Airgun shooting: Answering the bad press

We all have a duty to set the record straight everytime the mass media protrays shooting in a bad li

We all have a duty to set the record straight everytime the mass media protrays shooting in a bad light - Credit: Archant

We must tell them the truth about our sport, the editor says

Many years ago a wise man told me a hard fact of life that I’ve never forgotten. He said that the truth doesn’t matter when it comes to difficult issues. It’s what people believe that affects what happens in the world. It took me a while to grasp just what he meant, but throughout my life I’ve come to appreciate just how well he understood what motivates people. If somebody you trust tells you something, you’ll probably accept it as true without ever checking the facts, and of course, your friend might have been wrong all along.

The same applies to the newspapers and television. I’ve heard people say ‘they couldn’t print it if it wasn’t true’, but we all know that the less honest newspapers exaggerate many things to help sales. They love a juicy story that will shock and titillate their gullible readers, and remember the old saying, ‘Never let the facts spoil a good story!’


The majority of the UK’s population lives in towns and cities, having no first-hand experience of the countryside at all. I once heard someone in a group of townies standing beside their shiny Range Rover on a country lane say, “are those ones the horses or the cows? I always get that wrong” and they weren’t joking! I’ve spoken to many people who think that all shooting is wrong, mostly because the only time they ever see it is on TV or a movie, when bad people are killing good people, so they think that’s what guns are all about. Also, those raised on the Disney view of animals think that they’re just like us in every way, so killing a rabbit really is murder.

Shooting sports are under constant attack from those who’d like us banned from doing what we love, and they’ll use any and every sneaky technique to achieve their aim. With this in mind, they’ll feed the mass media any negative story they can find to poison the public’s mind against us, at every opportunity. Editors looking to fill their news pages are all too quick to use a story that sounds dramatic, and they care not a jot of its consequences. Their aim is to sell as many copies of their publication as possible, whether the stories are accurately reported, or not.

The truth

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This is where we come in – you and I. Every time we read an article that tells untruths about out sport we must write in and set the record straight. Local newspapers are just as guilty of publishing unsubstantiated articles that show shooting in a negative light, and are more likely to publish your letter telling the real facts.

The correct way to respond is to write a short and clear letter establishing the facts and cutting through the lies. Explain that we enjoy our sport within the law and that we are mature and responsible people. For example, I once read a letter in which a lady said she’d seen a man shoot a rabbit with an airgun and she had become hysterical with distress. Further, her children had been traumatised and could no longer sleep. Knowing the land on which she claimed to have seen this ‘despicable’ act carried out, I went for a look. She would’ve had to be several hundred yards away from where the man was shooting, so must have had some pretty good eyes.

I wrote to the paper’s editor explaining that what was being done was lawful and ethical, leading to the harvesting of wild, free-range, organic meat for the dinner table. Further, the airgunner was providing a crop protection service to the farmer, saving his business money. Next, I pointed out that the lady in question was clearly exaggerating and that perhaps, she had an axe to grind and wasn’t being wholly honest. I’m pleased to say that my letter was published in full and the lady chose not to respond. That took me all of 15 minutes which I considered time well spent.

Armed response

I’m a keen supporter of my local Wildlife Trust because of all the excellent work they do and I receive regular magazines from them. I was shocked and surprised to read in one issue, ‘if you see anybody lamping you should call the police’, even quoting the name and phone numbers of the local officers to call. I immediately called and advised them that they were wrong. They were pretty evasive about who was responsible for writing such total nonsense, but they’ve never repeated the comment. I contacted the officers named who assured me that they’d be speaking to the Wildlife Trust to ensure that they got their facts straight.

Just think about this

If a member of the public calls 999 and says, ‘I’ve seen a man with a gun,’ the police are duty bound to send an armed response team, a process that costs thousands of pounds and wastes their time. Had I not challenged the magazine, that incorrect information could have been repeated for years.

All shooters have a duty to defend our sport from every illegitimate attack, no matter how big or small. When writing, be polite, courteous and make sure of your facts before committing them to paper, unlike some of the reporters. We outnumber the antis thousands to one but they are better at using the media to suit their ends, so it’s time for us to fight back. Please, stand up for your sport with well-considered replies that show us as the sensible, responsible people we truly are.