29 Jan 2016 – Journalist Iain Overton has launched a website aimed at plugging his new anti-firearms book, Gun Baby Gun.
Overton last came to public notice after quitting the left-leaning Bureau of Investigative Journalism amid allegations he falsely implied on Twitter that Conservative peer Lord McAlpine was a paedophile.
While Overton did not name McAlpine publicly he did let the name slip to other journalists, and the BIJ’s programme – which was broadcast on BBC Newsnight but stopped short of naming McAlpine – led to weeks of defamatory rumours about McAlpine circulating on Twitter.
Gun Baby Gun’s broad thrust is that firearms ownership in and of itself is a worldwide evil and that gun control, in the American sense of banning everything, is the only answer to this perceived problem.
From the promotional materials on the site it appears that Overton concentrates exclusively on the criminal misuse of illegally acquired firearms around the world while largely skating over or ignoring the safe and lawful use of firearms in sporting recreation.
Despite his rather sketchy research – in one instance on his website Overton states that arms exports to Israel are a “concern”, airily declaring that Finland’s sales to the Middle Eastern democracy “have helped support the despotic and armed the tyrannical” before freely admitting he has “no way of knowing how the guns and ammunition exported from Finland were used” – Overton has successfully presented himself to non-English-language media outlets as a “gun expert”.
However, this will be of little concern to Britain’s licensed firearms community as one of the outlets Overton appeared on to plug his book is Russian propaganda channel Russia Today, or RT. The channel was slapped down by TV regulator Ofcom in September last year for broadcasting “materially misleading” content in its programmes.
UK Shooting News’ author understands Overton’s view that guns are inherently evil; while certainly not sympathising with this misguided notion, I can see how someone who sets out to look exclusively at firearms misuse can form the idea that the presence of guns only leads to bad things happening.
After all, it is this constant exposure to the results of illegal firearms use, through PR initiatives, and personal experience of attending gangland shootings that leads police employees into treating the licensed firearms community with such contempt.
It would probably be counterproductive to, say, invite Overton along to a club range day and educate him on just how well regulated British shooting is – the man clearly has his own view and no amount of evidence or exposure to lawful shooting sports is going to change that – but the shooting sports as a whole do need to shout louder about their sporting successes (look at the Palma team’s historic victory, which went more or less unreported) and about just how overly restrictive British firearms laws are.
Through building a public consensus that laws targeting law-abiding shooters have gone too far, the existing kneejerk bans on certain types of firearms could well be repealed one day.