THE SNIPER COLUMN

Watch your back! Sniping remarks and gleeful industry gossip – we love it

UP IN SMOKE

01Those of us who report on the gun trade have taken it upon ourselves to follow most of the trade’s businesses on Facebook, so we never miss news about what they are doing. But after so much time spent reading the gun trade’s collective updates, as with any other new innovation or marketing channel, it all becomes fairly predictable. Companies tend to gravitate towards using Facebook for one of a small number of key reasons: establishing a conversation with your customers, promoting your products, or posting pictures of what socks you are wearing.

So there’s nothing like a timely reminder that Facebook can be used for other purposes, some far less intentional. “Happy Friday!” posted one shooting retailer recently. “What better way to start the day than nicking next door’s doughnut delivery?” This was accompanied by a photo of a smiling representative of said gunshop running onto the premises with a trolley full of doughnuts.

Let it be said that Sniper would never condone theft; furthermore, if you are going to commit such a crime, posting a picture of yourself in the act on Facebook is a sure way to get caught. With that in mind, we can’t help but wonder if the writer ofthis Facebook update took a bit of poetic licence, and the doughnuts weren’t really stolen.

However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be unintended consequences to posting the photo – let’s not forget, your loved ones will be reading what you post, and if, say, you’re meant to be giving up smoking, it may not go so well for you. “You’ve been smoking!” posts one shocked relative of the man pictured. “The evidence is in your hand! You’re in big trouble!” Indeed – the alleged doughnut thief has a fag in one hand, lighter in the other. As the next commenter put it: “Busted twice over. Ouch.”

 

FACING THE MUSIC

“Badger cull protest song heading to be a chart hit,” announced headlines on the weekend of 1 September. A song titled ‘Save the Badger, Badger, Badger’, based on the internet song of a decade ago that had a similar name, had apparently amassed 700,000 views on YouTube and entered the top 40 of the iTunes chart.

02

Who is behind this musical marvel? Of course, it’s the man with links to both music and badgersentimentalism Brian May, who has teamed up with the creator of the original song and Brian Blessed, who provides backing vocals. (I imagine any vocals provided by Mr Blessed will be sweet, dulcet and melodic in nature…)

But hold on a minute. It’s easy to ridicule the lily-livered hippy antis who think writing songs is an effective means of protest, but those are probably the type we should leave alone. After all, it’s certainly preferable to the type who make threats of violence against farmers, or compare shooters and cull supporters to paedophiles.

That’s right – someone has recently made public claims that criticising the RSPCA “is like wanting paedophiles to escape justice.” It’s sickening stuff – the kind that makes you question whether the person who said it is right in the head.

According to this public figure, “the Countryside Alliance, elements of the National Farmers Union, elements of the press and media and elements of the very government of this country” are in league in a “vicious, calculated attempt to discredit the RSPCA and destroy its powers to prevent cruelty to animals.” He continued: “Imagine if a bunch of child abusers then banded together to spread vile propaganda against the NSPCC, its officers, and the very children that were abused. This terrible scenario is exactly what the RSPCA is being subjected to, the only difference being that the creatures involved are non-human.”

Who’s the big mouth behind this ill-mannered, ill-advised tirade? Step forward Brian May. No matter how well ‘Save the Badger, Badger, Badger” does in the charts, there can be no doubt that Mr May is more used to singing an altogether different tune.

 

DON’T READ ALL ABOUT IT

04Here we go again: the local media has been in a shock over the number of guns flooding the north of England. Illegally obtained guns? No, legally licensed guns owned by people who have passed stringent checks. The horror.

“Anti-gun campaigners hit out at number of legally licensed gun holders,” screams a headline from the north-east’s Evening Chronicle. The fact that anti-gun campaigners being opposed to guns suddenly becoming newsworthy is in itself news to me, but let’s press on. The article says that the number of shotgun and firearm licenses in the north has ‘rocketed’ to 97,000. Further down are quoted statistics that Cumbria has 4,549 shotguns and 2,149 firearms per 100,000 people, while Northumberland contains 9,048 shotgun certificate holders and 10,995 licensed firearms.

To see just how much they have really rocketed by, let’s have a look at last year’s figures. Government statistics from 2011-12 indicate that there were 4,564 shotguns and 2,101 firearms per 100,000 people – so firearm ownership has increased by around 2 per cent, while the rate of shotgun ownership has actually gone down.

Meanwhile, the total estimate for firearms and shotguns held in 2011-12 across Cumbria, Northumberland, Durham and Cleveland was 95,225 – again making a difference of 2 per cent this year. Rocketed indeed!

The government figure state elsewhere: “The number of firearms covered by certificates on issue per head of population was highest in Dyfed-Powys (2,500 per 100,000 population), North Yorkshire (2,237 per 100,000 population) and Cumbria (2,101 per 100,000 population). This pattern is not surprising as those police forces with the highest number of firearms per head of population are in the more rural areas, where the population tends to be lower and firearms are more frequently used for employment and leisure activities.” Well, I never. At least the Evening Chronicle is keeping one tenet of journalism alive: “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

 

IN THE PINK

03 credit Vince LoprestiThe latest news from Stateside: As shooters step up their activism to combat the raft of seemingly approaching gun legislation, the antis, too, are coming up with new ways to publicly protest against private gun ownership. The latest initiative that’s providing a threat to the livelihoods and freedom of everyone in the shooting industry is Code Pink, a women-led protest group that organises ‘flash-mob’ protests in which all the participants are (wait for it) dressed in pink.

Well, let’s take them seriously, assume they really mean business, and assess the potency of this latest threat. Firstly, their slogan: “Arms are for hugging” – if that doesn’t scream ‘We are serious political movers who will make a difference’, I don’t know what does. Moving on: Their flash mob protests involve waving signs bearing slogans such as “Have a heart”, executing cheerleader-esque dance routines and twirling matching pink umbrellas. Bless.

Still, let’s not judge a book by its bright pink cover. Just what level of interest did their protest (held, incidentally, in Santa Monica, California, known more for being a shopping hotspot than a gun crime hotspot) generate? Well, photography from the event reveals it had an attendance figure of around twelve. Twelve thousand? No, just twelve. I think the word ‘mob’ may in this case qualify as false advertising.

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