Rural sports are under threat.
An increasingly urbanised Britain, combined with a wave of gun crime hitting the news, has led to calls from multiple groups for a blanket ban on firearms in the UK.
Many people who don’t come from a background of guns are often under the illusion that firearms are illegal in the UK and so are shocked when informed that this is far from the truth. Their inability to relate to any form of country sport, instead viewing the gun owner as being in possession of a weapon and accusing them of being out of date, is amounting to an all-out assault on people who shoot responsibly.
I’ve experienced this stigma first hand many times, with people reacting with shock when I reveal that I’m a gun owner and regularly go hunting. While for people from an urban background hunting is a form of mindless killing, for me it’s a sustainable way of taking only what I need and being directly involved with the countryside I care so deeply about.
For them, guns are things to be feared. Toy guns are now seen by many parents as unsuitable for children. People who own guns are viewed as somehow endorsing those who use guns to commit atrocious and barbaric acts of murder.
However, in my opinion, this indiscriminate and one-sided view of firearms is fuelling the problem. People fear firearms because they don’t understand them. They rarely meet people who use them harmlessly on a regular basis, while anytime guns are featured in the media, they are always portrayed as weapons used to harm people.
When I tell people that part of going to public school meant I was on the school’s clay shooting team and thus used guns on school premises, they stare at me with horror as if I’m some sort of trained assassin. But it was this very opportunity that allowed many children at my school who had often never even seen a gun to learn to hold, shoot, clean but above all, respect, the gun and any guns they handle in the future.
Informing these children of both the danger of guns and the exciting potential once one learns to shoot properly was, in my opinion, the key in striking the educational balance between the potential of the country sports world and the risk associated with it.
What our shooting instructor highlighted was that the guns we were using were tools. Tools can be abused and used for things they aren’t designed for, however, if used correctly and safely, there’s nothing to fear.
While my use of guns through school was a rather unique experience, it shouldn’t have been. Whether a gun owner or not, the way they’re used plays a role in all our lives and so surely it’s in our interest to educate young people about the risks but also the benefits of firearms and the fantastic community of those who use them.