As one of the 24,000 shotgun certificate holders and licensed gun owners living in the heart of the capital, I take a seriously dim view of my licensing authoritys ostensibly well-intentioned advice issued this week over the security of my guns. I find the message that I should take more care over how I store my guns for fear of them falling into the wrong hands both highly patronising and liable to exacerbate a problem which, at the moment, is of marginal significance in the wider picture of gun-related crime.
I have held a shotgun certificate for more than a decade and in that time, whether at home or while travelling with my guns, I have always exercised rigorous security measures to ensure they remain in my possession. While on the move, I always separate stock, barrels and fore-end to guarantee my gun is rendered into useless lumps of wood and metal should the criminal fraternity manage to obtain one third of it. Its common sense and, like the majority of the shooting community, I am always aware of the special obligations I have to ensure my guns dont go walkabout. Aside from the issue of potential criminal use, theres also the small matter of a possible criminal prosecution and the considerable financial outlay to replace the things.
What makes the Mets advice particularly galling is the fact that my meticulous approach to security is not, unfortunately, shared by all the members of that august force. In September last year, one of Tony Blairs close protection officers accidentally left her Glock pistol on the floor of a lavatory in a central London branch of Starbucks. Fortunately for her, the staff found it and called in her more competent colleagues before she realised it was gone. Meanwhile, last November, another of Blairs bodyguards popped a cap into the tarmac at Tel Avivs Ben Gurion airport. Whoops! Im not taking lessons in gun security from the force responsible for that shower.
Thanks to the Met, last weeks media panic over the allegedly rising use of sawn-off shotguns in crime has painted a lurid picture of the resurgence of good old-fashioned stockingsover-heads post office jobs. The reality is that gun crime in this country overwhelmingly involves firearms that cannot now be held legally, namely handguns. With their latest advice, however, the police have willfully and knowingly blurred the legitimate use of firearms and the use of firearms in crime, where no such link exists.
Drawing attention to the storage and use of legitimate guns in the way the Met has is utterly counterproductive. To the criminal element seeking a Best London sidelock, the Met is effectively saying Dont forget to check under the stairs on your burglary rounds. You never know what you might find.
Whereas before the most accessible route into illegitimate firearms ownership was no doubt around the corner in a dimly-lit alley next to the shady pub with a fistful of banknotes, now the Met has highlighted that there could be an easier way to get hold of your guns. To my licensing authority I would like to say a very insincere thank you for doing us such a great disservice.
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