Why is shoot­ing a tar­get?

Country Life Every Week - - Letters To The Editor -

THE as­sault on the shoot­ing fra­ter­nity con­tin­ues apace: the Home Of­fice has sug­gested a 12-fold in­crease in fees for li­censed shoot­ing clubs. Agromenes has al­ways sup­ported proper leg­is­la­tion to en­sure ef­fec­tive gun con­trol—the sit­u­a­tion in the USA should be a warn­ing to us all. Amer­ica has the high­est rate of gun own­er­ship in the world and the worst over­all fig­ures for death from firearms; Ja­pan, with one of the low­est rates of own­er­ship, has the low­est rate of death by shoot­ing.

Bri­tain is right down at the bot­tom of the ta­ble and, if you take into ac­count our higher rate of gun own­er­ship, we have a pretty good case to be the safest coun­try in the world. Given that we’re do­ing so well, why are there so many calls for even more bu­reau­cratic and costly reg­u­la­tions?

Shoot­ing is al­ready tightly con­trolled and hand­gun us­age is re­stricted to li­censed clubs. It now looks as if the Home Of­fice is us­ing this tough law to screw more money out of the sport, which can’t op­er­ate with­out li­cens­ing, so the Gov­ern­ment has par­tic­i­pants over a bar­rel on charges. The pro­posed in­creases are hor­ren­dous: all charges, even for mi­nor li­cence changes, are be­ing in­creased out of all pro­por­tion with in­fla­tion. There is a con­sul­ta­tion in place, but the tone of it is ‘take it or leave it’.

Coun­try peo­ple—and not only those who are mem­bers of gun clubs—ought to be wor­ried at this de­vel­op­ment. There is a clear threat to do the same for shot­guns when the Home Of­fice next makes changes. Coun­try peo­ple who shoot are al­ready over-reg­u­lated as a re­sult of the un­der­stand­able knee-jerk re­ac­tion to those few well-pub­li­cised shoot­ings that have caused so much heart­break, but, de­spite aw­ful cases such as Dun­blane, we need to keep a sense of pro­por­tion. These oc­cur­rences are rare and it’s even rarer that a shoot­ing tragedy is the re­sult of a reg­u­la­tory fail­ure.

How­ever, when­ever the cost of li­cens­ing comes up, there is never a dis­cus­sion about how to make it cheaper and less oner­ous, yet still main­tain its ef­fec­tive­ness. Of course, there are peo­ple who want the sys­tem to be as dif­fi­cult as pos­si­ble be­cause they ob­ject to the sport, but they are a mi­nor­ity.

The prob­lem lies with those who think that any­thing that light­ens the bur­den of reg­u­la­tion is bound to in­crease the mis­use of firearms. As a re­sult, gov­ern­ments of any hue ap­proach the prob­lem from the point of view of cov­er­ing their costs. They as­sume their sys­tem is al­to­gether cor­rect and that it should be paid for by those who want a li­cence.

Agromenes wants an en­tirely dif­fer­ent ap­proach, based on his own ex­pe­ri­ence. For 30 years, I have had a gun cab­i­net af­fixed to pre­cisely the same wall in ex­actly the same po­si­tion in an un­changed boot room. It con­tains the same guns it has con­tained for 15 years, when I added a pair to the orig­i­nal two. Ev­ery three years, a pleas­ant man comes and checks that this re­mains true.

Why can’t I ap­ply for my re­newal by post or on­line and, if the de­tails re­main the same, be spared his time and mine? I should, of course, be sub­ject to a ran­dom visit and no doubt the po­lice would con­cen­trate those vis­its where they had most rea­son to be con­cerned.

I can­not be­lieve such a sys­tem would in­crease the dan­ger of firearms mis­use one iota. Couldn’t the Home Of­fice try this be­fore it again un­nec­es­sar­ily pushes up the cost to ev­ery shot­gun owner?

‘They as­sume their sys­tem is cor­rect and that it should be paid for by those who want a li­cence

Fol­low @agromenes

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