Don't shoot the messenger

11th June 2004 at 01:00
With reference to the article on guns (TES, May 28), may I first congratulate your reporters on a piece that was factual rather than sensational. As an organisation that promotes safe gun-handling, we are more used to the latter.

For more than two years we have been running Airgun Awareness days for children, parents and teachers, covering the safe use of airguns and the penalties for their misuse. We have also been campaigning for the grey areas surrounding ball-bearing guns (BBs) to be clarified by the Government. These items are imported and sold as "toys" - thus they do not come under any form of restriction as to who may purchase or sell them - whereas airguns do. They are invariably replicas of well-known pistols that are indistinguishable from the "real thing" - so someone could be shot when in possession of one of these in a public place by an Armed Response Unit.

So far as the 50 airguns handed in in Wales are concerned, teenagers are allowed to use these and they were probably handed in by the responsible child or its parents. The irresponsible still have theirs. Under "citizenship", they could learn their rights and responsibilities regarding airguns and firearms. We are concerned as shooters are forever being stigmatised as criminals, and the recent recording by the police, of all incidents involving guns, (especially BBs) as "firearms incidents" has led to the surging increase in gun-crime statistics.

If the NASUWT is so concerned, get us in to talk to the youngsters and show them that airguns are not toys and teach them that the penalties for misuse are very serious. We are currently working with convicted young offenders and a county police force in an effort to reduce gun crime. Punishment needs to be to the maximum for those convicted, and the frightening thing is that the convicted offenders, many of school age, tell us that they can get a "real gun and 10 rounds of ammo, no questions asked" for less than the price of a good sporting air-rifle.

We do our best, with no government funding, to try to combat gun misuse and to keep our sport alive.

Guns don't kill people - people kill people, and gun control isn't about guns, it's about control of the populace.

David Monck Secretary, Airgun Training amp; Education Organisation 10a Biggleswade Road Dunton, Bedfordshire

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