Last week, Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, said the UK’s handgun ban should be repealed. Coming at the end of a week where Farage had turned himself into a political punchbag, this prompted almost every newspaper in the land to publish articles scorning him for his stupidity, writes Gareth Corfield.
Except and I know I won’t be popular for saying this Farage was right.
He’s wrong about an awful lot of things (and I don’t support UKIP), but he hit the nail on the head by branding the 1997 ban “crackers”.
To be granted a firearm certificate in the UK your details are checked against a whole load of state databases this isn’t just a Disclosure Scotland paper exercise, we’re talking counter-terror, medical and Special Branch and interviewed by the police before they decide whether you are a fit person to be trusted with firearms.
This is more or less the same system that was in force when Dunblane murderer Thomas Hamilton renewed his firearm certificate in 1992. A detective sergeant recommended that Hamilton’s renewal be refused. Indeed, Hamilton’s pistol club secretary told the police the same thing. Both were overruled.
We all know what Hamilton went on to do. I shan’t dwell on that, beyond saying that all the laws in the world are useless if the people who enforce them choose not to.
Now, people think that the pistol ban makes us all safer. It actually had the opposite effect; in the six years after the ban, the number of recorded gun crimes doubled. More to the point, the pistol ban does not apply to Northern Ireland, yet crimes committed with legally-owned handguns in the Province are all but non-existent.
Does this not tell you that the pistol ban was, as Farage says, “kneejerk legislation” which didn’t make any positive difference to gun crime levels?
Shooting is a popular and growing sport in the UK. It contributes more than £1.6 billion to the economy and is one of the very few sports where men and women compete on an equal footing.
In the competition world there are events for disabled competitors, the young and the old, all across different disciplines. Indeed, the BBC’s Young Sports Personality of 2013 was 16-year-old Amber Hill, a clay pigeon shooter who jointly holds the world record score for skeet shooting.
The pistol ban does directly harm lawful shooters by forcing pistol marksmen to train abroad. Unsurprisingly, this negatively affects our international pistol teams when it comes to competitions such as the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games, thus damaging our chances of medals at Glasgow 2014.
More importantly, the pistol ban criminalises a sport practised by law-abiding folk who present no threat to anyone.
We have processes to weed out unsuitable people all we want is to practise our sport as peacefully and safely as possible.
* Gareth Corfield is a journalist and target shooter who has represented Great Britain