To begin with, a quick update on the allotment. I’ve had a fairly busy week elsewhere in life and the weeds have been enjoying some serious rampaging in my absence so today was weeding day – the onions, the shallots, even the potatoes all got hand-weeded, the artichokes were hoe’d. The peas are doing fine, clinging to their strings and poles nicely, and today I put out 16 runner beans, a dozen pot-grown parsnips (I plant them in toilet roll inners that then rot in the ground when planted out, so I don’t have to disturb their roots), sowed the buckwheat and some more beetroot. The fennel seed I sowed has disappeared without trace – possibly it needs a frost to make the seed germinate? Never mind – I’ll lift some of our abundant self-seeded youngsters from the back garden and transplant them.
Also on the transplant list will be more of our white deadnettle, a very pale variegated Lamium alba, more alpine strawberries, more purple bugle and more black violets – I had planted some of each of these out on my southern boundary both as bee-plants and to start spreading ground-cover over the fairly steep bank there, but in the course of a volunteer team running a water line to a tap at the end of the allotment site, they managed to completely dig up my bank and destroy all my plantings, leaving subsoil even on the beds within the plot at that end! A complaint has been made but it’s one of those things in allotment life – people make mistakes and all you can do is complain and move on. At least it won’t cost us money to replace the plants – just time, effort and sweat.
Helping me in the course of my weeding today was a rook. I don’t particularly mind rooks (the brassicas and legumes are either too small to interest them or safely under netting) but they are classed as an agricultural pest and I am entitled to shoot the trespassing beasts as a threat to my crops, just as I can shoot rats, rabbits and woodpigeons which attempt to relieve me of my harvest.
This brings me to an issue that gets my hackles up. Scotland’s Justice Minister, for no good reason and in the face of 87% opposition in the public consultation, has put forward a bill to introduce licensing for all airguns in Scotland. At the moment, airguns with a muzzle energy of less than 12fps are not subject to any licensing – there are strict legal safety requirements for their use, but you don’t have to pay the government for a piece of paper saying you can have one. We have two in the house, in fact – I have one, and my daughter has one. We enjoy target shooting at a local range and we use them for pest control. I would be entirely within my legal rights, as things stand, to go pot pigeons and bunnies (and rooks, though in fact I would not use a low-powered air-rifle to shoot rooks, it’s not powerful enough to kill cleanly) if I felt they were endangering my food crops.
I’ve been an air-gunner for nigh-on 40 years, since my father and brothers taught me to shoot in our back garden when I was barely bigger than the air-rifle. I have never injured an animal other than the one I’ve aimed at, I’ve never injured another human, I’ve never handled a gun unsafely. I am livid that I will shortly (almost undoubtedly and most undemocratically) have to either prove that I “need” an air-rifle and pay who-knows-what for the licence, or give up my air-rifles, my sport and my ability to control crop pests or, if SHTF, acquire protein (yes, wild rabbits are edible too, and so are wood-pigeons, squirrels, rooks and rats. I’d have to be desperate to eat rat but if it’s rat kebab or starve….)
The really infuriating thing is that our politicians never learn the simple, basic fact that if you criminalise gun ownership, only criminals possess and use them. There was an incident in the 1900s when a terrorist group in London were brought to bay by police officers who borrowed handguns from the public to return fire. If the police need backup now, about the best any law-abiding citizen can do is provide them with a clean white handkerchief so they can surrender. Goodness knows, the plethora of legislation on handguns, rifles, shotguns, airguns and even penknives has ensured that not only can the ordinary law-abiding citizen not even defend themselves against a violent criminal armed with an illegal firearm but can’t even carry a pocketknife to go camping without risk of arrest and a criminal record, and has abundantly proved that regulating firearms and sharp objects doesn’t stop crime or criminals. Now, when airgun offences are at an all-time low, suddenly they’re going to strongly restrict our right to own or use them. This will not stop the sort of morons who misuse airguns for one second. They don’t respect the existing laws, so why should they pay any attention to the new licensing scheme?
The craziest thing of all is that, if this idiotic bill becomes law, it’ll be easier and cheaper to get a Shotgun Certificate and keep a double-barrel 12-bore in the house. I don’t have to prove I need one of those – they have to prove I’m not fit to own one! If I have to prove I need an air-rifle, I can equally well prove I need a .22 rifle and just go straight to a Firearms Certificate.