Despite the expert coaching of the Lancastrian dwarf I didn’t much enjoy shooting and I didn’t particularly like myself for the bits I did enjoy. This might have helped harden my lack of sympathy for the libertarian argument for guns-as-toys, but there are other, grimmer reasons too. Anyway, I don’t see why people need to own guns for reasons outside of occupational usefulness and I think the fewer guns there are about the place, the better. There may be a further tightening of our already tight laws, as after Dunblane – gun legislation is, after all, the only possible outlet for our desire to do something practical in the wake of the Cumbria horrorshow – or there may not. Personally I wouldn’t oppose further tightening on the basis that the British Olympic shooting team can’t practice (who cares?) or that blasting shotguns is fun (so is speeding on the motorway, if you’re a certain type of man).
Just over a week before Cumbria I was strolling the bottommost lunchtime lane in aching sunshine when some unseen shootists above, but not nearly far enough above, began blasting away. It was fearfully loud in the valley and annoyingly unrhythmical– what was peaceful became fractious and tense. After each shot I heard disconcerting whirrings and pings in the long grass above the lane. All local animal life buggered off and all enjoyment was ruined. I turned around and headed back, half-expecting to feel the hot sting of a wayward pellet at any moment (strangely, I specifically felt that my right ear would be shot off, can’t explain why).
The shootists were, I suppose, the camouflaged squirrelhunters for whom the Local Character showed such withering contempt. I wouldn’t necessarily have wanted to march up to them to put flowers in their shotgun barrels, but I did want to say “Oh, grow up.”