“The thin end of the wedge” is how sporting shooters in Queensland are describing a decision by the Commonwealth Games Federation not to include shooting in the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games program.
As of Tuesday morning, almost 53,000 people had signed an international petition begun by the Shooting Times to protest the omission, confirmed by CGF chief executive, David Grevemberg.
Shooters Union Queensland president, Graham Park, said Birmingham might be a long way away from Queensland but the loss of shooting events had a number of far-reaching ramifications for recreational shooters in Australia.
“Under legislation in Australia, it could be a major problem,” he said.
“Under the National Firearms Agreement, the club you shoot at has to have events that are in the Commonwealth or Olympic Games schedules to justify the use of certain firearms.
“If those events were removed, it creates a potential problem by reducing the type of firearms and types of competitions available here.”
He described the decision to leave out the sport, an optional one for host cities after 2014, as political correctness gone wrong.
“There’s a lobby that wants to get rid of anything that justifies firearms in a legitimate way. They say it glamourises them.”
An example given was a decision by the Derbyshire County Constabulary to bow to recent pressure from hardline gun control advocates to remove a photograph showing cadets holding firearms on the Derby Police Cadets Twitter page.
“The same sentiment could be driving this,” Graham said. “If it goes without comment at Birmingham, it’s the first step to leaving it out of the next Games, and then it’s gone.”
It will be the first time since Edinburgh in 1970 that shooting will not feature at a Commonwealth Games.
The BBC reported that the exclusion was due to a “lack of appropriate facilities” near to the host city.
The Bisley Shooting Ground, 209km from the venue, hosted shooting events for Manchester in 2002, but it was said to be too far away, despite plans for track cycling to be held in London, 217km away.
”No-one sees shooting at Belmont, 80km from the Gold Coast as a problem – it’s a spurious argument,” Mr Park said.
Backing up this sentiment was Dalby firearms dealer, Jan Linsley, who has been an Australian team manager at previous Commonwealth Games and Commonwealth shooting championships, as well as officiating at Olympic Games and World Cups.
“At Kuala Lumpur, shooting was held on an island, a plane flight away. It’s relatively normal for shooting events to be away from the rest of the events.
“It seems clear that they want to get rid of shooting.
“We are seeing more restrictions on us as legitimate firearms owners.
“All of us as shooters think this is the thin edge of the wedge.”
Jan, a Shooters Union Queensland director, said that for our young people, such a move would be a tragedy, saying there was nothing more wonderful than representing your country in whatever you were good at.
“Shooting is a very self-disciplined endurance type of sport, and it’s always been the first event of the Olympic Games,” she said.
Shooting was one of the foundation sports of the modern Olympic Games, but Jan feared the decision to leave shooting out of a future Commonwealth Games could filter through to people planning future Olympic Games programs.
On the other hand, Queensland’s sporting and recreational shooters will be among those to benefit from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games legacy in April, with Minister for Sport, Mick de Brenni, announcing the upgraded Belmont shotgun facility would be considered for permanent retention for community and competition use.
Mr de Brenni said the Palaszczuk government invested $17.5 million to develop a temporary shotgun range at the Belmont rifle range.
“We have made a significant investment to deliver world class facilities ahead of the Commonwealth Games, and where possible, I want to ensure that these facilities remain available for Queenslanders to use into the future.”