Saturday, 22 October 2011

Does the Trigger Pull the Finger?—Reviews

The SRA sponsored the publication last Spring of Does the Trigger Pull the Finger? (Spitfire Press £9.95, £7.45 post-free to SRA members: ISBN 978-1-906174-99-6). The book was co-written by SRA secretary Richard Law and journalist Peter Brookesmith, who previously collaborated on the critically acclaimed The Fighting Handgun (Arms & Armour, 1997).

Reviews on Amazon have been favourable, to say the least: three out of the four reviews posted to date give it five stars, one gives it four, and one calls the book "A work of genius", a label not often applied to either author, but neither is complaining. If doubts have been expressed, they've been about the cover. Apparently some people are concerned that a scarcely unattractive (but not scarcely clad) young lady wielding an exotic firearm is sensationalist, or trivializes the subject. Mick Fidgeon, now-redundant former firearms "manager" for Essex police, enquired (perhaps belligerently) on the Cybershooters forum: "Who's this supposed to appeal to? Academics?" Our best review yet, by Jules Whicker in Shooting Sports (October 2011) feels the need to recognize this worry in passing, but only in passing:

"Don’t judge a book by its cover, as any initial suspicions of sensationalism are quickly allayed by a reasoned, fact-based approach. Yet whilst proving not to be sensationalist, it is most certainly sensational! Blowing a blast of fresh air through the fog of prejudice and corruption that has produced the legal and bureaucratic environment that currently hamstrings shooting sports, complicates their participants’ lives, and squanders public money."

Jules Whicker, by the way, happens to be an academic.

In all this mild hoo-ha no one seems to have noticed the expression on the cover-girl's face, which may tell you something about the objectors, but which we thought fitted rather well with the sarcasm of the title. Someone else called the cover "provocative", to which we can only reply: "So we should bloody well hope!"

Mr Whicker, meanwhile, got on with reading the book, and summed it up thus:

"What we have here is a marvellously well-informed book.... "Does the Trigger Pull the Finger? should be required reading for everyone with an interest in shooting, whether pro or anti, and that should include every political candidate, Home Office mandarin, senior police officer, and news editor in the country.

"...this is no rant, or a dry political tract! Instead a seriously good read, its facts and arguments articulated in finely nuanced prose and spiced with well-timed irony and the odd—probably well deserved—splash of vitriol. All of which come together to produce a gripping drama in which truth and liberty are threatened by the encroachment of a pernicious, neurotic and sometimes bumbling bureaucratic organism, whose ultimate defeat is envisaged in an unexpected yet plausible ending. I started by questioning the presentation of the book. I’ll finish by saying: it should come with a wristband or lapel pin that those who have read it and agree with its manifesto can wear as a sign of support. This is a book to build a campaign on. Spread the word."

Mr Whicker got our point right in the X-ring. We know authors who'd forsake the bottle for a reviewer like that.

The review in the forthcoming Shooter's Journal (now in press: SRA members should get their copies early next month) is fractionally less enthusiastic, but only in the sense that Derek Bernard—an expert in firearms law and 'gun control' and its effects—thinks we don't go far enough in our reforming zeal. So it goes.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Riots, Burglars and Self Defence

Remember what Charles Clarke (Labour, Norwich South – until 2010) said in 2005, in his capacity as Home Secretary? The Daily Mail said at the time:
A householder’s right to attack or even kill an intruder has been officially sanctioned by the Government.
        People were told they could even use a knife or a gun if it was instinctive and involved only "reasonable force".
        But if they were to chase the intruder down the street they could only rugby-tackle him or land a single blow.
        The Crown Prosecution Service reckoned that there had only been eleven prosecutions and five convictions of householders in the preceding 15 years for using excessive force against intruders – figures that presumably included Norfolk farmer Tony Martin. There was enough concern for the government to issue a leaflet titled Householders and the use of force against intruders  (which has since disappeared from the Home Office website) to restate the common law right to defend life, liberty and property, using such force as is apparently reasonable and necessary at the time.
        The problem most people discover in extremis is a lack of knowledge: when does defensive action blur into offensive action? We hold that to be a training issue, as without training it’s hard to understand the difference. Basically, the actions you take to repel an invasion of your property and/or to maintain your safety and that of those who are entitled to be there are defensive. Once the intruder is out of the fight, by being felled or retreating, the defensive action is over; so a pursuit into public space is where the line is crossed and your rights to be violent are really limited to what you might have to do to effect a lawful arrest.
        The current government is making similar noises to those made by Charles Clarke in the wake of an incident in Salford, Manchester on 22 June. Four masked men, one armed with a machete, are said to have invaded the home of Peter Flanagan, leaving a short time later after one of them had been mortally wounded by an edged weapon.
        Mr. Flanagan was arrested for murder, as is usual in the circumstances. It was a month before the announcement that no further action would be taken against him over the death of John Bennell. In some respects, it’s more satisfactory that Mr. Flanagan was arrested. It means that his actions have been thoroughly scrutinized and found to be correct in the circumstances.
        But the problem remains one of weapons. Mr. Flanagan used an edged weapon, lethal force. Both the current government and the Labour government of which Charles Clarke was a member have gone as far  as saying that lethal force is OK – using a gun or a knife is OK, if you have one to hand. That leaves just three problems, all of them significant. Fortunately, the solutions to those problems are set out in our book Does The Trigger Pull The Finger? and they’re summarized here.
        The first one to address is the old Home Office chestnut that if you don’t attack a violent intruder, he is less likely to harm you; and if you introduce a weapon to the confrontation, the intruder will take it off you and harm you with it.
        It’s a lazy argument, thought up by an administration that wanted to justify ultra vires legislation they put on the statute book to deal, as they saw it, with the growing problem of youth violence on the streets. Kids carrying weapons in the early 1950s – the days before they were organized into tribes by the fashion and music industries.
        The straightforward solution is planning and training. When the issue came up on BBC Radio Four’s Any Questions shortly after the Flanagan arrest, none of the panellists understood the basic solution. The question was what do you do if awoken in the night by masked intruders in your home? The tentative answers panellists gave alluded to their perceived right act violently.
        Yeah, right. The intruders who are on your premises have a plan. They will have considered the possibility of the premises being occupied and they will have formulated their plan accordingly. They could try to do things quietly. Massad F Ayoob drew attention to a common criminal policy: his experience in the United States was that intruders tend to arm themselves with something of yours as soon as they get into the property – a kitchen knife being the typical ‘easy to find’ weapon in most households.
        So the weapon of convenience two successive governments have suggested you might deploy could already be in the hand of the intruder when you first meet him. But go one step back – you have to make sure that your intruder is on the premises unlawfully before taking any defensive action. The police tend to barge into private property wearing ski masks and crash helmets these days and must be given time to explain themselves before you throw them out again.
        One of the SRA’s founder members had precisely this experience in the early 1980s – door kicked open one Saturday morning, and four roughly dressed persons trampling in without an appointment, so our member threw them out. It turned out they were policemen with a warrant for the flat opposite, so they lacked the lawful authority to be on his premises. They got their own back by charging him with criminal damage to a police warrant card.
        Also in the 1980s, an unchartered chemist called Georgiades (1989 1 W.L.R. 759) pointed a sawn-off shotgun at intruders crashing into his premises, only to surrender immediately when they identified themselves as police. Essentially, his use of a firearm in the circumstances was an intention to endanger life, but wasn’t unlawful until the intruders proved that they had lawful authority for the intrusion.
        So, having determined that your intruders don’t have lawful authority for the intrusion, it’s time to get rid of them. The commonest plan burglars have for this moment is to run; typically, retracing their steps to where they got in, so you can minimize the risk to yourself by not blocking their way out.
        If they want to make something of your interruption, we reach the point where Government policy and advice fades out. They say you can arm yourself and you can use violence to regain control of your premises, but the there are two flaws with this advice. The first is that their advice hasn’t extended to the need to train in the use of the weapon and to practice for the eventuality.
        In a crisis, trained people do what they’ve been trained to do. Massad Ayoob made his name in the 1970s by studying police gunfights in which the police lost the engagement. He identified weaknesses in training, which cost the officers the gunfight, and sometimes their lives, when they put that training into practice on the street. The most graphic illustration came from New York. The city issued revolvers, but didn’t allow officers to carry speedloaders. Officers trained to reload their revolvers rapidly in the dark, by ejecting the dummy shells into their hand and then reloading them into the chambers. It’s a convenient way to get the feel for inserting rounds nose first into the little holes waiting for them.
        The flaw in this training is that’s what the policeman did on the street. Having fired his six, he ejected the empties into his hand and tried re-inserting them into the chambers. It’s a model of how a trained person will use his training in a crisis. The key is to get the details of the training right. When you learned to drive, one of the scenarios your trained for was the emergency stop. You hit the brake pedal to stop the vehicle and then the clutch pedal to prevent stalling the engine just before the vehicle stops moving: if you hit both pedals together, your stopping distance increases.
        Training and practice. If your technique is wrong, your ‘practice’ becomes, in Peter Eliot’s words “the repetition of error.”
        Since all this debate started in the 1950s, various non-lethal weapons have been developed specifically for defence. Taser, stun guns, rubber ball guns, pepper and CS gas sprays, to name a few.There are various shotgun cartridges that are not meant to be lethal, firing rubber balls, plastic granules, sand or bean bags, wooden dowelling and tear gas. Even less dangerous to the victim would be paint ball or smart water projection – things that tag the offender for future identification. Everyone else in the world can get pistols designed to fire paint balls or gas. We can’t, not ‘legally’.    
        The problem yet to be tackled by our Government is that previous governments have stuck most of this stuff into section five – the prohibited category of firearms, so legally they are classified as machine guns. That’s a problem. Our view is that householders should be able to go on courses to learn about these products. Then they can carry out risk assessments for their property and decide what non-lethal weapons they could best deploy against an intruder and then buy what they need. Having planned their defence and trained with the weapon they can sleep safe; if they ever need to protect their property or family, they have a plan and the tools for the job; and that should give an incident a better outcome than going into a crisis with neither the tools nor the training.
        We don’t think that the law needs changing to effect this; possession of prohibited non-lethal weapons by a trained person demonstrates lawful authority for having them, which means the householder will either not be charged or will be acquitted. That leaves the current draconian legislation in place for any scrote caught on the street with something in section 5.
        It’s got to be better for us all if active defence uses tools designed for the job. The problem with weapons of convenience is that they can do more harm than necessary: if a woman thinks she needs to defend herself from you, she’ll do your eyesight far more damage if she uses her hairspray than she would using a pepper spray.
        And that brings us to the final point here: mistaken identity. If your intruder turns out to be a drunken nephew who last stayed with you eighteen months ago and still has a door key, shooting him with rubber balls is (both for him and family relations) survivable. You can gun him down in the dark, turn the lights on, see who it is and then shoot him again for disturbing you. He’ll try to get sympathy for his bruises for weeks afterwards, but at least he can. If you’ve stabbed him, you’ll have to miss the funeral, because even if you’re not still in custody when it happens, you won’t be welcome.
        The potential need for defence, some way of the owner of a house or shop being able to neutralize superior numbers of intruders came into sharp focus with the August riots. Passive defence – be it hard shell security, smart water and security tags on high value items is not enough of a deterrent, but a shopkeeper or householder who can hurt the intruder may well be what’s needed. We’re back to training; the three men run over and killed in the Midlands defending property were on a street – or at least in a public place. Would trained men have deployed themselves in that position? Chances are, they wouldn’t and, if they’d been appropriate armed, they would not have needed to put themselves in so much jeopardy.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

A World Record Norway Didn't Need

At latest report, some 85 people, most of them teenagers, were shot dead yesterday (Friday 22 July) on the island of Utoeya, Norway. The man arrested at the scene, who apparently used an automatic rifle and a handgun, was named as 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik. He was described as a right-wing, fundamentalist Christian. His victims were attending a camp run by Norway’s Labour Party. He also claimed responsibility for the bomb that killed at least seven people in central Oslo the same day. The known death toll on Utoeya beats the previous all-time record for a spree killing by nearly 50 per cent.

All of which is horrible. The numbers are so staggering that, we suspect, more people in the UK at least will be affected by the untimely death of singer Amy Whitehouse today. This is merely human nature: people tend think they ‘know’ someone whose work they know and admire, however distant they may be personally, and react accordingly. Nearly 100 people murdered in Norway is a number, awful as it is. Which is perhaps why words fail us, crumble away as inadequate, in the face of such events, while we can be altogether articulate about the death of an Amy Winehouse (whom we didn’t know either). We know nothing of those dead young Norwegians. And yet, and in fact, all these deaths are of people whose potential has been snapped out arbitrarily and without justice, who did not, as the saying goes, deserve to die. That is dreadful to contemplate.

Beyond the confusion of emotions, we can still note some things objectively.

We pointed out in our book Does The Trigger Pull The Finger? that spree killers almost always choose ‘gun-free’ zones for their attacks. An argument, we say, for widening the number of people who might carry firearms as a deterrent to such cowards. It is not as if Norway itself is a gun-free zone. Licensed citizens may own handguns, rifles of all sorts, even fully-automatic weapons. Some 300,000 Norwegians (about 31 per cent of the population) own some 1,320,000 firearms. The law permits possession for personal protection, although carrying a firearm openly or concealed in public is prohibited (see

Utoeya was a gun free zone by default. Young people wouldn’t take guns to camp unless to a cadet event, and camp leaders in a civilian setting—scouts and guides—wouldn’t take guns to camp either. Nobody planning such an event and conducting risk assessments would have thought it necessary to think about defending the camp from a spree killer. Likewise, nobody would have planned for how to deal with a man dressed as a policeman who turned up without an appointment.

Young people won’t have been trained in how to evacuate the island, never mind how to evade a rampaging gunman for the time (about an hour, it seems) it would take for help to arrive. And what about that help? Chances are, local law enforcement hadn’t rehearsed an assault beach landing either, so the suspect had the whole island to himself as a free-fire zone for pretty much as long as he wanted.

In practice, preventing such incidents comes only from some preparedness on the ground. That means having people there—people who would be there anyway—who have been trained to carry and use firearms, and who can deploy in some meaningful way if there’s trouble. We know that such incidents are rare—one a decade in Britain. But they have happened. And the door is still open to it happening again, because we have yet to convince government that there is greater safety for us all in greater preparedness.

We might have convinced them, you never know; but for the time being they are preoccupied with their expenses, phone hacking scandals, and the hope of keeping the Euro afloat. So until they focus on the problem, and more particularly on implementing a solution, we face the same risk of another spree killing. The odds are the same as ever. Even now, the news form Norway might be emboldening another coward. 

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Bill of Rights: Still Going Strong

We have been enjoying Lord Neuberger MR’s report  on super-injunctions. It’s a fascinating read. Not enough pictures in it for some, but you can illustrate it yourself with  pictures of people who tried not to be in the news and are anyway. One recently such ‘outed’ person was Imogen Thomas, of whom there are hundreds of photos on the internet. They left us none the wiser as to why she’s associated with a super-injunction. One informant suggested it’s to do with her new musical career, he having heard that she’s been doing gigs in Manchester.

 The issue, as explained by the Master of the Rolls, is that Parliament (which is a court) has its own sub judice rules, under which the Houses of Parliament do not discuss matters that are before the courts. Thus, each refrains from trespassing on the other’s province to ensure that the rule of law is not undermined and that a citizen’s right to a fair trial is not compromised.

The problem with super-injuctions came to light in 2008, when a question was tabled in the House of Commons on a subject that, because of the super-injunction in force at the time, the House office could not know was the subject of an injunction. A super-injunction restrains a person from both publishing the information that concerns the applicant and informing others of the existence of the order and the proceedings. A super-injunction, in other words, makes the ‘original’ injunction secret.

Had the House office been aware that there was an injunction, there would have been some behind the scenes discussion with the MP as to how to proceed. The House sub judice rules would have been considered and the matter probably not aired at that time. In any event, courtesy of the Bill of Rights (an ancient declaration sneered at by low-grade policemen and their present and former lackeys, and the judge at Ed Beck’s St. Alban’s appeal), Parliament cannot be gagged by the courts. To quote from Para 9 of Lord Neuberger’s report: “Article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1689 recognises and enshrines a longstanding privilege of Parliament: freedom of speech and debate. It is an absolute privilege and is of the highest constitutional importance.”

As it was, the injunction’s very secrecy caused it to be exposed in the House of Commons, leading to the second problem—media reporting of Parliamentary proceedings. This is protected by the Parliamentary Papers Act 1840, which provides an absolute immunity in respect of civil or criminal proceedings for Hansard—the official report of Parliamentary proceedings—and any other publication made by order of Parliament. That privilege extends to other publications reproducing what is said in Hansard with a ‘qualified’ or more limited immunity, if published in good faith and without malice. So there is a basic problem—particularly for those fond of injunctions, but also for the constitutional separation of powers between the judiciary and the legislature. If a matter under injunction is raised in Parliament, the media can then quote the official report, thus undermining the purpose of the injunction.

Since the Human Rights Act 1998 incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law—and specifically Article 8, which accords respect for privacy and family life—the courts (as Parliament anticipated) have developed the common law in light of the Convention and its jurisprudence, trying to find a balance between what should be kept private and what should not benefit from the right to a private life. In all cases, injunctions are usually temporary and are imposed to prevent publicity that could prevent a fair hearing at a later date.

It is clear that Lord Neuberger doesn’t think that the Bill of  Rights has been amended. Indeed it can’t be, since it’s only a restatement of the common law. And if that’s the case, then the whole Bill of Rights remains in force. And that includes your rights to protect yourself as necessary, and to bear arms.

Lord Neuberger says (Para 6.6): "...whether an injunction granted by the courts can extend to Parliament is most easily answered by reference to Article 9 of the Bill of Rights, 1689. Article 9 is declaratory of a longstanding privilege of Parliament: freedom of speech in debate. It provides the final legal recognition of the constitutional principle 'That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament.'"

Lord Brown-Wilkinson said in Pepper v. Hart (1993 AC593 at 638): '…the plain meaning of Article 9, viewed against the historical background in which it was enacted, was to ensure that Members of Parliament were not subjected to any penalty, civil or criminal for what they said and were able, contrary to the previous assertions of the Stuart monarchy, to discuss what they, as opposed to the monarch, chose to discuss.'

That judgement is best remembered for opening Parliamentary debates to the courts to help a court decide what Parliament meant by a piece of legislation. It enables us to look at the debates for clues as to their intentions where the wording of the legislation is woolly or ambiguous. It is useful when you look at the debates in 1920 when firearms legislation was first enacted, but it didn’t help us much with the 1988 Firearms (Amendment) Act. Each time the committee debates got to a difficult point, Douglas Hogg, the minister steering the bill through Parliament, said that what the wording meant could be left to the courts to figure out.

Sooner or later, and preferably sooner, either Parliament or the judiciary, or both, will have to consider the conflict between the Bill of Rights and the way the Home Office interprets firearms legislation. That will make interesting reading.

Lord Neuberger’s report, Super-Injunctions, Anonymised Injunctions and Open Justice, can be downloaded from

Saturday, 11 June 2011


We have been enjoying the May/June edition of Skirmish magazine (Dragoon Publishing, ISSN 1466 8068), particularly Terry Underwood’s article. Ostensibly about time he spent at the Downland Museum for a weekend making longbows, much of it is actually about his struggle with the bureaucracy of couriers to get his 6ft 4in stick and piece of string in a padded bag back to Jersey, after the airline substituted the plane he was supposed to travel on with a smaller one that couldn’t take his luggage.

First carrier: “It’s too long for us to transport by air.”

Second carrier: “Our local carrier cannot take this as it’s an antique.”

“It’s four days old; you’re just collecting it from a museum.”

Next carrier: “We can’t transport a weapon of war.”

“It’s a piece of sporting equipment.”

Carrier: “Has it got arrows with it?”


Two days later, carrier: “We’ve been to collect it and we can’t transport it, as it’s strung.”

“The string is looped at one end and secured at the other with a bowyer’s knot; it’s not strung as such.”

Anyway, the museum unpacked it, folded the string up separately and repacked it.

Another day, another carrier: “We tried to collect it, but the documentation is incorrect.”

Up to this point nobody had mentioned the need for a customs declaration, Jersey being outside the European Union. The saga did end eventually with his stick arriving in Jersey, but it made us wonder who is paying whom not to collect it on all the failed attempts. We can understand police firearms departments stringing (geddit?) things along, delaying issuing certificates and struggling to find all manner of reasons for not doing their jobs. We wrote a book about it, published recently; you can read all about it here.

In police firearms departments, finding a reason not to do something is, paradoxically, a form of job creation: expanding the work to fill the time available, and trying to look important and essential. Happily, and at least in part because of our book, they’ve been rumbled. There have already been some high profile redundancies of unnecessary bureaucrats. Now the government needs to make the rest of the savings that are possible by garnering all the firearm and shotgun certificate-issuing duties into one national office, with a mandate to act lawfully at all times. That would save a fortune, with no risk to public safety. If they do sort the bureaucrats out properly, the main loss will be that we’ll have less to write about. We might have to try taking a gallery rifle or two to Jersey—that might get enough bureaucrats hopping about to be worth an article. Or a book.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Gun-free Sprees

20 May: Lee Bradley appeared at Bolton Crown Court to receive an indeterminate sentence for using a stolen car as a weapon. Having been refused entry to the Dali Bar in Rochdale in October 2010, Bradley returned in a stolen Saab and ploughed through the queue—hospitalising 14 people and injuring 11 others—in a bid to get at the doorman who’d refused him entry. That he didn’t kill anyone is probably because he was pushing the car pushing through the crowd at low speed, directing his attack at the door staff, rather than ramming the queue at high speed. The judge described him as deliberately using the car as a weapon. Naturally, there are no implications for people who own and use cars legally.

22 May: In Cork, a middle-aged man approached a Garda Siochana (police) traffic patrol car, hauled the uniformed driver from his seat, punched him, slashed him across the face with a 12-in kitchen knife, then took off in the police car for Cork airport, buffeting four other vehicles on the way. According to the Belfast Telegraph, “Several garda units responded... and the stolen vehicle ploughed into one patrol car near the entrance to Cork Airport. A garda was partially thrown from the vehicle by the force of the collision. The stolen vehicle then ploughed at high speed through the old airport security fence. The man was confronted by airport police and fire brigade personnel—and was forced to abandon the badly damaged garda vehicle.”
            By now he was, it seems, garbed only in boxer shorts. The report continued:
            “However, he brandished his knife and dragged two fire brigade officials from their airport vehicle. He drove off [in it] and then attempted to ram two parked planes, but was frustrated by airport security vehicles. The airport vehicle eventually collided with two vehicles, the last of which was a luggage transporter, before it stalled. The man was then confronted by armed RSU officers. When he refused to get out of the vehicle, a garda fired a taser gun and successfully disabled him.”
            The Telegraph described the incident as “the greatest security threat at Cork Airport in its 50-year history”.
            No one has yet suggested that police cars and fire trucks should be banned lest half-naked gents wielding knives steal them and run amok.

Meanwhile in Mesa, Arizona, on 20 May, homeless 30-year-old Renee Deshaies entered a Dairy Queen restaurant and threatened employees with a grenade for reasons so far unreported. Police apprehended her soon afterward. They said the grenade was used only for training purposes. Ms Deshales however had been under the impression that it was live, which would tend to indicate murderous intent. She faces charges of disorderly conduct and misconduct with a simulated explosive.
            Look, Ma, no guns. Again.

And fortunately, no one dead, although many could have been.

Readers may expect more reports along these lines, as we receive them.

Packing Irony

The Daily Mirror reported (Saturday 30 April) the death of Dorothy ‘Cherry’ Groce, whose shooting by a Metropolitan police officer in 1985 sparked riots in Brixton, south London, where Mrs Groce lived until Easter Sunday. Her death was attributed to kidney failure because of the quaint way in the United Kingdom in which you have to die of something. ‘Old age’ is usually unacceptable on death certificates, although we noticed that it slipped through on the Queen Mother’s when she died aged 101.

The police who attacked the Groce family home in 1985 were searching for Mrs Groce’s son Michael, and an armed officer purportedly mistook a retreating black middle-aged woman for an advancing young man and claimed his common law right to defend himself. His body-line shot damaged her spine and lung, and Mrs Groce was left wheelchair-bound for the rest of her life. Her son Michael, an armed robbery suspect in 1985, is currently a community worker, according to the report. The officer was charged with malicious wounding, but found not guilty. A not-guilty verdict is what the police like to refer to as a “failed prosecution”.

A couple of weeks later Voice-onLine, which seems to be the internet edition of The Voice, a usually sharp and intelligent newspaper for black people in London, carried an interesting puff piece for CO19, the Met Police’s equivalent of a SWAT squad (see One officer was quoted as saying: “There is no doubt that this is the best police firearms training in the world. The knowledge of the people here and the quality of the officers being trained is of a very high standard.”

The officer—a former soldier—may be reflecting the truth of his own experience. But how would he know, really? The impression left by former Chief Supt Michael Waldren’s book Armed Police (Sutton 2007) is that the Met has never seriously looked over its own parapet to learn from the experience of armed police abroad. And, since the 1997 ban on sporting handguns, individual officers no longer have the opportunity to train with their own weapons on courses such as those Mas Ayoob and others used to provide in the UK.

Consequently, they’ve had to learn from their own mistakes, from which Cherry Groce escaped with her life, but others did not. No doubt the training is better than it used to be, and occurs more frequently and consistently. But that’s partly because firearms crime is so rare that specialist units like CO19 aren’t called out that often to any serious purpose, and have to fill their time and justify their massive budget somehow. The Voice-onLine reporter’s claim that “the issue of gun crime [is] an increasingly grim reality of life on the streets of the capital” just doesn’t hold up against the statistics. Armed crime is on the wane everywhere in the UK.

Instead, we have incidents like Wiltshire’s specialist firearms unit—and their helicopter—being called to deal with a rough shooter who frightened some Norwegians inspecting a crop circle (i.e. trespassing) in July 2009. More recently—on 22 May—Hampshire Constabulary’s overstaffed firearms squad spent part of their weekend evacuating a golf course and scrambling the force helicopter to apprehend (with the aid of experts from the local zoo) a stuffed toy tiger, spotted in a field off the M27 motorway near Hedge End. They couldn’t afford to take any chances; if they don’t use the budget, they’ll lose it. And there was that case a few years ago of a kid with a spud gun...

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Shooter's Journal 52 on its way

The Shooter's Journal  
No 52, Spring 2011 is in the mail to SRA members.

Contents include:

Beware of Elephants!—A wry report on the Home Affairs Select Committee's
firearms enquiry of 2010
Driving Through Mythical America—Do "lax" US gun laws lead to more,
or less, gun crime?
Plus news, court reports, reviews, and more...

The Journal is also available to non-members, price £3.50, post free
for your copy, email enquiries[at], or drop a line to
SRA, PO Box 3, Cardigan, SA43 1BN

Happy reading!