Written evidence submitted by Ms Helen
I am a normal, boring, female, middle-aged, middle-class
physiotherapist in the Armed Forces. My days are spent helping
recovery and rehabilitation, often of those who have been shot.
I understand the consequences of a bullet very thoroughly.
My career has obviously involved considerable gun
use, through which I came to deer-stalking, clay, target and game
shooting. I am not a red-neck, toff or nutcase (nor are most of
those who I shoot with). I am CRB cleared, hold two levels of
security vetting via various government agencies and am subject
to regular, random compulsory drug-testing.
My firearms officer, however (and quite correctly)
does not take this into more than passing consideration in his
dealings with me - he checks, counter-checks, requires reasoning
for continued holding of the weapons and has a thorough knowledge
of me and indeed all those under his watch.
He is not bullish, but applies current legislation
fairly and with common sense. He knows that if I sign someone's
shotgun or firearm application, that I will have already tutored
said person in safe gun-handling and would not be signing if I
had reservations. Still, he carries out the checks as with anyone
else. All this is exactly as it currently stands in law, is applied
as best practice and is done with courtesy and good humour.
However, I am able to buy or construct other lethal
weapons with no more than a few pounds in my bank account. A knife
is available with no problems for nefarious purpose; I can purchase
a car, drive like an idiot and barely be slapped on the wrist
for killing someone; I can get drunk and start fights with lethal
consequence. All of these happen regularly, cause multiple injuries
and deaths, but do not spin as spectacularly, or fire the media's
rockets as much as a rogue man with a gun.
Previous knee-jerk reaction to these awful shooting
sprees has, unfortunately, not made a jot of difference to the
number of weapons available for illegal use. Unfortunately, despite
my firearms officer's excellence, all Forces are not equal in
applying the current law. We saw recently in the South-east, for
instance, the sentencing of three men who should not have been
able to keep their licences following previous convictions.
On a separate but associated point, as a medical
professional, I need to balance patient and wider safety against
confidentiality on a daily basis. I recognise that my expertise,
however, is in the musculoskeletal arena and confine my decisions
to that. A GP's speciality is not mental health. To ask them to
break patient confidentiality on a supposition is a dangerous
I probably would not go to my GP with problems if
I thought there would be an effect on my firearms licences. If
my job depended on it (farmers, gamekeepers etc) or it was my
main social outlet, then I definitely would not risk seeing my
GPisolation and job difficulties not generally being recommended
as a fix for mental health problems. I believe that a campaign
to educate shooters and Police, that voluntary (and temporary)
giving-up of weapons to a safe location via their firearms officer
during a period of mental health problem, could ease anxiety and
aid sensible self-monitoring.
Shooting is a wonderful community-oriented sport.
It teaches youngsters (and the not so young who are late to it)
respect, responsibility and the reality that when you shoot something
it really dies: ingloriously, bloodily and without the replay/second
life of a computer game.
Please consider the need, not for a change in legislation,
but for a review of the way it is currently implemented, in order
to standardise the best practice which I have experienced.
2 August 2010