Category Archives: Politics & Legal

Transsexuals in shooting and the IOC ban

We have received another great guest contribution, this time from supporter Katherine Griffiths. If you would like to write an article or contribute to a page on our website, please send us an e-mail to contact@firearmsuk.org, thank you Katherine for your contribution.

I’ll begin this article by introducing myself. I am a 42 year old trans woman (male to female transsexual) living in North Kent. I am about 6 months into my treatment. Gender Dysphoria, to give the condition its proper name, is a recognised medical condition that affects about 1% of the population. I am a Legal Secretary / trainee Paralegal and work for a small, new legal service firm in Staines in Middlesex. My main hobbies are 1940’s Living History (my character is a codebreaker from Bletchley Park) and air pistol shooting.

I first learnt to shoot during my service in the British Army and found I enjoyed shooting any sort of firearm but really loved shooting pistols and during my service I fell in love with the Browning Hi Power which was my primary side arm I carried whilst carrying out my wartime role of medic (medics are allowed to carry small arms for protection). After I finally left the Army in 1991 (I actually left in October 1990 but was recalled to the colours to serve in Operation Granby (the British part of Operation Desert Storm). It wasn’t until 2001 before I took up airgun shooting and bought a Webley Nemesis pistol and shortly after that a Walther Lever Action ‘Winchester 1892’ CO2 rifle. I had to give up the sport when I got very heavily involved in motorsport as a senior official and also a team co owner. When I moved to my current flat I surrendered my airguns to the police as I had no where to shoot. The only guns I had were my blank firing western guns which I used for Western Living History.

I transitioned in 2009 after my blood pressure was dangerously high due to the fact I had to hide my true self (in fact since I have been shooting my blood pressure has fallen to normal levels). It was after watching the shooting during London 2012 that I decided to take up the sport of air gunning again. I quickly found a local and friendly club, South East Airgun Club near Paddock Wood. I bought a Walther CP88 CO2 pistol and started shooting on Sunday mornings and really enjoyed it. The club didn’t mind my ‘trans’ status and at the beginning of this year I entered the clubs Field Target Pistol league. The first round was on a freezing march day and I used a Crossman 1377 American Classic pump pistol. The pistol was not suited to the competition and I was worn out at the end of the 2 rounds from the pumping and was last in both rounds. The next few rounds I used a Beeman 2004E single stroke pneumatic pistol and I played around with open sights before settling on a red dot sight. I was firmly rooted at the bottom of the league. I was determined to improve and my aim was a podium by the end of the season. My big breakthrough came in the summer when I bought a Brocock GP single shot pre charged pneumatic pistol. My scores improved and I eventually won two rounds and came 5th overall in the final results of the league.

Even before I started in the league I started to look at various competitions in the area and saw that many were governed by NSRA, so I contacted them and the international governing body, the ISSF, for the policy on transsexuals competing. The NSRA said they used the ISSF policy and the ISSF policy said they had to use the IOC rules. I looked at the IOC rules and was horrified to see that the IOC lumped all sports in one basket in regards to transsexuals and the rules stated that transsexuals were not allowed to compete until two years after genital surgery to reduce any gender advantage.

I had to ask myself what was the gender advantage in shooting? The sport is not based on strength or stamina but rather on accuracy and concentration. In fact up until the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, shooting was a mixed sport where men and women shot against each other for the same medals. I started to write to the then IOC President Jacques Rogge. I never received any reply to my letter. I have also written to the current IOC President Thomas Bach and again no reply.

Being a Legal Secretary I decided to look at the law to see if there is any legal reason for the ban. In the UK the main anti discrimination legislation (because the ban to trans athletes is
discrimination) is the Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act in Section 7 gives Protected Characteristics to those proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex.’ Section 195 of the Act only allows discrimination according to gender in a GENDER-AFFECTED activity. Subsection 2 allows discrimination relating to gender reassignment for a transsexual competitor in a gender-affected activity only if it is necessary to secure fair competition and competitors safety Subsection 3 defines gender-affected activity as ‘A gender-affected activity is a sport, game or other activity of a competitive nature in circumstances in which physical strength, stamina or physique of average persons of one sex would put them at a disadvantage compared to average persons of the other sex as competitors in events involving the activity.’

Under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 Section 19 basically reads the same as the Equality Act as far as trans competitors and gender-affected sports are concerned with minor wording changes but the meanings are the same.

Let’s now look at the IOC view and rules on this issue and remember that shooting was a mixed sport in the Olympics. On 28th October 2003 an ad-hoc committee was convened by the IOC Medical Commission in Stockholm to discuss and issue recommendations on the participation on transsexual competitors. The committee basically decided that transsexuals would be banned from competing until at least 2 years after all surgical anatomical changes have been completed, legal recognition of the assigned gender has been recognised by the appropriate official authorities and verifiable hormone therapy has been administered for a sufficient length of time to minimise gender-related advantages. As you can see it is a very vague rule and this seems to have been decided, written and published in just one day. This is a very complicated subject. I also have to ask were any of the committee members specialists in Gender Dysphoria? These rules give both international and national governing bodies the ok to discriminate against trans competitors. This is not right. Trans people get enough discrimination in their every day lives without this being extended to sport and this discrimination is sanctioned by the most powerful governing body in all of sports, the International Olympic Committee. Why won’t the President of the IOC respond or get one of his staff to respond to my letters? Is he afraid of admitting that his organisation sanctions discrimination against a minority group? Or does he think I’ll go away and stop writing.

Why have the IOC and the International and National Governing Bodies of shooting put in place this blanket ban? More importantly what sports are considered ‘gender-affected’? I can find no list of sports that are considered ‘gender-affected’. Why? Surely there should be some sort of guidance to the Governing Bodies of sport.

I have emailed the Department of Media, Culture and Sport (I emailed them on 13th January) and UK Sport (20th January) for a list of sports that are considered ‘Gender Affected’ and so far no reply. I have also emailed the NSRA again on the same day as I emailed the Department of Media, Culture and Sport and once again no replay. It looks like that the rights transsexuals are being ignored as far as shooting is concerned just like their rights are often ignored in society. I have also written to Lord Coe who is the currant chair of the British Olympic Association. I was allowed to take part in London 2012 as a Steward Team Leader for both the Torch Relay and the Paralympic Road Cycling. Since that wonderful experience my opinion of the IOC has gone down because of their policy.

I am starting a new Facebook page called Trans Equality in Shooting Sports to draw attention to the issue. Believe me the fight for trans equality in shooting has only just begun and this girl will never surrender.

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BASC: Be cautious about cautions

BASC guidance document on police Cautions

Last minute change to the Scottish General Licence

You may recall that we raised concerns about Scottish General Licences back in August and unfortunately it now seems that our fears have been realized after a last minute change by SNH to their General Licence which are to take effect from 1st January 2014.

Specifically we are concerned that the changes to the licence to include “an enabling paragraph” will be granting civil servants legal powers without evidence of a criminal offence, an approach which is too easily open to abuse.

We are in agreement with BASC regarding the consultation which as with the recent airgun consultation shows that the Scottish Government is more concerned with ticking the consultation box rather than actually going through the process in a manner that would meet even their own documented standards; by allow a minimum of 12 weeks for responses instead of only 6.

We will keep you informed of any developments, for further information please see this update from BASC.

What’s it going to be?

A Firearms UK meme on Labor's confusing position on shooting

Join our discussion on this meme on our Facebook page.

Contributing to Wikipedia

Steve Page, one of our supporters has been working on our behalf to tackle an editing bias on Wikipedia which has resulted in a section on Firearms UK to be systematically deleted time and time again. As part of this effort Steve has kindly produced a guest post for us on this topic; shown bellow, please give it a read and share widely, thank you.

Sportsmen and women up and down the country who shoot face an uphill battle fighting ignorance, discrimination and malicious bias on a daily basis, what doesn’t help is when Wikipedia is used as a tool to promote an anti-gun agenda. Let’s be completely honest, it isn’t all Wikipedia editors by a long shot; however, there are a few anti-gun editors attempting to control certain shooting associated articles on the site, one of the articles being Gun Politics Of The United Kingdom.

The fact is that Wikipedia increasingly has become the number one research tool used by young people, students and adults as their primary source of knowledge, the online encyclopaedia has become immensely powerful and relevant in today’s world, subsequently when the system employed to prevent vandalism is misused to promote a certain biased point of view and complaints swept aside by obviously anti-gun lobby admins something needs to be done and the only way that can be achieved is by concerned shooters getting involved, so please Create a Wikipedia account on Wikipedia, search for the various articles connected to shooting in the UK and help put some balance back into the articles.

One of the most powerful tools in our arsenal is passion, combine that with a dedication to track down and employ factual accuracy and half our job is done.

  1. Always ensure your facts are correct and that you can point to reliable sources such as newspapers, magazines and books to promote your position and most importantly ensure you cite your facts in the article itself.

  2. Always edit the article from a neutral point of view otherwise the crazy anti-gun lobby will pounce on you and delete all your hard work.

  3. Always check the article’s ‘Talk’ page, a talk page offers the ability to discuss articles and other issues with editors. I have linked the Gun Politics Of The UK talk page as an example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_Kingdom

  4. Be firm but fair, always assume good faith even when others do not.

The UK shooting community has for far too long put on their helmets, battened down the hatches in the hope it’ll all go away, the problem is it hasn’t, every day that goes by the national impression of shooting gets ever worse, yesterday it was believing (promoted by mischievous elements in the media) that all gun crime is committed by legally-held firearms, today it’s an attempt to connect shooting with pornography.There is only one direction we can take now and that is forward, to be brave enough to challenge the media’s tarnished image of shooting and firearms then present to the nation a group of enthusiasts who are law-abiding and just like them.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) Restrictions to General Licenses

After an initial enquiry by one of our team we have received a rather vague and non-committal letter regarding potential Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) restrictions to General Licenses.

Firearms UK absolutely supports efforts that target the criminals carrying out illegal raptor persecution. However, we are concerned that restrictions on General Licenses may impact law abiding shooters performing casual pest and vermin control.

We will keep an eye on the progress of the proposed restrictions and challenge any we believe unfairly impact the law abiding shooting community.

Letter from Paul Wheelhouse

A Matter of Trust

The question is posed as to why we bother with a certification system for firearms in the UK. As such this piece must be considered entirely from a UK perspective and is an appraisal of the certification system. Why do we have one? A question that is easily answered, we have one purely for political reasons. The current manifestation of the certification system is the unwarranted and unnecessary desire of Government to instil control over people, their possessions and how they use them hidden behind a mask of protecting public safety. They could not readily sell you control but they can sell you fear.

Historical Note

Ever since the modern firearm as we know them were created Governments sought to control them, they soon realised that the devices that facilitated their political adventures and that provided crucial defence, could also be used to overthrow government. The 1917 revolution in Russia sent alarm bells ringing throughout western nations and gun control became a measure to prevent armed uprising. In a British historical context with the end of the first world war and the effects of the Russian revolution still reverberating across the world, the British government became increasingly worried over the availability of firearms, including those that returning troops were bringing back from the front. The Government of the day was deeply concerned, this concern culminated in the 1920 Firearms Act from which stems every further gun control act to the modern day.

Revisions of firearms legislation and other acts of attrition on civil liberties have resulted in the fragmented, divisive job creation scheme we call the shotgun and firearms certification system currently run by UK police forces.

In more recent times two well-known tragic but significant events in 1987 and 1996, have been ruthlessly exploited by political parties to gain emotionally charged votes. The actually effects of certification has not reduced crime and has served only to categorize firearms depicting certain firearms as more dangerous than others, however when firearms are used with safe best practice, we know a firearm is no more dangerous than any other inanimate object.

Certification is there to filter out the undesirable elements of our society. Those who law abiding citizens would consider pose a genuine threat to public safety, such as those who have shown themselves to be criminals or are unsound of mind. Having made an application to hold firearms of any description and the authorities having determined that you, the applicant are accepted as being of sound mind and good character that should be the end of the process and certification should be yours by right unless good reason can be shown why issuing the certificate is not appropriate. There should also be an appeals procedure available where certificate issue is declined.

The overt control on what a certificate holder can own and use, and where and when it can be used should not be mandated but remain the sole responsibility of the holder. Time and time again self-regulation and best practice are shown to be more effective than intrusive government regulation.

You have been deemed acceptable to hold firearms, if you then choose to misuse them, are neglectful, or operate outside the law, that law is sufficient to the purpose of punishing you. This is in line with the principle of detection and prosecution after the fact the same as for committing other offences. It really does seem to be the case that the rules regarding firearms are there to support the premise that because it was originally designed for the dispatch of opposing armies it has evolved into a sentient being with a degree of autonomy and the principle of guilty until proven innocent should apply?

I particularly like a poster I saw once where someone placed a firearm in a wheelchair on their veranda, left it there all day and then professed surprise it had not got up by itself and run amok indiscriminately killing. It ended with the firearm being accused of being the laziest in the world. As stupid as the last part may seem there appear to be those in society and authority who believe autonomous firearms are abound. We know it’s nonsense, they know it’s nonsense, and we know they know it’s nonsense yet the hypocrisy persists because it is really about control and mistrust of the populace by Government and its apparatus of state. Of course if you challenge officialdom on this theory the rhetoric is well prepared and exercised, it’s about public safety and interest, it’s about prevention of lawfully owned firearms falling into the hands of criminals, yawn!

There is not too much to ponder regarding the criminal elements and their activities. It is very simple, if you have a history of violent offences, or threatening behaviour you perhaps have an issue with self-control, or a drug or alcohol problem so the criteria that are in place already determining when an offence, having been committed, prosecuted and sentenced, is spent are probably not far from right, and for repeat offenders well sorry, you made your choices live with the consequences. Professional criminals are already making their lifestyle choices so little the authorities do or say is likely to have much effect, authority can only ever be reactive and until the state decides to become completely totalitarian that situation will remain.

It seems entirely reasonable that if the medical profession are to be provided with influence over the grant or revocation of a firearms certificate then they should be able to provide assurances that the decision making process is fair, objective and allows appeal. After the review of firearms following the 2010 incident involving Derek Bird the esteemed Medical Profession were reluctant to be the arbiter of choice and the whole matter was back in the hands of the uninitiated and the bean counters.

During the review after 2010 there was a Home Office acknowledgement that the system was broken and that a review of legislation, guidance and process was long overdue. It duly concluded that it had no intention of carrying out reviews anytime soon, it seems confusion reigns supreme and the status quo is desirable?

So in summary of the above, if the individual is of sound mind and proven good character the issuing of firearms certifications should be a right not a privilege. It should be for authority to present good reason why not, not the applicant to justify why and having been issued with certification what that holder then goes on to own and use is a matter for them not the state.

Wait, we hear the cry. What about the anti-firearms groups and those who think no one should own them or no needs them. The response is very simple and we list it below:

  • Firearms are not dangerous on their own, they need the assistance of a person.
  • To become lethal the person in possession must have intent, or be guilty of gross negligence.
  • I choose to own and use firearms. I have a certificate to permit that.
  • I am not, by default, a threat to anyone or anything.
  • I do not mandate what you say, think, feel or do. Do not try to mandate the same for me.
  • You do not like firearms. Don’t buy one.
  • You do not like people who own firearms. Don’t befriend any.
  • Make your own life choices and allow others to make theirs.
  • Don’t use your misconstrued idea’s to encroach on everyone else’s personal liberty, responsibility and freedom.

What of need? The only thing we need is air, water, food and shelter but the firearms ownership question is not about need. It is about choice, free choice in an alleged free society.

So the assertion is that the system is wrong and is focused on the wrong issue the firearm, and not just the person, so the challenge becomes what could we do about it? One choice would be a complete change of emphasis by authority, concentration on the people not the manufactured goods, the innate fixation of those authorities.

The idea is the following system for managing firearms ownership, which with development, could be fairer and perhaps more acceptable to law abiding firearms owners, more efficient and cost effective. The main difference between what is proposed and what is reality is the method of recording the equipment and retains the premise that in the UK stepping back from any system where authority has information about who owns what is not going to become a reality in our lifetime and it does not really matter if authority knows what we own and use, they know we own cars, a TV, a House, etc. What matters is we, law abiding subjects of this green and pleasant land, must seek permission prior to making our lifestyle choices.

A Proposal

Move to an online system. All that is needed is a fairly simple database, although by the time authority has gold plated it, simple is probably a misnomer?

  • Create a database.
  • Individual user accounts for Manufacturers and Importers. Every firearms made has unique serial number entered into the database at birth and assigned to the maker or importer. Ammunition unique batch identifier and quantity similarly recorded.
  • Firearms departments have an administrator account that updates with any online data entry from any source.
  • Applications for certificates are made online and at the same time a unique user account is established. This unique user account also applies to dealers. Relevant checks are confirmed and authorities issued via database notifications. Any limited documentation can be made available for download and protected against edit.
  • Maker or Importer assigns firearms to Dealer at purchase, Dealer accepts receipt.
  • Individual issued with unique certificate number as now with credit card style certificate issued.
  • Individual purchases firearm from dealer, database updated immediately with purchaser ID on dealer account and Admin account.
  • Individual responsible for updating their user account within 72hrs of purchase to confirm entries as now.
  • Individual sells to Individual and carries out transfer using the same criteria as purchase from dealer.
  • Ammunition purchase is recorded in same manner as firearm purchase.
  • Database issues immediate notification e-mail to administrator at conclusion of each transaction.

The above process removes the need for separate SG/FAC issue. Every firearm and round of ammunition is tracked from manufacture or import to purchase. As now SG shells need not be included.

Authorities have a clear and up to date track of all firearms and ammunition. The database can flag ammunition purchases over a preset database default amount by any one individual if required allowing further investigation.

In conclusion, the narrative above sets out to sow the seeds of an idea that could potentially address the civil liberties, public safety, public interest and personal freedoms of choice that must be considered for there to be an effective but proportionate approach to firearms ownership. It sets out the basis of a plan to establish satisfying the areas of concern but removes the most divisive element of all, the control by the state of the personal choices of individuals.

The above post is also available in a downloadable .pdf version.