Shooting is something that I enjoy, and I think it’s a general skill that people should learn…kind of. When it comes to guns, I pretty much stand alone, since my opinion is neither here nor there when I compare it with contemporary arguments of for/against firearms in civilian life.
In Britain, guns are mostly illegal. Countryside dwellers (like my family) are permitted shotgun licences after stringent tests, and after a few years this can be upgraded to a bolt-action rifle licence (which we’ve never bothered with, since the areas you can actually use it in are extremely limited). Similar rules are to be found in a lot of European countries, though things on the continent are generally more lax than they are on our island. France has some silly rules, though. Black-powder revolvers and old fashioned weapons are readily available, and it isn’t hard to acquire a hunting rifle (that could easily double up as a sniper system), but where you’re allowed to use it is a very narrow area indeed. The French go in for organised hunts, usually as part of the Chasse, and I hate the little bastards. They ride around in jeeps wearing orange jackets and blazing away at the deer when they can find it. I think it’s pathetic for a whole host of reasons, not only because it’s little Frenchmen playing soldiers in mechanised warfare, but also because it’s senselessly cruel. We have supermarkets nowadays. If they want the outdoor experience, they can fuck off and go camping. What makes even less sense is that our friend Richard shot a deer from his bathroom window with his rifle, an act that was actually illegal, despite the fact that he legally owned both the weapon itself and the land the deer was standing on when it was killed. Ah, but had he been riding around in a little car in an orange jacket with a bunch of shouting Frenchmen, that would have been fine.
There is limited support in our country for changing our gun laws to have more in common with those of the United States, and on the face of it I think it sounds like a really bad idea. On the other hand, gun crime is rife in Britain; assault rifles, submachine guns and pistols are all commonly found within the arsenals of criminals, but the public have nothing to defend themselves with. To give you an example, two years ago two female police officers were murdered by some thug in a grenade attack. A fucking grenade. I’ve written elsewhere about the violence problem in Britain, and guns are very much a part of that. Hence, supporters of reformed firearm legislation advocate giving the public the chance to defend themselves more effectively. Would that spiral? I don’t know. An American would probably argue that it would, but on the whole I think our country isn’t quite so full of morons as theirs is (or at least, we have different types of moron) and in some cases, it’s possible to buy a weapon and ammunition in America with little to no background checks (to prove a point, a British news crew pretended to be Americans and bought an AR-15 straight from a gun fair, armed with no proof of ID except for a persuasive nature and a fake accent. If that’s not ridiculous, tell me what is).
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that my parents are criminal lawyers, and when I was a boy they were always telling my brother and I about the cases they dealt with, and, in layman’s terms, just how the law could be so fucking stupid. In one instance, in the late ’90s I remember they told us about a farmer who saw three intruders on his grounds with knives in their hands. He blazed away at them with a shotgun, killing one and wounded the other two…and was subsequently sentenced to over twenty years in jail for murder and GBH. As I got older, my parents were always warning me never to get into fights, since if I ever did any real damage (especially after I started boxing) the police never care who started it. The choice was either get stabbed and be innocent, or defend yourself and be guilty. Thankfully I never had any trouble with the police; I don’t enjoy nightlife and never let myself get into those sorts of situations, but the risk was ever present. You wouldn’t believe how many people want to start fights in British cities, even in broad daylight, and they’re generally the ones who don’t care about getting in trouble with the law; nine times out of ten they already have been, and have nothing to lose.
The trouble with making firearm laws more liberal is that a country runs the risk of ending up like America. The situation there is just ridiculous.
I learned about firearms when I joined the Army in immense detail, and from day one we were told two things over and over again. 1. You never point these things at anyone. 2. These things are designed to fucking kill. I think I was trained with an SA80 assault rifle for almost a month before I got to fire the damn thing. We learned to handle the weapon safely, strip it, clean it, load it, unload it, strip it, clean it, over and over and over again until we could have done it in our sleep. We used drill rounds, which are fake bullets; not blanks, just pieces of metal that are shaped like 5.56 rounds so we could get used to feeling ammunition in our magazines and in the rifle itself. After that, we shot rifles hooked up to computer systems on the electronic DCCT ranges, which is basically a simulator. Then we were sent on our first field exercise, and given live ammunition…but only blank rounds. Only when we came back from that we were issued real bullets and sent onto the ranges.
Now, as you can imagine, all of that took quite a long time, a lot of hard work and a lot of effort, since it was accompanied with all the other stress and torture that makes up what the Army calls Basic Training. But whenever you learned how to use a new weapon, whether it be a pistol, sniper rifle or machine gun, you were taught using the same procedure…over and over and over again. But it quickly made me feel comfortable around firearms; British people aren’t used to them, we don’t grow up with them like Americans do. But because of the training I’d undergone, I knew that all the men around me had had exactly the same instruction. We never worried about people fucking up and causing an ND (negligent discharge) and killing someone by accident.
…which is exactly why I cringe every time I see Americans shooting guns on YouTube. They really do not have a clue. Oh, some of them can shoot quite well, I’ll give them that, and a few even know quite a lot about guns, but for the most part they are just the worst types of fat army wannabes, tooled up in more camouflage than I was ever issued, with the webbing hanging off them and God knows what else. Americans often grow up with guns, but it seems that that doesn’t make them treat guns with respect. On the contrary, their attitudes often seem almost flippant towards firearms.
The Americans set much store by their Constitution, and for all their honking about Muslims interpreting the ancient text of the Koran, that’s exactly what it reminds me of when they argue over what was (and wasn’t) meant in the document set down by the Founding Fathers. It almost looks pathetic, the way in which Washington and Jefferson are elevated to the same status as Socrates and Plato, and how the interpretation of their words set down a handful of generations ago is treated as some mystical philosophy. ‘A man’s right to bear arms’…I dread to think how many have lost their lives because gun laws are too lax and American politicians can’t face some very obvious truths.
What did George Washington mean by that statement if not that people could turn their basements into personal arsenals? Well, back in the old days, when the mean and nasty British ruled over America, there was no heroic US Army nor mighty United States Marine Corps; hence, everything was done by militias, and if memory serves the Constitution does state that weapons can be owned ‘as part of a well-regulated militia’ (I could look that up, but I can’t be bothered). Now, to my mind, the ‘well-regulated militia’ bit is fairly important, since it implies that weapons should be owned by reservist soldiers who have been properly trained. The modern equivalent would be something like an army reserve…namely, the National Guard. Perhaps a more accurate version would be the Swiss system, wherein men are conscripted and after their service ends, they keep their personal weapons at home, to use in case of a national emergency.
In Washington’s day, the standard firearm was a matchlock musket at best, which had a rate of fire of about two or three bullets a minute. Could George Washington have imagined the effects of an AK47 or an AR15? Likely not, and I think he probably would have been horrified at the potential for damage that could be unleashed by someone keeping such a thing in their home. I put this to an American friend, Joe, who is a twenty-two year veteran of the US Navy, and now works as a military advisor to the UN.
But beyond all that, modern Americans just don’t need military-style firearms. In some states it’s legal to buy a fully-automatic light support machine gun. Shooting for sport is understandable, but there are guns designed for just such a purpose, and they could easily be used in self-defence. Americans buy military-style weapons because they fancy themselves as soldiers, basically. US soldiers I’ve met have cringed at the situation, and small blame to them.
There’s a guy on YouTube called Iraqveteran888. He’s your typical overweight American, and claims (obviously) that he served in Iraq. What suggests to me that he’s lying is that his only video of him on operations is a clip of some American artillery soldiers manning a gun in Baghdad. Their faces can’t be seen, and the video was taken at night. I think what also casts doubt on his alleged military service is the content of his videos. It isn’t just that he’s a fat bastard, and most ex-soldiers like to keep trim even after they finish their service (well, it’s partly that…), it’s the things he does. ‘Dual-wielding’ Makarov pistols like a character on a video game; putting nine magazines on a ‘zombie-killing’ rifle with fuck knows how many attachments; and worst of all, firing a .50 calibre bullet from a 12-gauge shotgun. If he was in the military, it reflects pretty badly on the US Army, but I don’t think he was. I’ve known a lot of US soldiers, and on the whole they were good men who’d never be so fucking stupid with firearms. But Iraqveteran isn’t seen as another YouTube whackjob. He has a hell of a lot of subscribers and even more comments of support and admiration on YouTube. It’s scary.
Iraqveteran, like so many other American gun fanatics, is one of these Republican lunatics who spend their days moaning about Democrats, immigrants and turrurists, but in truth they’d probably like nothing better than for the US to be invaded by China, Iran and North Korea. That way they could put the ‘close quarters combat’ techniques they show off on their videos into practice (or try to, anyway, they wouldn’t last five bloody minutes). That’s not what I’d like, though. I’d just like them to do two hours of my Basic Training. They’d be bawling for home in minutes, I’d be prepared to bet any money.
Personally, I think Georgia’s firearm laws are excellent. It’s possible here to buy a 30-round magazine AK101 (a semi-auto version of the latest AK design), body armour, smoke grenades and a sidearm, but we’ve yet to see any kind of shooting that tragically happens so frequently in the USA. I don’t know what makes Americans do that. The amount of sense murders over there is nothing short of staggering.
I’m sure detractors will argue that it’s because America’s population is larger than most other countries with ready access to guns, but I doubt it. I’m sure a person bent on mass murder would find a way to get the job done whether firearms were legal or no (did I mention those grenade attacks?). I think America just has a larger share of the nutjob population than the rest of the world.
Why, then, do I want a gun? Well, I enjoy shooting, especially pistol shooting (though I was always better with a rifle), and I’m sure only the most ignorant person would deny the rise in crime since Bidzina released 3000 criminals from the prisons. I want to teach Natia to shoot, too. Why not? God forbid she might need to one day, especially as she frequently walks home from work late at night and I’m not always able to go with her. I’m also of the old-fashioned opinion that a man must know how to use firearms, blades and hand-to-hand combat, as well as possess some musical talent (otherwise, you see, he is just a brute). Oh, and he should read a lot. Nowhere can more wisdom be gathered than from books.
There’s also the ever-present threat of the Russians, so it’d be handy to have a gun if they ever drop paratroopers into Tbilisi, and Syria isn’t so far away. Although if that conflict spills over this far north, we’re all fucked anyway.