The term “gun nut” has been used since I can remember to describe someone who uses or has an interest in guns. It is a derogatory term which is meant to suggest danger. I want to explore the negative connotations about guns in sport and whether they have any real basis.

What is a gun nut?

Is the olympic rifleman a gun nut? No. Are those posh men at the grouse shoot gun nuts? No. How about that group of guys shooting clay pigeons? No.. How about the guy who shoots an AR15 and a pump action shotgun at steel plates? YES he is the one!! It seems the term only applies to a certain class of shooter or certain types of firearm.. Why is that? Are rich/posh people safer than the working class? Are some guns or shooting disciplines more dangerous than others? It certainly seems that the media and the public accept some shooting sports as morally ok and relatively harmless yet others suffer the “gun nut” type stigma.. Practical shooting seems to suffer the most of all. Even among shooters in the UK there seems to be a moral elitism going on.. The underlying theory to this must surely be that certain types of firearm or sports shooting disciplines are more dangerous than others..

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The author at a practical rifle shoot last winter.

Does the data concur?

There is literally no data available on legally owned sporting guns being used in crime in the UK.. There is also no data available on any sports shooting related accidents in the UK. That is probably down to the fact the number is miniscule. Even the stats regarding violent crime with illegal guns are a lot smaller than the Daily Mail would have housewives believe.. In 2011 only 0.3% of crime was firearms related. The deaths caused by all guns were around 150. Of course that is 150 to many but to put some perspective in there 3000+ people died from falling over. Of those 150 deaths 0 were caused by legally owned firearms in 2011. You might say “well that is because there aren’t many guns owned legally in the UK.” There are actually around 1.8 million!!
There is plenty of data regarding other sports being dangerous to both competitor and spectator. Skiing, motor sports, equine, water sports, extreme sports, fighting sports… The list goes on. The reason we can find data for some of these is because they have caused enough deaths to generate some data to work with..
If anyone doubts the above and believes I have missed something regarding stats on the dangers of shooting sports then let me know, I would love to see it!

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The only statistics that I could find related to criminal use of (mostly) illegally held firearms. Seems like the handgun ban didn’t work so well huh!

The Media.

So we have no stats but we have all heard about the evil and heinous crimes carried out using firearms right? At some points in your lifetime you will have been shocked at a news story featuring a mass shooting or a drive by.. Innocent people gunned down by bad people. The News channels and media in general thrive on such events. They wheel out the politicians and promote the scape goating of either some one or something. Interestingly race seems to play a part here.. If it was a black guy the discussion will focus on gangs and drugs, an Arab? Lets focus on his religion and world politics, a white guy from a developed country? Focus on guns! Personally I view all such events in the same way, no matter what weapons were used. The individual/s who perpetrate violent crimes are flawed. They are not committing said act because of a gun or a knife, they are doing it because for whatever reason they have chosen to harm someone. Of course these flawed personalities should not have access to weapons – but they do. They do not apply for a licence as a sports shooter would, they just bypass the whole issue and buy them on the black market.

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It may just be a silly meme but it contains a fair ammount of truth. Politicians tend to shun evidence and data in favour of whatever agenda suits them at the time.

Black market firearms.

When something gets banned it usually creates a black market – an illegal trade.. This is exactly what happens in the UK. There are estimated to be more illegal guns in Liverpool than legally held guns in the rest of the UK. The true number is unknown but estimates suggest the figures are ralidly increasing. Does tightening the rules on legitimate ownership actually decrease the ammount of illegal guns in the country? Statistics do not support that concept. In fact illegally owned black market guns have increased following the handgun and semi auto bans of the 80s and 90s.. In the rare cases (a handful a year) of legally held guns being used by criminals, shotguns seem to be the preference. This is thought to be because shotguns in agricultural settings (farms ect..) are stolen by burglars and sold on the black market. Unfortunately isolated rural dwellings are targets for burglary for obvious reasons. The perception that “assault rifles” are what we should be worrying about is not supported by reality. If we really want to worry about legally held guns then concentrate on hiding and safely locking the farmers shotguns away or get tough on gun theft…

My own experience.

We have established shooting sports are safe compared to many other popular sports. We have also established that guns are used in only a very small ammount of crime in the UK. The number committed with legally held firearms is so small it has not even been measured. But there will still be people that make derogatory comments about sporting shooters. They ask “why do you shoot? People who like guns are weirdos!”. I will try to shed a little light on why shooting sports remain popular based on my own experiences and observations. Guys (and some girls) tend to have a fascination with engineering, science, craftsmanship.. That is why guys tinker with cars and bikes, buy expensive watches, use power tools to varying degrees of success.. Shooting sports offer a combination of all three..

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Tinkering and testing out loads.. Guys love to tinker..

Many of the “Gun Nuts” I meet are not so much nuts about guns but nuts about science and engineering! In a word they are Nerds!! I do not say this as an insult as I am a Nerd myself. I love nothing more than reading an in depth text book, tinkering with my kit and then testing said kit (and myself). I thoroughly enjoy the whole process, in fact I find it therapeutic! 99.9% of the shooters I meet are driven by exactly the same motives. The only other shooters I come across are the odd few “newbies” who just want to impress their buddies. These guys turn up, realise that shooting sports are complex and require dedication and discipline and they don’t come back. I have never met a legal gun owner in the UK that gave me cause for concern. I have met guys dressed in camo, shooting big black “assault style rifles” and they were totally normal! They enjoy getting dressed up in come cool kit, they enjoy modern firearms but so what? At the end of the shooting day they go back to their home/job/wife/kids and behave in a normal manner. Maybe it gives guys a feeling of escapism.. To get out into the elements in their mil spec waterproofs and test themselves at the shooting range.. Good for them!

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There is something invigorating about getting kitted up for some time in the great out doors.. Embrace it!

Gun nuts aren’t the problem..

I do not fear the man who has a deep interest or passion for firearms. Be he a collector or a competitive/recreational shooter. I fear the violence nuts! People who have an interest or passion for causing pain. I fear the ruthless selfish people who will inflict suffering to further their own ends. They might use a gun, they might use a knife, a car, a stick, a rock, their fists.. Those are the people I worry about. I just do not see those people within the shooting community of the UK. They are probably sat at home in their houses or out comitting violent crimes, not at a gun range load testing ammunition for the comp next sunday..
The shooting community here are a friendly welcoming bunch from all backgrounds, races and religions. Isn’t it about time shooting sports were given the respect shared by all other sports in the UK? Shooting is one of the safest sports in the country and one of the fastest growing so the message seems to be getting out there.

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Shooting sports – great fun for all ages and abilities AND one of the SAFEST sports you can do!

If you want to try shooting sports for the first time you might try contacting the NRA http://www.nra.org.uk as your first port of call. Have a go and meet some of the crowd involved before passing judgement.

GnZ

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