A Shot in the Dark

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

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.


Poll Star said...

With a rifle you remove the bolt from the gun: the bolt is the piece that you move back and forth to load and unload the round (bullet), and also contains the firing pin. We always had to travel with the bolts in the coach with us, and the guns in the boot. At the range, you had to ensure that the right bolt went in the right gun (they were colour coded): I was told that if you got the wrong bolt, it could blast out of the gun when firing-inconveniently removing your head or shoulders. So separating the bolt and the body of the rifle was a pretty effective way of making the gun safe-you couldn't take the main part of the gun and just put in your own bolt. You extend this to a shooting club and you leave one piece in the club, take the other home. I guess something similar can be done with pistols and their firing pins-if not it wouldn't be beyond the wit of man to design something. Of course this has taken me a few words to explain, so would be far too complicated to think through and put into a knee-jerk law, designed to create headlines rather than a sensible solution.

John said...

For some reason, the notion of "removing your head or shoulders" made me wince less than the notion of a "knee-jerk".

Sensible words, rabidly delivered - just how I like my Poll.

Anonymous said...

as Eddie Izzard once said: "guns don't kill people, people kill people...well i think the gun helps...you can't run up to them and shout "bang"!!

i have been to the jebel ali shooting range, its pretty good. Good steak house there!!


Certainly in New Zealand we have reasonably tight firearms laws, but the British situation seems to be rather mad; Japanese Olympians are allowed firearms, for example.

And by rather strict, I mean:

* There is a special endorsement required for pistols, over and above a general license.

* You must be a member of an approved gun club for a minimum of 6 months, and be recommended to the police as a suitable person, as part of the qualification for a pistol license.

* Once you get the license storagte requirements mandate all sorts of safes, seperate storage of firearms, ammunition, and so on.

Most criminals who want a concealed firearm here just end up cutting down a .22 rifle or shotgun. Of course it helps that we're a long way away from anywhere that pistols can be easily purhcased and smuggled into the country.

adem said...

I remember Chris Rock talking about gun control...

F**k that shit.
You don't need no gun control.

You know what you need?
We need some bullet control.

Man, we need to control the bullets,
that's right.

l think all bullets should cost $5000 .

$5000 for a bullet. You know why?

'Cause if a bullet costs $ 5000
there'd be no more innocent bystanders.

That'd be it.

Every time someone gets shot, people will
be like, "Damn, he must have did something. Shit, they put $ 5000 worth of bullets
in his ass."

Anonymous said...

Friend of mine loves your website and says you have a "zany" sense of humour! "Zany" can mean "comically idiotic; crazily ridiculous" and as a noun it means "a buffoon or jester. (based on the Venetian form of Gianni,Giovanni'John', stock name of servants acting as clowns in the commedia dell'arte).

Anonymous said...

Loada rubbaishe

Poll Star said...

Zany means you're Bobby Davro. Oh dear.