannot claim the money back. Of course, where people’s lives are at stake this is not the cold-hearted way in which we work. Our government may not want to negotiate with terrorists, but normal people certainly will to prevent loss of life. And to which “terrorists” will this refer? ISIS? Somali pirates? Common kidnappers who will then be labelled as terrorists? Time will tell. As it will when police use their powers to demand to know who was using a phone at a particular time. How can we be sure it will only apply to genuine terror suspects and investigations? There is nothing preventing the police from using these powers for other types of crime. In fact the “anti-terror” laws themselves are relatively loose in how they can be interpreted. In addition to this, there is such a fear spread of “terrorism” that the government and police are almost unanswerable to anyone, even the judiciary.

But when the “terrorists” strike, it will not be the police or government or soldiers who are first on the scene. It will be the public. The same public we all mistrust and whom the government itself mistrusts. The public will be powerless to prevent any event that might occur, and in the waiting period there will be damage and death. And it could be assumed “lessons will be learned” to the point of further restrictions on liberty. This suggests a second look at the ACPO plans for check-ups on gun owners. What was the overall aim of making this attack on freedoms? Certainly there was no intelligence linking people owning firearms with “terrorist” activity. Perhaps it was to prevent further mass-shootings by people who succumb to mental illness or psychological distress? But then, police are not trained psychiatrists and cannot make such an evaluation based on a home visit or check of a gun cabinet. More likely is to continue to spread the fear and mistrust. Gun owners require check-ups by police? They must not be very trustworthy people. They are people to be wary or even afraid of. Would police announce they were having difficulty with people complying? After all, the police were not given more powers of entry. Perhaps if this was the case they would have? Would it have been a success with police identifying dangerous owners after these checks? This would also have seen the same message delivered, and no doubt led to yet more restrictive legislation or further powers for police to enter gun owners’ homes and seize items.

There are strong messages being sent here from government, both directly and via the media. In fact the media is the biggest tool the government can use in order to oppress people and spread fear. It is an important tool for sending a message. That message is that we cannot trust people, but we must trust the government, no matter how ill-thought-out its plans are or how drastic the mistakes made. Even when the evidence shows that the government are not worthy of the collective trust of the people, or when we know from personal experience or media reports that the government simply cannot protect us while it demands we do not attempt to adequately protect ourselves, that message is still being delivered with all the subtle refinements which are the hallmark of propaganda and control of the public perceptions.
Where is the voice of reason in all this? Where is the one saying ‘enough is enough’ and demanding change? Where is the message that the people are not babies under the care of the government that we do not have to be wary of each other? That we do not have to be afraid because the mistrusting government wants us to be? That it is not the government we must place all our trust in? And exactly what would that message be to the public that would highlight the folly of this whole perverse ethos we have had thrust upon us?
It is right there, behind the jeers, the laughter, the arrogance and the scorn. A quiet voice, admittedly, not one of pomposity or self-righteousness, nor aggressive or assuming. But it is there, and its message as simple as it is enlightened:

 

Well… You’ve got to trust peopleGraham Showell, 2010

Olympic Trials Report

I received the invite email on Thursday 9th October which was right on the eve of a personal anniversary that always leaves me feeling upset and down. I got up early that morning to go swimming but as always I checked my emails to see if there was anything important that I had to deal with that day. I was not expecting to get through to the next stage of Target Tokyo due to my gender Identity (IOC rules prohibit transsexuals from competing in any sport until two years after surgery) and the fact that I am a club shooter. When I read the email I had to refrain from shouting with joy (it was 6am!!!) and dancing around the room.

Two weeks before the trials I put out a press release to the local media about what I was doing so see if I could get some publicity (that way I could show that I was able to get publicity for myself) and maybe sponsorship. At least two sources picked up the story and ran it, Kent Sports news which is an internet based company and my local paper the Sevenoaks Chronicle. I did an interview with the Chronicle and they sent round a photographer for a photo-shoot. If I get to an Olympic Games as an athlete (I still find it hard to call myself an athlete) I will be the second person from my village and employee of Brands Hatch to become an Olympian. The other person is Olympic gold medallist from Sochi, Lizzy Yarnold.

We had to be at Bisley (which is 60 miles from where I live) by 8am to sign on. So after a light breakfast and a cup of tea we set off at 6:30 to face the dreaded M25. For a change it was behaving and we arrived at the Lord Roberts Centre about an hour later. Before going in to the Centre I checked my messages that I had on my phone (it had been going crazy on the drive to Bisley) and all of them were good luck messages from friends and colleagues.

My group’s first exercise was at the semi outdoor range next to the small bore rifle range. We had 30 minutes to complete the exercise. It was split into three sections the first part was on a standard sized blank target at 10 meters. The idea was to see how well you could group with no aiming point. The next target was a black line about an inch wide and the idea was to get all of your pellets into the black line in as small as group as possible and the third target was a standard 10 meter target and again the aim was grouping. In fact this was the aim of the whole day, it was grouping and coachability that was the aim not high scores. The first part of our group did their exercises and then it was my turn. By this time I was a bag of nerves but as soon as I got onto the firing line a strange calmness came over me and I did my exercises in 5 pellet batches and timed myself to give me 10 minutes on each exercise. At the end of my exercises I was happy with my groupings. After we had finished the coach asked me to stay behind. ‘Here we go I thought’, but he asked some to get a LP2 match pistol for the lady to have a go on. I realised that he was talking about me so I waited while the pistol was brought to the range and aired up. On a blank target I was asked to repeat Exercise 1 with the Steyr LP2 Match Pistol using the Olympic one handed stance. This really put me on the spot as I was now using a strange pistol that wasn’t zeroed or set up for me and the grip shelf was way too high for my hand to fit in comfortably but within a few pellets I was getting a nice tight group of about ½ to ¾ inch. The coach said not to worry about my age as shooting is not an age related sport and that I could still get to the Olympics if I was in my 70’s. I was also asked if I was willing to switch to the full Olympic 10 meter discipline if I was selected to go further to which I answered yes of course.

The last stage was aimed to see how we could shoot under pressure with a simulated 20 shot match in 30 minutes i.e. an Olympic Final simulation. We were allowed 20 minutes to sight in but as we had been shooting for an hour on the neighbouring range in identical conditions I just shot 5 pellets mainly o save air as my air bottle developed a leak at the filling handle when I tried to fill my pistol so I hoped that I had enough air in the gun for 20 shots.

I re-joined Glynn in the reception area. Unfortunately he couldn’t get any photographs of the event as only Target Tokyo staff and the shooters were allowed into the range area and there was no spectator facilities. Since I was gagging for a brew and something to eat we made our way nearby Box Hill and Rikers cafe for a hot dog, coffee and relax before hitting the magic roundabout home. When I got home I had to prepare my pistols for another 4 matches (I won both the HFT matches and came 3rd in the and 4th in the Metal Plates matches) the next day plus make sure my medals and beret were ready for the Remembrance Act I was leading at my gun club.

On 19th November I got the results of the day and I was told that I hadn’t been selected for the next phase. Yes I am disappointed and upset but that is sport. This is not the end of my Olympic dream by any stretch of the imagination. I am a determined girl and I am determined to represent Great Britain in shooting. It might not be in air pistol as I am taking up clay pigeon shooting in the New Year and currently getting my Shotgun Certificate. I am only 43 so there is still 4 or 5 Olympics in which I could compete in and I do aim to be in one of them and make history as the first openly transgender Olympian and medallist in shooting.

The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club Conference 2014

Representing Firearms UK, I and Charles had the great pleasure of attending yesterday’s annual Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club conference, held at the gorgeous Hilton hotel in Warwick.

Both through my role within Firearms UK, and perhaps even more so personally I have followed the growth of ‘bun club’ with keen interest and have found it inspiring and uplifting; even through Twitter alone; which I believe was my first exposure to the club I could not help but be touched by the friendliness and positivity, which to me is a core component of the experience and is something all shooting clubs and organisations should seek to emulate.

Leaving the car park our eyes were drawn to the fabulous new club car provided by one of the latest sponsors; Firs Garage, which was situated in front of grand entrance, my excitement was overtaking my nerves and I couldn’t wait to get inside and be a part of what was to come.

SG&CB Club vehicle outside 2014 conference

As I had expected everyone looked amazing, with loads of gorgeous tweed and shooting inspired outfits on display by delegates, giving a great preview to what was on offer at some of the trade stands throughout the event… and in true bun club fashion there was even a prize for ‘best dressed’, bun club after all is more than just shooting, but a friendly and joyful mix of the social, of friendships, of fashion… beautiful and delicious cakes, and shooting. This for me is a huge positive, helping those who may otherwise be put off by what they may perceive to be a male dominated, too competitive or otherwise unappealing venture.

Not long into the foyer of the conference area we were warmly and enthusiastically greeted by Victoria herself, the friendly and very approachable founder of Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club. I echo her sentiments it was great to finally get to meet her in person. I was incredibly nervous throughout the day; having been struggling with a recent bout of anxiety, but gradually with Victoria’s heart-warming words of encouragement and introductions to delegates I had previously only encountered through social media, I began to feel more at home and thoroughly enjoyed everything the day had to offer.

The day kicked off with an introduction by Victoria who covered how she had to learn how to run a business and all of what that entails, learning how to manage and utilize social media and the challenge of trying to keep everyone happy, sentiments which those behind Firearms UK can certainly appreciate having struggled with some of the same challenges ourselves. She then said something which really struck a chord; talking about the growth of bun club and how the club can grow simply by each one of the delegates introducing 2-3 girlfriends, who in turn introduce another 2-3 girlfriends. We agree wholeheartedly and have expressed similar ideas to strengthening the shooting community has a whole, we are consistently ignored as a minority, one of the most basic ways for us to challenge this is to simply increase the size of our community, to introduce more people into shooting.

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First of the days speakers was Lucy King and Abigail Aldis from Shooting Times. Lucy began by emphasising the importance of shooting related news, comparing it to her disinterest in regular news and politics, highlighting that it is important to be kept up to date on changing events which can have an impact on shooting; “making sure that we don’t lose out on any political changes that are coming”. She went on to mention BASC’s important work over the European elections the Natural England consultation on General and Class licences and the importance of having shooting being accepted as normal by the general public, it is after all an incredibly inclusive and varied sport, truly open to all.

Abigail then gave an interview, with both her and Lucy sharing their introduction to shooting and explaining how they, as women relatively new to shooting, have helped make Shooting Times more accessible and of benefit to a broader readership.

Excitedly IPC Media, who operate numerous magazines; including three other shooting related titles are now in negotiations with Victoria to offer a great magazine subscription deal to bun club members, providing all four shooting titles under one subscription at a discounted rate.

Next to speak was Ed Solomons, a GB Team member and well respected shooting coach. He spoke of his introduction to shooting becoming a full time occupation; living the dream you could say, and on what to look out for when considering hiring a coach. A few interesting points I took note of about Ed is that he has coached 2/3’s of the English ladies shooting team this season, he also views follow up work as important, checking up on clients to see how they doing… having spent good money on coaching myself in another area, I personally consider follow up work as invaluable, helping to build a strong relationship with your coach which will help yield positive results in any coaching session.

Ed goes on to say that with a competent coach, excluding the possibility for eye or other medical conditions compromising your improvement you should see improvement reasonably quickly, so if you are not, it is worth considering you may not be with the right coach. In answering questions from the floor he expanded upon some of his key tips with regard to frequency of sessions, in his view it is crucial to practice between coaching sessions to derive the most benefit, so it is a waste to have a coaching session every month if you are only shooting once per month, instead focus on getting out and practicing what you have covered in your last coaching session for five to six times before you schedule your next coaching session.

Liam Bell followed with a talk on the year of a game keeper. Having hatched and raised chickens, some of the concepts were familiar to me; however the motivation for chicks to hatch out was new to me and very interesting. An overview of pest control and the various methods followed, highlighting the amount of work that is required to raise game and how there is always something that needs doing; whether that be collecting or buying in eggs, feeding, building or modifying pens or pest control, the life of a game keeper certainly seems to be a busy one.

The first break had arrived, and like those that followed it offered an opportunity to enjoy the refreshments take in the gorgeous display of cakes entered into the various competitions by bun club members and of course visit the trade stands for a bit of shopping. Still quite nervous I enjoyed a cup of coffee and took an overview of the stands, I shyly entered into conversations, happy to soak up the atmosphere; it was great to recognize people I had so far only spoken to via e-mail or social media connections.

After the break and in true show and tell fashion David and Allistair from Browning talked about the beginnings of the company, the rising popularity of the semi-auto in clay shooting and hilariously shared some of the gun cleaning disaster stories they have encountered. Several examples from the Browning range were handed around. The guys remained in attendance throughout the day offering advice and answering questions.

Peter Glesner a firearms Barrister and BASC council member returned to speak on firearms law, beginning with a great introductory quiz featuring pictures of firearms and other items which all fall under firearms law within the UK. It was up to us the audience to determine whether each was prohibited or available under an FAC or SGC. The first one immediately put a smile on my face; I said to myself “it looks like a LanTac”, then I spotted the partially cut out words “Sub Raven” and my hand shot up. The supressed .22 semi-automatic, despite its tactical black appearance is perfectly legal in the UK, unfortunately only a couple of the audience guessed correctly. More familiar firearms made an appearance, as did several handguns and even Tasers and CS canisters which are prohibited items within the UK, although confusingly as pointed out by Peter many similar items were perfectly legal; comparing Tasers which are prohibited to legally available cattle prods. As many of our followers will already be aware, we agree with Peter with respect to the tactical looking firearms; “it’s just a black bit of kit”.

Quite amazingly a delicious 3-course meal was included in the conference ticket price, the chicken was my selection of choice, and I couldn’t say no to the cheese cake afterwards… always a favourite of mine. More coffee and another stroll around the trade stands followed… and then I was signed up, the newest member of bun club, a generous gift from my colleague. I’ve been thinking, expecting to join at some point, something always seemed to get in the way, but no more, I was over the moon and very excited about attending future events as a fully-fledged member.

After lunch it was fashion show time with Rosie Prest from Malmo Guns giving a fun filled talk on shooting appropriate and inspired fashion. A collection of gorgeous outfits were assembled and proudly modeled. Both Tweed and modern technical fabrics were featured and it was explained how we can add a touch of colour in a stylish way to our shooting clothes which are largely browns and greens.

Next up was Chris Brookes from BASC covering conservation and deer stalking. He began by introducing the founding of BASC and how it has evolved into what it is today. The structure of the organisation was featured, with a particular emphasis on the work of the media team, Chris reminding everyone to give them a ring if we encounter any negative press whether on TV, the radio or in print, as the team is obviously not able to see every piece of news, and making them aware of any negative press will allow for a suitable response to be prepared to ensure that media coverage is balanced and not biased against shooting.

Characteristics of the different UK deer species were then discussed with photos highlighting the differences, a useful reminder for those who hadn’t yet entered the Deer Derriere competition over on the BASC stand.

With the judging now complete the final break gave the opportunity to sample some of the beautiful looking cakes and other delights that have been brought and entered into the various baking competitions. I was introduced to the lovely Liz and both of us made sure we entered the competitions on the BASC stand, leaving just enough time for another quick tour of the trade stands.

The final speaker of the day was Laura Saunsbury, a firearms Solicitor who made it all the way from the South of France! She reinforced points made earlier by Peter Glesner, emphasizing how important it is for us as certificate holders to be careful in how we interact with other people and how seemingly minor and unrelated incidents can have an impact on whether we get to remain certificate holders.

I’ve missed some bits out, I am sure of it, I got so swept up into the event that my notes became thinner and thinner as the day went on, the talks were all thoroughly enjoyable, interesting and fun filled I loved them all, I hope the above can help paint a picture for those yet to make it to a bun club event and the conference in particular just how much there is to offer… even with all of the above said, there is still more to cover.

The Disabled Shooters Group, the National Governing Body for disabled clay shooting within the UK are currently fundraising to send six of their own shooters to demonstrations this year, beginning with Suhl in Germany this July, aiming to introduce the Olympic Trap discipline into the Paralympic Games. We at Firearms UK are fully supportive of this initiative and have been raising awareness of the initiative via our website and social media, as such I was delighted to find out that an auction was to take place to help raise money for this incredibly important cause, offering an amazing prize to the winner, or in this case winners.

The prize was announced as a full gun service provided by Purdey trained Mike Moody and a slab of shotgun cartridges provided by Robert Everitt of Hull Cartridge company; greater still Mike was to pattern your gun with a selection of cartridges and then you will receive a box of the best for your particular gun. Has the bidding heated up, the prize was eventually doubled giving two lucky donors an equal prize, raising £230!

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Emotional speeches of thanks were soon to come, before everyone was free to find the bar, but before all of that it was prize giving time. Prizes were on offer for each category in the baking competition, I recall best tray bake and best overall, although they were others and as mentioned previously there were even a prize for best dressed… perhaps after listening to Rosie’s talk on field fashion I could be in a shot for that title next year, who knows, this year I was very surprised to win the members competition, being rewarded with a large bottle of Bruadar malt whiskey liqueur, I was bowled over, having just become a member that very day it was totally unexpected to win anything and a very nice surprise on top of what truly was an incredible day.

The conference was bursting with fun, friendly people, lots of discussions, competitions, so much so I couldn’t possibly comment on it all, but such a great event deserved my best efforts in introducing the day to those who were not in attendance. My apologies for not speaking to more people, I expect with a few events under my belt I will be much more confident and talkative in time for next year’s conference, I already can’t wait for it.

Thank you to the Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club, Victoria herself and everyone who helped make the day so utterly amazing, I had a great time.

Unity & Positive Action

The Firearms UK led Unity campaign was launched on 20th March 2014. Although the focus of the campaign is on .22 pistol shooting it presents a further opportunity for the entire shooting community to unite and support each other, to support the sport as a whole, hence the name Unity.

Being one of the most diverse sports available offering a huge variety of disciplines to the many demographics who enjoy shooting, it is obvious that not all will be interested in the discipline of .22 pistol shooting, or any specific discipline for that matter, it is the variety that helps make the sport so inclusive, there is something for everyone.

We do all love the sport though, we want it to survive, to thrive, to be around for our children and grandchildren and their grandchildren… don’t we?

Assuming the answer to the above question is “Yes”, why then as a community do we still experience in-action and division… whether it be political lobbying, contributing to the PACEC study or signing petitions, why do the many continually leave the work of defending the sport to the few, when it is the responsibility of everyone?

Yes there are differences in law regarding the right to hold SGC and FAC, but when those who would see the sport dissolved and forgotten start to target the next aspect of shooting, when it becomes the turn of another discipline to have their particular interest targeted, if this division and inaction to support ALL shooting persists, who will become the last man standing, or don’t we care anymore?

Unsupported effort breeds unsupported effort, the resignation that failure breeds failure and that is the cycle to be broken, and unless someone takes the initiative, puts behind them the constant barrage of negativity, rises above the difficulties and drives forward little will ever change for the positive.

So, we have decided we love shooting, but we recognize the lack of action, the lack of unity in ourselves or in others, we have probably all heard an excuse given to requests for positive action , lets debunk a few of them.

That’s what I pay XYZ Organisation for

No organisation, however large or well-funded can do everything. Threats to shooting come in many forms, and the established shooting organisations work tirelessly to defend the sport from them to the best of their ability, but as with any organisation there are limits on what they alone can do. One of the biggest strengths any membership organisation has is its membership, an active body of supporters willing to stand up for what they love, yet within shooting may are quick to get the benefits, but do little to support the organisations who actually defend what they love, day in and day out. Being a member of a shooting sports organisation funds vital work, much of which will not be published, and in return many benefits; such as insurance are awarded but simply being a member is not an excuse for failing to act as an individual. Many initiatives can be created and or are supported by organisations; petitions and consultations are a clear example, it is individual’s en-masse that will make the difference.

I’m only interested in my discipline

The shooting sports is not one discipline, not one discipline is superior or even takes center stage, even if you are only interested in rifle shooting or shotgun shooting within those categories are many different disciplines. It is this richness and diversity offered by all of the disciplines within the sport that helps promote and defend it.

Threats to shooting generally attack the entire sport, if we continue to counter them by division and protecting our own interests rather than the entire sport as a whole, we weaken our defence not strengthen it. Shooting contributes greatly to many aspects of UK society, providing many opportunities for recreation and sport and contributing to conservation efforts and the economy, but it is the sport as a whole which does this, if we were to cherry pick and tally our efforts for each discipline we would be far less effective.

As a clay pigeon shooter, you may not be interested in game shooting, but the conservation efforts employed by those game shoots help defend the sport as a whole, where you can benefit as a clay shooter.

As a target rifle shooter you may not be interested in practical shotgun, but developing disciplines like PSG and Mini Rifle appeal to a whole new generation and their involvement and financial contributions support the sport as a whole, increasing the economic contributions from the shooting community to the UK economy, which in turns helps protect the sport from those who would see it further marginalized.

XYZ doesn’t give the sport a good name

With a growing influx of new and younger shooters coming into the sport, thankfully this is less of a problem than it might have been some years ago. All of the disciplines within the UK shooting sports are unanimously positive to the sport individually and combined promote a diverse and interesting sport which is incredibly inclusive and open to anyone, of virtually any taste. The wide variety within the shootings sports is obviously an attraction to newcomers into the sport, anyone who is not interested in bench rest rifle shooting can try gallery rifle, anyone not interested in rifles at all can shoot shotguns, muskets and in Northern Ireland or the Channel Islands even pistols.

Some however would happily dismiss all of the above, ignore the economic and other benefits of all the disciplines and instead would rather the sport reflected their own view, perhaps offering limited opportunities or a reduced number of disciplines to appease those who have no interest, knowledge or actually wish to harm the shooting sports. Is this really the approach we should be taking, ignoring the many benefits and actually harming our own sport to appease those who would rather the sport not exist at all?

Lets no longer be inactive or dismiss the proactive efforts of others or leave everything up to the organisations doing all they can to defend our sport, the sport we apparently love so much… instead lets show some Unity, lets work together, lets support each other to the benefit of the shooting sports and help ensure they are around to the benefit of generations to come.

We at Firearms UK are committed to creating more Unity and positive action.

Full details of our Unity campaign can be found on our website http://firearmsuk.org/unity

An Audience with Wayne LaPierre

On Monday 17th June, the Kings College Library, London played host to Wayne LaPierre from the (US) NRA in an event organized by The Sportsman’s Association. The event focussed on our experiences of firearms licensing, with a view to raise awareness of the real impact licensing can have on lawful firearms owners. It was my honour and privilege to be in attendance, and although attending in a personal capacity, I would like to share the experience through Firearms UK with our supporters.

Upon arrival at the library the guest list was checked, and I was granted entry, only making a short stroll before being greeted by a security team and a metal detector, being the figure head of such a large and important organization I was naive not to expect such scenes, though I was a little surprised by the discretion that was apparent. Once cleared I was guided past the hall, the location of the event, to await in a room labelled ‘Audience’. The room gradually filled, and conversations could be heard on an array of topics including calibre choice, shooting locations and licensing issues. Everyone was very smartly turned out, and fit well within the grand splendour of such a magnificent building.

The time for refreshments and introductions was soon over and we were ushered upstairs to take our seats in the hall. There were enough seats for perhaps fifty people and I didn’t notice any remaining unoccupied. The bright lights and the cameras soon set the tone for a very well organized and professional event, that I will not be quick to forget.

The well-known shooting enthusiast, commentator, and founder of Positive Shooting, Mike Yardley was the first to speak and covered the historical context of British firearms laws, from the right to bear arms in the English Bill of Rights (1688) to the present day. Taking each development in turn, Mike highlights the false belief that the 1920’s Firearms Act was introduced as a means to combat crime, when in fact, it has been shown to have been introduced through fears of Communism.

He continues into 1996, describing the tragedy of Dunblane, which was the tipping point that lead to the “hand gun ban” by the Labour Government in 1997, as our Sandy Hook. A law, (1997 Firearms Amendment Act) that has had no impact on armed crime, yet has hurt many innocent citizens, through loss of jobs, business, hobbies and possessions spanning generations and is still being felt by sportsman and women in the UK today, who fuelled by persecution by the media and politicians may, as suggested during the event, struggle to get bank loans or be denied car insurance, solely because their line of work or interests involves firearms or the shooting sports.

In response Mr LaPierre would make a point he re-iterated throughout, that politicians lie and break their promises. They may very well assure you that any list of firearms owners may not be used in the confiscation of firearms, but as we’ve seen in the UK and elsewhere that is exactly what it comes down to. He also made the same distinction that UK shooters have been saying for years “Just because a criminal uses a firearm, that’s no reason to take them away from law abiding citizens”.

Next up was Mike Wells the general secretary for The Sportsman’s Association. He tells the story of the founding of the Sportsman’s Association during the fight against the “hand gun ban”, and of approaching the (UK) NRA who at that time were “not interested”, a view that is sadly all too common amongst shooting organizations within the UK, rather than uniting to protect all of our sports and associated rights, we are fragmented and have thus far suffered greatly because of it.

Mr Wells then went on to outline some of the major differences between the US and the UK with respect to firearms and the restrictions imposed upon lawful shooters by the licencing system. He highlighted that we no longer have a lawful authority to purchase and own firearms for the purpose of self-defence, and referenced examples of the authorities targeting him without founding to persecute him because of his status as a licenced firearms owner and his position has the head of the Sportsman’s Association. He summed up saying “the police don’t want private firearms ownership at all”.

Mr LaPierre responded jokingly that perhaps “the elites” should surrender their arms and to “put up a gun free sign on Buckingham Palace”. The room responded with soft laughter, he continued summarizing that “the elites” should surrender their arms, that is what they are trying to force upon the law abiding citizens.

The discussion between speakers and Mr LaPierre continued, covering as many angles of the issue as air time allowed. At this point a significant yet often unheard point was made by Mark Scoggins, Solicitor; “any law should be based on evidence, not public opinion, not what is trending on Twitter…” Sadly the opposite is true when it comes to gun control. The government and like -minded organizations are waiting in the wings to jump on any tragedy and use it to further their own agenda towards civilian disarmament; this is especially true with the 1997 Firearms Amendment Act. Mr LaPierre responded with “You can’t legislate morality… the problem is self -inflicted, we go after the good guys”. He’s right of course, laws only affect the law abiding, and criminals have both the capacity and the will to ignore any laws.

Next Mr LaPierre asked a very important question, and those involved in the shooting sports know the answer; “are there people who should have stepped up, but who sat down?” Within the UK, the answer in my opinion is a resounding yes, and that needs to change. The fear over losing yet more of our rights, more of our freedom, more of our possessions… more of our jobs and business was felt throughout this entire event and was brought into the discussion from a majority of the speakers. To address these fears and concerns we need to unite and support each other in the defence of the shooting sports and firearms ownership, only whilst united can we make a significant challenge to the constant attacks against the lawful firearms owners, sportsmen and women within the UK and beyond.

The remaining speakers reinforced the impact of licensing on law abiding citizens. Lucy King, 33 and an ex-lawyer added that she has had a good experience with her local police so far but has “great fears for the future”. Mike Shepherd an honest firearms dealer and collector spoke of his experiences with the police, during his arrest and subsequent imprisonment in the high security prison; Belmarsh. He had his historic gun collection seized by police and was vilified by the press only to be acquitted and is now seeking compensation. Lawful firearms owners and sports shooters have long been demonized in the UK, both by the political class and the media, which has built up a total lack of understanding and even fear of law abiding firearms owners by members of the public, an example of this was given by a lady speaker who was hesitant to pick up her children from school in hunting attire, having just been shooting.

The trend of overzealous police, imposing and battering for an increased amount of restrictions without lawful reason or authority was further stressed by Steve Jones, town and district councillor and director of London Shooting Club ; who commented on how the police tried to persuade him to surrender certain calibres from his firearms licence, without reason or precedent other than they just wanted him to ; to meet their own opinions of what was right. It was suggested that the process [of acquiring a license] is designed to prevent people from going through the process, rather than to focus on filtering out those who are not suitable to own firearms. Victoria Knowles, 29 added to the discussion “I am a women working within the shooting industry, we are bound by so many regulations now, and it only seems to get worse. We can’t bear arms for self-defence, if we have an intruder in our homes we can’t protect ourselves and risk going to prison if we do. It’s a crazy situation where criminals seems to have more rights than the law abiding and I really fear for the future.” Mr LaPierre agreed, addressing the audience, “does it sometimes seem that, it’s almost like the criminals have more rights?” The room responded with a clear “Yes”.

Young shots were also represented by Nathan Little, 21, who at the age of 18 became one of the youngest people in the country to setup and manage his own shoot. He spoke on his growing concerns about the vague licencing laws in the UK and the threat that this possess to legitimate sportsmen and women. He also noted, as did many speaker his fear for the future, and his abhorrence of the way shooting sport and gun crime have been confused in the media, and a general media bias against shooting.

Time was very short at this point, and unfortunately not everyone had time to speak, the speakers contributions were drawn to a close by the following quote “It’s not about the right to keep and bear arms, it’s about the right to have rights”.

It was both worrying and empowering listening to all of the speakers and being in an audience so supportive of the right to civilian firearms ownership and the shooting sports. Worrying because the majority shared my own fears of what’s to come in the future of the UK, what more threats will we face, and will our jobs and past times survive to pass on to future generations. Yet, it was also very empowering, everyone who spoke was clearly very passionate about their sport and their rights, and that passion was a breath of fresh air from the apathy and lack of interest I am normally exposed to. It is my hope, through Firearms UK I can help unite the various factions within the shooting sports of the UK and tap into this passion to not just prepare for the next threat but to start winning back lost ground.

Finally I would like to thank all of the organizers, everyone who was in attendance, and of course Mr LaPierre himself.

Thank you.

Erika
For and on behalf of Firearms UK

A .PDF version of this publication is also available