In my current hobbled state, my choice of events to have a go at in the near future has become rather limited (to shooting and archery). Looking down the list of shooting events I still have to complete, I remembered a snippet of information I gleaned from the Oxford University Pistol Club (who only shoot air pistols), namely that two of the events are illegal to perform in this country.
As a direct result of the tragedy in Dunblane in 1996, a law was passed the following year making it illegal in the UK to buy or own a handgun. One consequence of the passing of that law was that British Olympic handgun shooting hopefuls had to find somewhere else to train. At the moment, many of the top shooters practice in Zurich.
I recently read this article by the Guardian’s Richard Williams, which suggests that Britain’s shooters should "stop whinging" about the pistol ban. His argument that a pistol is "fashioned for swift use at close quarters and for ease of concealment: for use, in fact, against another human being" is sound enough, but his suggestion for a solution to the problem of the handgun ban for competitive shooters is less so:
"there is nothing, it seems to me, to prevent the pistol-shooters from transferring their attention and their skills to long-barrelled weapons, thus satisfying the requirements of a perfectly sensible law while indulging their own enjoyment of firing bullets at targets."
Perhaps he would see the flaw in his logic if tomorrow the government introduced a law banning the writing of poorly thought-out columns in national newspapers and suggested he transfer his attention to writing novels in order to indulge his enjoyment of typing words on a keyboard.
Despite this jarring simplification, he raises an interesting point in the article. When the Commonwealth Games were held in Manchester, the shooting events took place (albeit under tight security), and when the games come to London, they will do so again.
I’m no expert on how guns work, but I have a basic understanding of the concept – there are two essential components, the gun and the bullet, which, when combined, turn two otherwise relatively harmless pieces of metal into a deadly weapon.
It’s a suggestion I’ve often heard from a friend who shot at school, and I’m rehashing it in its simplest form, but surely if you keep one lot of harmless metal in one location and the other lot of harmless metal in another location, and then ensure that the only time they ever come together is in the strictly controlled environment of a firing range, the problem would be solved. The shooters could practice their shooting without having to go to Switzerland, and the rest of us could sleep at night knowing that we hadn’t left the door open for another Thomas Hamilton to walk through.
I don’t have the time to wait for a change in the law though, so, when I head to Dubai next week with work, I may see if I can get myself over to the Jebel Ali shooting range and have a go at the 25m rapid fire pistol event. There’s a chance they may be able to help me get the skeet shooting out of the way too. I’ll keep you posted.
Knee update – the knee injury is improving and the swelling has pretty much gone down; my limp is now more man-with-stone-in-shoe than Gestapo officer. I have an appointment with the MRI department on Friday at lunchtime. Hopefully then I will learn the true extent of the damage and whether or not I’ll need to have surgery to fix it.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Posted by John McClure at 2:01 pm