I am writing this over the Christmas Break, (the copy dates are a month in advance of publication) and, as our Epetition to the Prime Minister has just closed, he has published his reply.
The petition said We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Change the law to permit our target pistol shooters to prepare properly for international and Olympic competitions.
If you went on to read the full petition you would have seen that it said,
The Sportsman’s Association of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, acting on behalf of all legitimate shooting sportsmen and women who were affected by the so-called ‘handgun ban’ in 1997, calls upon the Government to take the necessary action to comply with the Olympic Charter by enabling target shooters to participate in the demanding and difficult sport of target pistol shooting at the Olympic Games and elsewhere.
This can be done without any danger to public safety as target pistol shooting, wherever it is practised, has always had an excellent safety record. Target pistols to be kept under suitable security conditions, as they always had been, and be available for use by members of Home Office Approved Clubs.
The petition was signed by 8721 people and I thank you all for taking the time to sign it.
The Prime Ministers response was:
While the Government has no plans to relax the handgun ban, Home Office Ministers have recently agreed to look at whether it might be possible to put in place arrangements to allow a small number of potential medal winners to practise in Great Britain in advance of the 2012 Games. They will have further meetings with interested parties to discuss how this can be best achieved. Any such arrangements will need to take into account allowing competitors sufficient time to carry out training prior to the 2012 Olympics, while ensuring that public safety is not put at risk.
As a former BG pistol team member, I consider the bit about “ensuring public safety is not put at risk” is an insult to the British Olympic Shooting Team.
Naturally, I felt obliged to let Mr Brown know what I thought of his reply to our petition.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
10 Downing Street
21 April 2008
Target Pistols E Petition
Dear Prime Minister,
The people who signed the Sportsmans Association petition were asking the Government to comply with the Olympic Charter, which says; The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind. Your agreement to have “Talks” is in no way an answer to this request. It falls woefully short of complying with the Olympic Charter in any way shape or form. Furthermore, I would remind you that the Charter also says: Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement. Belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter.
Ten years ago your Government oversaw the shameful destruction of a sport. You vilified 57000 Honest Law abiding sportsmen and women, accusing them of being perverts or worse, and used the deaths of those poor children in Dunblane as a vehicle to try to gain cheap political advantage.
When you put into place the pistol ban you claimed it was for public safety. Well it obviously has not worked and it is time you admitted that you were wrong and repealed the ban.
Until this Government stops discriminating against our Target Pistol Shooters, it is the opinion of the Sportsmans Association that you are not fit to be members of Olympic Movement, and thus the 2012 Olympics should be held in a more deserving country.
Sportsmans Association of GB&NI
British Sports Shooting Council Westminster Fair
The Director and Lord Cameron of Dillington discuss Lord Coe’s unflagging effort on behalf of our Olympic Shooting Team
Each year the BSSC holds a fair in Westminster and MPs and the Lords are invited in so that we can put our views over to them, and answer any questions they may have with regards to what we stand for. Mike and I attended this year and were pleased to be able to discuss the Olympic Fiasco with those attending.
One of the suggestions we put forward was as follows:
Olympic Pistol Shooting
It is a disgrace that our National pistol team have to train abroad so that they can represent GB in international and Olympic competitions.
We can ensure that we have a viable pistol team for the 2012 Olympics and Commonwealth Games, without altering the current law in any way.
How to do this.
1. Grant section 5 Authority to selected members of the National Pistol Squad and allow them to train on suitable club ranges. They may keep their pistols at home provided they can provide suitable security for them. Remember that already many stalkers and Vets have pistols for humane dispatch which they keep at home together with ammunition. So it will be nothing new.
2. Selected members of Regional Training Squads should also be Granted section 5 Authority, to allow them to hold pistols under the same conditions as above, in order for them to train to a standard required for entry into the National Squad. Without Training squads the National squad will wither and die for want of experienced new members.
Adopting the above policy would ensure a flow of experienced .22 Pistol shooters entering into the system and maintaining a healthy and vibrant National Pistol Squad, at no cost to the Government and with no legislation change.
They would all already be Firearms Certificate Holders. So they would already have been vetted by the police and deemed suitable to possess firearms.
They will have been selected as suitable and put forward for Section 5 Authority by the National body organising National and Regional training squads.
By using Civilian ranges, there will be no cost incurred in rebuilding Military Ranges to make them suitable for ISSF Target Pistol shooting. Also there will be no requirement for a Military presence when training is taking place. Thus releasing the military from another burden on its manpower during this time of excessive deployment.
Because there is no cost to the Military, (Government), there is no reason for this system to end after the Olympics. Thus the shooting community will be prepared to train to become Range Officials to run the Olympics. This is unlikely to happen otherwise.
This is broadly in line with what is already on the Home Secretary’s desk, excepting that the government want it restricted to only a few members of the team, and shooting on Military ranges only. Therefore you would have no system in place to feed the National Squad with new potential.
Now, I know that I will be accused of being elitist, by suggesting this. But think about it. It would be a way for some people to continue to represent our country with some hope of success, and you and your children would have just as much chance of getting into a regional Squad as I or anyone else. You would just need to shoot that little bit straighter.
Frank Cooke MP, once said to me, that Politics is the art of maximising your advantage from what is achievable. So write to your MP and ask them to support this suggestion. You may just persuade the Government to agree to these arrangements if we can gain enough support. You will not have a better time to do it than now, so don’t let it slip past you.
Don’t forget to look on our website to see which postal competitions you are missing out on. You can shoot them concurrent with normal club matches. You just have to nominate them before you shoot. There must be someone in the club with a computer who can send in the scores ???????
Regards, Alan Westlake.