Call me pessimistic, but I do worry that the noose may tighten around the shooting industry in the future with increased regulations, more restrictions and higher costs. It is rare to see changes in legislation that give the shooter MORE power, more rights and more access to firearms and shooting opportunities.
Look back at the last 100 years, any changes in the law have only reduced our access to firearms and made it a more taboo subject. I also feel some slight anxiety in raising my voice and expressing my opinion when it comes to shooting. We have a lot of work to do.
I can always see both sides of the argument, however l still believe for example that in the right hands, those wishing to take part in target/ sports shooting with Handguns should be able to legally posses them. Where do we stop if we ban responsible law abiding citizens from possessing certain items due to the horrible acts of the minority. I have heard no discussion in parliament of banning vehicles since the Westminster bridge attack. Is this any different to the act carried out by Thomas Hamilton in Dunblane back in 1996? Most inanimate objects in the wrong hands can cause damage. I fear the shooting community may continue to take a hit every time there is bad press or one bad egg and I don't want to see any shooters face further restrictions.
Firearms ownership and the shooting industry as a whole has always received criticism and been a hot topic for debate so what can we do to help promote the sport and better our image? I passionately believe that firearms owners are some of the most friendly and responsible people in the community and we can all contribute to raising awareness, growing support and promoting our sport. I think that one of the key issues is the simple lack of awareness - people don't like what they don't know. How can we educate people and how can we drive growth in the participation of our sport from all groups and dynamics. It is key that we do not just rely on representative bodies such as BASC. We can all do our part to promote the sport to others.
If you haven't done so already one of the easiest steps you can take is to join BASC, the leading representative body for the shooting industry in the UK. They are the team that continually fight to support the rights of the shooting community and help to grow awareness and participation of the sport. You can find out all about them here - www.basc.org.uk
What can you do?
Talk about it...
When I meet a fellow shooter or someone interested in shooting we can talk for ages about our experiences in the sport and everything we are passionate about, but do we do this enough with the non shooting community? I work in a medium sized office in North Yorkshire where non of my colleagues shoot and some were surprised to hear that you can own a gun in the UK. It gave me great pleasure telling everyone how I got in to the sport, what the rules are, how it works, how fun it is. In the end it resulted in talks of getting the whole office out on a corporate clay pigeon shooting day. Talk to people! Your passion and enthusiasm about your hobby will shine through and others will want in on the action! I have only been shooting about 18 months now but have already helped four new people join the sport and apply for their first shotgun certificate!
Be an ambassador...
Remember, if people know you shoot, how you act and behave will in some small way reflect on how people perceive the shooting community. Social media is a big aspect, pictures of you incapacitated on Facebook aren't going to help portray the shooting community in a good light. Pictures of dead animals that have been shot, out of context with no explanation of the benefits of conservation will not paint the best picture either. Think who will see your content, how do you portray yourself? Is this in keeping with how we want the shooting industry to be portrayed. Be an ambassador of shooting and represent the sport to its fullest and in its positive form.
Invite friends and family to accompany you to your local shooting ground. When safe to do so and with the grounds permission why not even let them have a go. Why not take them to a local game fair or shooting show? Exposure and awareness is key in abolishing negative stigmas surrounding shooting. Most people I know that have anything negative to say about firearm ownership and shooting know very little about it. Help to educate.
Is shooting just for older Gentleman in tweed from an upper class background? Absolutely not. I have shot with company directors, farmers, sales people, tradesmen, women, men, kids and pensioners. Remember, shooting is a sport enjoyed by so many different groups of people and is not exclusive to any particular demographic. Lets get everyone involved.
There are so many ways you can help promote awareness and participation of shooting. If we all do our bit and act as ambassadors to our sport more people will join and our voice and rights will only increase and secure the successful future of our sport. For more information, as always, visit the BASC website to see some of the fantastic work they do and find out how you can get involved.
Have a look here for some great resources on the benefits of shooting: https://basc.org.uk/media-centre/basc-infographics/