My comments last week about the presentational aspects of the broadcast media sparked some immediate reaction. A friend rang to say (in deliberately emphasised Geordie tones) that I myself have what he regards as a somewhat plummy accent. ?You are quite wrong?, I told him, smugly. ?I simply don?t have an accent at all.? He was not convinced. In last week?s column I drew a distinction between Received Pronunciation, as used to be favoured by BBC presenters, and the sort of strangulated braying that is all too readily associated in the public mind with champagne-swilling Hooray Henrys. Shooting sports do not get a fair hearing when they are too closely associated with perceptions of a privileged minority.

A good example of a fine broadcast voice is that of Simon Clarke, BASC?s head of press relations. I heard him on a BBC Radio Four news programme when the Durham shootings were hitting the headlines. He came across as the calm, articulate voice of reason. His message was all the clearer because of the lack of any distracting accent.

Gun murder league table

Those horrible murders in County Durham inevitably led to debate about firearms laws. As with other recent incidents, however, the media coverage was much better balanced than might have been the case just a few years ago. For a start, there seems to be widespread acceptance that we do indeed have extremely strict gun laws in this country, and there are limits to what laws can do to thwart criminals.

In this context, I was interested to see a small piece in The Spectator magazine listing gun-related statistics for various US states. The US gun murder league table is headed by the District of Columbia (DC), with a gun murder rate of a whopping 16 per 100,000 people. Yet DC (which hosts Washington, the US capital) also has the lowest level of gun ownership in the entire country, at just 3.8 per cent of households. By contrast, the state with the lowest gun murder rate, at just 0.3 per 100,000, is Vermont, which also happens to record a very high level of gun ownership ? 42 per cent of households. And the next lowest gun murder rate (0.4)is recorded by the neighbouring state of New Hampshire, where 30 per cent of households have guns. Another low gun murder rate (0.6) is shown by North Dakota, where 52 per cent of all households have guns.

Complex causes of crime

Now, some other states with relatively high levels of gun ownership also have higher levels of gun murders (though none comes anywhere near DC?s incredible rate) so it would be simplistic, if tempting, to say that plenty of guns means fewer murders. But what the state-by-state comparison does show clearly, is that high levels of gun ownership do not equate to high levels of gun murders.

There is no direct relationship between the two. The causes of gun crime are much more complex. And that is a message that seems, finally, to be getting through to commentators and legislators here in the UK. The stark irony of the US gun crime fi gures is that DC, with its sky-high gun murder rate, has strict gun control laws, with virtually all home ownership of handguns being banned. In peaceful New Hampshire, on the other hand, you don?t even need a licence to own most types of gun.

In case you are wondering about this remarkable disparity, I should explain that DC is an urban area, with zones of wealth and the seat of federal government sitting cheek-by-jowl with impoverished ghettos where drugs and gang-related crime is rife. New Hampshire, on the other hand, nestles peacefully alongside Vermont in the scenic rural area known as New England. Its official state motto says it all: ?Live Free or Die?.

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