Five years later…

It is with some shock that I realise that five years have passed since the creation of Cybershooters.

Cybershooters was started in the aftermath of the tragedy at Dunblane, in order to better distribute information among shooters, who were obviously going to be in for a pasting.

We were targeted with kneejerk legislation that went far beyond anything anyone could have imagined in March 1996, namely a near total ban on the private possession of handguns, with very few exceptions.  Virtually all target shooting sports with pistols, with the limited exception of those performed with air pistols and muzzle-loading pistols, were effectively banned a year later in 1997.

Looking back over those five years, it is painfully apparent what a complete and utter waste of time the handgun ban has been.  Lord Cullen, tasked with holding a public inquiry after the tragedy, did not even recommend a ban on handguns, but the issue became a political football with one-upmanship leading to a law that was far beyond anything that could have been justified in the name of public safety.  £100 million was spent on confiscating private property, yet precious little was done to implement Cullen’s other recommendations, especially the ones that didn’t have anything to do with guns.

It was done because “if it only saves one life”.  Yet now one of the organisations that said that, the Gun Control Network, says that the increase in handgun-related homicide since Dunblane is not “statistically significant“.  62 people were murdered with firearms from March 1999 to March 2000 according to the most recent statistics, 42 of them with handguns, apparently the highest figure on record.

What comfort is it to the families of those 42 victims, and the many dozens of other victims gunned down since Dunblane, to know that they were killed with illegally owned guns?  Not much.

The handgun ban was wrong.  It has achieved nothing other than to penalise law-abiding target shooters and waste huge sums of taxpayer’s money.  It has enhanced public safety not one jot.  That unfortunately appears to be one of the main legacies of the Dunblane massacre.  It is not a pretty picture.

What lessons have been learnt?

The only lesson the Government learnt from Dunblane apparently, is that you can appear to look tough on crime by cracking down on legitimate gun ownership.  Want proof?  Look no further than the Sunday Times from the 4th of March, in which Home Office minister Charles Clarke is quoted as saying:

“I am pleased to support the campaign of the Gun Control Network to abolish replica firearms. This is a scheme which has the support of much of the police service and others. There do remain some difficulties to deal with, but the government is sympathetic to this.”

The Gun Control Network point to a large increase in the sale of replica guns after the handgun ban.  The implication is that there is some insidious plot by former handgun owners to replace their handguns with replicas, which we sit at home stroking and drooling over, presumably.

In reality, low power firearms powered by carbon dioxide were removed from license controls by Section 48 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 (after having been placed there by a bizarre court ruling in 1986), the same Act that banned handguns, the same Act strongly supported by the Labour Party – and obviously with the controls on them reduced, the sales of them have increased.  Simple really.  Too simple for the Gun Control Network apparently, who would rather perceive a paranoid insidious plot on the part of gun owners to promote the “gun culture” (whatever that actually is).

This is the same organisation that is afraid to let anyone join up in case they are “infiltrated” by gun owners.  Consequently they have a membership of six people.  They claim to represent the “silent majority” of the public, in reality opinion polls show a roughly 50/50 split on whether the handgun ban is a good idea, so one can safely infer that the public would be even less supportive of a ban of replica firearms.

The police (in the shape of ACPO, as per usual) apparently support further controls on replicas, even a ban, so we can assume a squad of coppers will shortly be arriving on the doorsteps of every home in the country to cut off everyone’s hands, in case you should succumb to the temptation to put your hand in your pocket and point your finger at the local shopkeeper and claim that you have a gun.

Truly the insane will shortly be running the asylum.  Let us hope that it is merely pre-election rhetoric.

Women and guns

One thing that always puzzles me is why there are so few women who take part in the shooting sports, at least in comparison to men.  I can understand to some degree why women may not be interested in sports where they are at a physical disadvantage, such as perhaps Practical Shotgun, which requires a lot of running around with heavy equipment, but Target Rifle?  Smallbore rifle?  Clay-pigeon shooting?

What really gets my goat about it is that in most shooting sports women actually have a physical advantage over men.  For so many years I have seen protests by women’s groups demanding equality, one assumes they do this with shooting by simply not taking part.  After all, wouldn’t want to show up the men, eh?

Throughout history, women have demonstrated that they are formidable shooters.  And in fact they are able to shoot better than men.  Annie Oakley is perhaps one of the better known examples, being able to shoot glass balls tossed in the air, using a lever-action rifle while standing on the back of a horse, running around an arena!

Women have an advantage over men because they are on average shorter than men, and their body fat is concentrated lower on their body than men.  This gives them a much lower centre of gravity and consequently they have a much more stable off-hand (standing) shooting position.  In addition, one clinical study I read some years ago indicated that on average women also have better eyesight than men.  Shorter arms also mean less leverage and once again a more stable position, provided the gun is properly fitted.

Joanna Hossack showed what women can do when properly armed in the Queen’s Prize last year at Bisley, winning the Grand Aggregate against all male (and female) competition.

I really wish women would look past the male stereotype of the shooting sports and get involved.  Okay, so it may put me at a disadvantage but it is worth it to witness some of the miraculous shots I have seen women make.

“My greatest desire is that every woman be able to handle a firearm as naturally as they handle a baby.” – Annie Oakley, 1893