More shock hor­ror

Shoot­ing’s ‘favourite am­bas­sador’ has found yet an­other way to turn pos­i­tive facts into neg­a­tive news... Adam Smith finds the BBC up to its old tricks again

Sporting Shooter - - KEEPER’S COUNTRY -

In a star­tling ex­hi­bi­tion of highly paid and award-win­ning jour­nal­ism, which sent a shock­wave of hor­ror and re­vul­sion through the pop­u­la­tion, the BBC has re­cently been able to re­veal that more than 300 un­der-13s not only have le­gal ac­cess to guns but hold cer­tifi­cates is­sued by the po­lice en­abling them to do so. Yes, that’s real guns, the same sort that sim­ply touch­ing would make any de­cent, sen­si­tive per­son come out in hives and re­quire ur­gent coun­selling.

It’s not re­ally in­ves­tiga­tive news of course, not in the ac­cepted sense any­way, be­cause it’s com­mon knowl­edge avail­able to any­one who might want to look. But it is true, so that makes it sig­nif­i­cant.

Nat­u­rally, the story was ini­tially pub­lished in The Guardian – since little or noth­ing that’s pre­sented as news by the BBC doesn’t start life within those least read pages of the big na­tional news­pa­per with the small­est cir­cu­la­tion in the UK – but Aun­tie’s there to make sure the au­di­ence goes well be­yond those few thousand sales, many of them to north Lon­don’s lib­eral elite, in­clud­ing the BBC which spends £2,500 of your li­cence money ev­ery week help­ing to prop the ti­tle up. Any­way, back to the news.

Ap­par­ently, we are told, well over 3,000 un­der-18s pos­sess Firearms Cer­tifi­cates (sic) and of these, 327 are 13 years old or younger, with the high­est con­cen­tra­tion of such po­ten­tial ter­ror­ists to be found in Devon and Corn­wall. The Beeb be­ing the Beeb, they don’t ap­pear to make any dis­tinc­tion be­tween FAC and SGC, but that’s of mi­nor sig­nif­i­cance when you live in Is­ling­ton and each and ev­ery gun is a vile, men­ac­ing and un­for­give­able ac­ci­dent wait­ing to hap­pen. And in the hands of chil­dren, too.

I know, it takes you aback, doesn’t it? But thank heav­ens the BBC is there to keep us in­formed, both na­tion­ally and on local TV to­gether with their as­so­ci­ated text pages, of the dire and im­mi­nent threat to na­tional sta­bil­ity,

‘Why not be pos­i­tive and point out that giv­ing some chil­dren the priv­i­lege of own­ing a shot­gun or a ri­fle can be im­mensely good for their char­ac­ter?’

cou­pled with dam­age to im­ma­ture minds be­yond cal­cu­la­tion.

Of course, the ques­tion we would tend to ask is: why? Why make an ap­par­ently alarmist is­sue from such an eas­ily con­firmed fact? Why not be pos­i­tive and point out that giv­ing some chil­dren the priv­i­lege of own­ing a shot­gun or a ri­fle can be im­mensely good for their char­ac­ter, and, above all, their sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity? Why not make clear that such chil­dren learn pa­tience and re­spect, that their aware­ness of safety both for them­selves and es­pe­cially for oth­ers is height­ened to a far greater de­gree than it would be in prac­ti­cally any other sport? Or that, since any of these chil­dren younger than 15 must be ac­com­pa­nied by a re­spon­si­ble adult at all times when us­ing their gun, the lessons are seen to be learned. By law.

You might have thought that some­thing pro­vid­ing such tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits among the young would be hailed as a prime ex­am­ple of a ma­ture so­ci­ety, a so­ci­ety where it is pos­si­ble and per­mis­si­ble for its youngest mem­bers to be trained and trusted to han­dle what are po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous tools (in the wrong hands) but are in fact han­dled with con­fi­dence and re­spect by the right hands. Plus, at the same time these young­sters are be­ing taught im­proved hand-eye co­or­di­na­tion, re­flexes, re­ac­tion times, stamina and fit­ness. Sounds like com­mon sense to us, of course, but then out­side of The Guardian’s brain­washed read­er­ship we would not ex­pect it to be an is­sue.

So, why does the BBC choose to make it one? Be­cause chil­dren legally own­ing and us­ing guns doesn’t suit the agenda. They should be watch­ing cBee­bies, glued to Face­book, tex­ting Jeremy Cor­byn, fol­low­ing Em­merdale and Eastenders – do­ing all the right, healthy kiddy things.

Shoot­ing is just a toffs’ mur­der­ous pas­time. The only pur­pose of a gun is to kill wildlife – as that pop­u­lar Coun­try­file hero Tom Heap, whose knowl­edge of the coun­try­side puts him firmly in a class of his own, put it so suc­cinctly while wav­ing a side-by-side at the cam­era.

End of story. Next fake-news re­port please!

Some­thing en­tirely dif­fer­ent…

On a more re­laxed and re­ward­ing note, I was think­ing the other day about some of those little one-off events that keep­ers tend to ex­pe­ri­ence, sim­ply by be­ing out and about at all hours and, above all, be­ing quiet in the process. Although, just to con­fuse the is­sue, this one hap­pened right out in the open, on the main drive in front of the Big House. I was walk­ing past the house and I re­call see­ing a dabchick – a Little Grebe – pot­ter­ing along on its stumpy little grebe-y legs in the mid­dle of the road. I thought it must be a young one, but its bill was dark and it was fully coloured in ch­est­nut, tans and blue-greys, so it was re­ally quite grown up. It was ob­vi­ously not old enough to have de­vel­oped a fear of hu­mans though, be­cause I sim­ply picked him up. I know he was a him be­cause the fe­male is much plainer, al­most dowdy, but don’t blame me for the lack of equal­ity. Any­way, as I say, I picked him up and the little bird sat in the palm of my hand like a mini cot­tage loaf with a beak, which he used to dib – or should that be ‘dab’ – away at my fin­ger­tips. Not spite­fully or ag­gres­sively, just in a sort of ‘what if I tap on this?’ sort of way. Quite fas­ci­nat­ing.

How he got there was a mys­tery. He’d prob­a­bly flown, of course, but he must have been a cou­ple of hun­dred yards from the moat around the Big House which – like any well-dug moat – has steep and sheer sides. I didn’t know enough about Little Grebe’s abil­i­ties on the wing, although if it was any­thing like his walk­ing style you could see why he was a wa­ter bird. That still didn’t ex­plain why he should choose to be walk­ing in the mid­dle of a hot, dry road, some way from wa­ter.

Whatever, by con­tin­u­ing my walk, with LG con­tin­u­ing to bat­ter in an en­tirely friendly way at my fin­ger­tips, I would reach two lakes a cou­ple of fields away in just a few min­utes. Ei­ther of these would prove eas­ier to re­launch his ca­reer, and once there I could give him the choice of the deep and shaded carp lake, or the open and shal­low Top Pond dug for skat­ing back in 18-some­thin­gor-other.

Reach­ing the larger wa­ter first, LG made his choice by giv­ing a little wrig­gle. Up ‘til then he had sat per­fectly hap­pily in the palm of my hand, sim­ply content to live up to his name by dab­bing away for a good five or more min­utes. He even had the good grace to spend all that time without leav­ing a small de­posit, which was thought­ful of him.

So I crouched down by the wa­ter’s edge, put my hand on the ground, opened my fin­gers and he wob­bled away into the wa­ter without a back­ward glance. Swim­ming vig­or­ously for a few yards, he plopped out of sight, re-emerg­ing – as any self-re­spect­ing dabchick would – a minute or so later and many yards away from where I stood, watch­ing.

I can re­mem­ber ev­ery mo­ment of that little bit of com­muning with nature – though it was al­most 40 years ago – but these things can hap­pen when you live, qui­etly, in the coun­try.

Read the ar­ti­cles on­line: www.bbc.co.uk/news/ uk-40519674 www.the­guardian.com/ uk-news/2016/jul/01/ hun­dreds-of-un­der-13s-in­eng­land-and-wales-haveshot­gun-per­mits ‘I picked him up and the little bird sat in the palm of my hand like a mini cot­tage loaf with a beak, which he used to dib away at my fin­ger­tips’

Young­sters un­der the age of 15 must be ac­com­pa­nied by an adult when shoot­ing

Shoot­ing sports en­cour­age re­spon­si­bil­ity, co­or­di­na­tion and aware­ness of oth­ers

Be­ing out in the coun­try­side is a sure-fire way to en­counter in­ter­est­ing wildlife

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