April 15, 2005 – Yes, it is finally time to go to the polls and choose who we want to govern us for the next few years, and if you’re a shooter, the General Election is the most important election in the country, because Parliament makes the gun laws.
The snag, like the last few elections, is: who do we vote for?
First up are Labour. These are the people who removed the narrow exemption from the handgun ban for .22 pistols held at clubs, as well as banning “self-contained gas cartridge” air guns, and have clearly by words as well as deeds proven themselves to be no friends of shooters. Indeed, the Labour manifesto contains pledges for tighter controls on airguns (unspecified, but they’ve already raised the age limit for possession of an airgun from 14 to 17), and comments in Parliament indicate they want tougher controls on ammunition components. Some of this has been spurred on by the tragic murder of a 2-year old by a yob in Scotland armed with an air rifle (aged 27, I hasten to add, not 16, so the touted effectiveness of the new age limit is proven to be pointless).
Second we have the tories, who are still bumbling around in the political wilderness. A graphic example of this bumbling being Michael Howard’s address to the Scottish Conservative Party conference, in which he stated that he thought the total handgun ban had gone too far (even though he was largely responsible for it), followed by home affairs spokesman, Patrick Mercer MP, stating strongly to the Scottish press afterwards that the tories have no intention of repealing the handgun ban! Another example is the Conservative candidate who was de-selected after he had his picture taken holding a rifle (horror of horrors!) Let’s not forget that the tories were also responsible for the Firearms (Amendment) Acts 1988 and 1997 as well as a raft of other nastiness last time they were in power.
Third, we have the Liberal Democrats, who strangely despite their left-wing bent actually seem (much to my amazement) to be the best on the issue, based on them actually not making as big a stink about the shooting in Scotland compared to Labour and the SNP. Mainly this is because there are a few libertarians in the party (when they’re not talking about taxing us all to death), and also I suspect because their MPs often represent areas of the country where gun ownership is an issue, such as the south-west and parts of rural Scotland. The problem is, while their MPs may not have an urgent desire to ban guns, most of their candidates do, because they’re running in urban areas.
And fourth, we have everyone else, who regardless of their stance are very unlikely to win, so are for most intents and purposes a protest vote. (Yes, I can almost hear my e-mail inbox heaving under the complaints from UKIP supporters as I write this – however, face facts: they’re aren’t going to win.)
So, assuming shooting is a voting issue for you – who do you vote for? I’m afraid there is no easy answer to this, and perhaps there shouldn’t be, because it gets you involved in the political process. What you have to do is contact all the candidates in your area that actually have some chance of winning, find out their views, and pick the best one. Be it Labour, Conservative, or Liberal Democrat (or someone else). Even if they are all useless, the fact that you phoned or visited and asked will be recalled by the candidate, and that is perhaps one of the most positive outcomes.
Phone them up, be polite, find out their stance and stress that your vote will be based on this issue.
Remember that there definitely will be an entirely new Firearms Bill introduced in the next Parliament that will completely replace the current legislation – so who gets to write it is an important issue. [But, shock, there wasn’t – Ed.]
“I am absolutely certain there will not be a woman Prime Minister in my lifetime… there are no women currently who have the necessary range of experience in Government to perform that role.” – Margaret Thatcher MP, Secretary of State for Education, 1973.