Friday, 29 August 2014

Thoughts on a tragedy.

The recent tragic incident of a nine year old girl shooting her instructor with the firearm she was being taught with has brought out the anti-gun media with a vengeance, along with its usual misinformed and uneducated pundits.

There has been much made of the fact that the weapon in question was an "Uzi machine gun", along with the statement that, "this is a high powered weapon". So in an effort to get a bit of balance here let's have a look at the details.

The Uzi is a "sub machine gun", which by definition is a machine gun that fires cartridges of a calibre and size found commonly in hand guns. The calibre of the Uzi is 9mm, the same calibre as the side arm issued to many police officers, army, navy or air force personnel, and widely used by security forces throughout the world, and where allowed, for personal and home defence. This cartridge has an effective range in the Uzi to between 100 -200 metres.

A machine gun, as alluded to by every report that I heard, is a weapon that fires a rifle cartridge. These cartridges are many and varied and range in calibre from .223 (5.56) up to, but not limited to, .308 (7.62~) being the more commonly available calibres. The effective range of these cartridges is out beyond 600 metres, depending upon the platform used.

There are and have been many instances where the recoil involved from the rifle, pistol or shotgun has proven too much for the shooter involved to maintain their control of the weapon concerned. This is not the fault of the instrument, but the instructor, who has failed to educate the student in the correct handling of weapon In question. In this case the consequences proved to be fatal for the instructor.

In addition to handling the weapon correctly, the stature of the student should also be addressed. Being of slight build myself, I can attest to the fact that due to a lack of mass to place behind the weapon, utilising what is available is crucial in an effort to prevent the weapon from taking over the shooter whilst firing. Before letting anyone shoot anything, all of these things should be taken into account and addressed before the trigger is ever squeezed.

Much has also been made of the fact the poor child in question was nine years old, and is it right or proper for children to handle, fire, or be involved with firearms of any description. This should be your personal choice and that of the child involved, and based upon the criteria outlined above. In addition, the demeanour of the child is paramount. They should be able to follow instructions, but equally they should be confident enough to question or ask for clarification on a subject if they do not understand what is required of them. In my experience, age does not guarantee this, having instructed adults who think they know better; and as an instructor it is my duty to advise them to the contrary.

Shooting is a safe sport, hobby, pastime or recreation, undertaken by millions of people around the world every day. Thankfully accidents are rare, very rare, which is why the media and those who would prevent the ownership of any firearms by the civilian populace are trying so hard to make a really big issue of this truly terrible accident. Shooters around the world must not let these groups use this incident to push for further restrictions on young shooters, or those who may wish to take up the sport. Whilst this incident is tragic, it was an accident, and accidents happen to all of us every day, though thankfully most of us get to go home at the end of the day, but not all. It is through the vigilance and true professionalism of shooters as a whole that these accidents are so rare that when a tragedy does occur, it is, headline news.

Friday, 22 August 2014

What is un-armed?

In recent weeks there have been two high profile shootings of individuals by law enforcement in the US. I'm not here to argue whether the shootings were justified, that is for a court of law, based upon the evidence made available at the trial. The issue of being armed however is an issue, in the first instance, the shot suspect was said to "not be in possession of a weapon of any sort". In the second instance, the victim was "only armed with a knife".

So let's look at each of these cases in turn; firstly no weapon of any sort, well this individual had the same weapon we all have available to us, his fists. A clenched fist is a formidable weapon, even in untrained hands. A blow from a clenched fist to the head will cause at least dis-orientation from the first blow landing, should subsequent blows be aimed and land in the same area, anything from severe bruising to broken bones, right up to a blow being fatal. But you do not have to rain punches down on someone to kill them, just one punch will do it, as in the case of the football/soccer referee in Michigan. A link to the story is here from USAToday. The unfortunate punch, thrown in a brief fit of rage, had devastating consequences. Then consider what could happen if someone, intent on causing harm, did it to you, how would you fair? This person will invariably be bigger than you in some way, or at least consider themselves to be better physically than you. If the blow is thrown with intent, it will be thrown from a position of surprise and advantage to your assailant. You may never recover.

In the second instance, "only armed with a knife", well that's a pretty dangerous item, especially in the hands of someone intent on causing you harm. If you are confronted by someone with a knife, and they intend to use it fully to achieve their aim, and you are un-armed you will be fortunate to survive the encounter.

In both of these scenarios, your assailant must get close to you, if you are un-armed then your only course of action is to create as greater distance between you and the aggressor. Not always the easiest thing to do. But how much distance should you have between you and your attacker? When people are asked, they seriously under estimate how much distance can be travelled by an attacker, balanced against their ability to react. If you are fortunate enough to live in a country that will allow you to carry your own protection, then you may have a chance to survive one of these encounters. This protection is a personal firearm, but this is not a cure all solution, you still need distance between you and your attacker.

This distance has to be greater than the time it takes you to draw your firearm, point your firearm, and fire your firearm. That distance must be at least 21 feet (7 yards or 6.4 metres) for that is the least amount of ground that can be covered by an attacker and still give you a chance to draw your firearm. Of course if you have more space the balance of power changes, but the chances are your assailant will be aware of this and will take every opportunity to close down this gap. Not convinced, then follow the link to PDTV to watch a short video, but bear in mind whilst they are only enacting the scenario, the victim new he would be attacked, but not where, so he had a small advantage, and still came off second best.

In conclusion, the rights and or wrongs of the two shootings by the police will be decided in a court of law. But if you were in their position, given the information currently available, what would you do?

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Loud, and right?

Why is it that the "Nay" sayers are always the ones that shout the loudest, do the least, and have no idea how to resolve the problem? Perhaps it is the fact that those who "Do" are busy doing just that, getting on with the job in hand.

In the vast amount of cases, when some individual or group wishes to obtain information, where do they look? It is human nature to first try the obvious, the obvious being the group or organisation that you hear about most. On a local level, this equates to going to one of the major supermarket's, who bombard us day and night with TV, Radio, newspaper, and any other form of advertising they can get hold of. This has and is to the detriment of the local high street, where small firms deal in a single product and are exceedingly knowledgeable about the products they keep.

A good example of this is an independent off licence, they keep a vast array of products, some well-known, others not so well known. They have an enormous amount of skill and are knowledgeable about not only what is on their shelves but also the myriad of other products available. Then counter this with a super market, limited amount of available stock, only stocking what will bring in a large return (profit) per unit, and from experience, staff that only know what they have been told to say, which often just saves you reading the label.

All of this applies to all the shops in a high street, and yet people have been convinced that the supermarkets are the go to people, why? Because they shout the loudest, we are cheaper, more convenient, everything under one roof, and many other claims. Prices may well be less, and times are hard for all at present, but through experience I've found prices at the local shops are equal and on numerous occasions, better than the supermarkets. As for convenience, well, using a pedometer to do my shop locally I covered less distance than I did when shopping at the supermarket, as I only went where I needed to go, not where they directed me, additionally, the shops have been in the same place for many years, butcher, green grocer, bakers etc., unlike in the supermarket where they move around on a monthly basis, but how much longer we will have our shops is in doubt.

Now if we look at things on a national level with slightly less tangible assets, who does the most work in looking after the rural idyll, the hedgerows, the flora and fauna, and the countryside in general. The countryside that provides for the nations larder, although nowhere near as much as it used to.The many countryside and welfare groups that exist all say that they do, but on closer inspection you have the same scenario as before, those that shout the loudest get the attention. And in these cases, their attitudes are somewhat blinkered, only looking at the areas of the countryside that they wish to address.

The countryside is a work place, it has few walls, rarely has a roof, but it needs constant maintenance. This maintenance takes on many forms from ploughing the soil, to vermin control, and a myriad of other tasks, all designed to make the countryside a safe, productive and pleasant environment to undertake business and keep as a nice place live and to look at; much like your garden at home, but on a much bigger scale.

For example there is an ornithological group, very keen on protecting our native birds and their habitat, a wholly commendable thing for them and the birds. But in their efforts to protect the bird life they fail to address the broader picture, to allow some form of maintenance for their endeavour, they need to manage the vermin, rats, foxes, corvids etc. that literally eat into their basic premise of protecting the birds.
In their efforts to protect the birds, they campaign strongly against those that do manage the countryside and the methods that they use to do so. And yet in the area where this group has full control of the habitat and environment, its success is limited.

Properly maintained and controlled habitats, where all vermin is managed in a humane and environmentally balanced way, has a much greater success rate. Good examples of this are places such as the moors of Yorkshire, where the ground is managed for grouse, the controlled burning of selected areas of moorland, to encourage new shoots on the heather, a process which occurs naturally, only less controlled and less often, provide cover for the grouse and many other birds, insects, and wildlife. In turn this rich and fertile area is now a pantry for those creatures that prey upon the increased number insects and birds. If left unattended too the predators would simply eat what is there and move on; much in the same way if went away for a week and left your dog a week's supply of food, they would eat it all on day one then go hungry the rest of the week, not being able to move on.

So who should we ask when it comes to the management of our countryside, one of the many blinkered single interest groups or those that are doing the work day in and day out? Going back to the dog on holiday, you either put your dog in kennels or get a friend to take care of your dog whilst you are away. They will provide your dog with its daily meals, and by working together there is enough food today and tomorrow to keep your dog healthy. Working together for the good of all, rather than just one group or individual is the best way to keep our countryside healthy and well maintained for this and future generations.