This weekend saw local newspapers across the country take aim at the shooting community.
Dramatic headlines declare: ‘Hundreds of the “most dangerous” firearms owned legally in (insert county here)’, in a coordinated exercise in fear-mongering.
The articles appeared mainly in the north and online news sites run by JPIMedia.
In the Halifax Courier‘s chilling piece, Abigail Kellet writes that “section 1 shotguns are multi-shot weapons that contain a magazine holding more than two rounds” and Home Office figures show there were “309 of these guns in West Yorkshire in 2019-20 – a slight rise on the year before”.
The story says anti-gun group Gun Control Network “was concerned by the prevalence of the weapons across England and Wales”, even though the article says there are fewer guns overall than two years ago.
The newspapers printed the anti-gun press releases in the wake of news that gun ownership in England and Wales stayed steady in the year to March 2020. Read our story here.
The Halifax Courier story adds that a Home Office spokesman says: “The UK has some of the toughest gun laws in the world.”
Nearly 300 miles south of Halifax, Southern Daily Echo news editor James Johnson says the same, as does Fran Way writing 200 miles south of Halifax in both the Oxford Mail and the Witney Gazette, Leanne Clark writing 20 miles east of Halifax in the Wakefield Express, and Stephen Topping writing 60 miles south-west of Halifax in the Winsford & Middlewich Guardian. Their headlines differ: ‘Hundreds of the “most dangerous” guns owned in Thames Valley’ says one, ‘Hundreds of the “most dangerous” firearms owned legally in West Yorkshire’ says another, ‘The number of legally-held guns across Cheshire has been revealed’ says the third and ‘Guns on the rise in Hampshire’ says the fourth.
Even a local radio station ran the article. Spire FM in Wiltshire went with ‘Hundreds of the “most dangerous” guns owned in Hampshire and Wiltshire’.
Johnson, Kellet and Topping go on to quote a Brighton university professor saying that some of the guns listed in the new report from the Home Office represent “the most dangerous civilian-owned guns”.
The Wakefield Express story has an embedded video showing ‘weapons seized at courts’. It’s unclear how it is related to the story, since nearly all of the weapons it highlights are knives.
Fieldsports News contacted JPIMedia to ask why it launched its anti-gun campaign and why some of the articles are so strikingly similar. The company responded by asking which articles we were referring to.
Gun Control Network said it would ge back to us but so far has not.
At the start of the coronavirus lockdown, JPIMedia editor-in-chief Jeremy Clifford wrote a letter to readers of its publications insisting the company could be trusted to “keep publishing the most important news and information” and content “is independently regulated … to some of the most rigorous standards anywhere in the world”.
The Yorkshire Post, owned by the conglomerate, published a similar article then removed it shortly afterwards. But not before it was widely criticised on social media.
In a tweet, Countryside Alliance called the Yorkshire Post version “a sad & woefully ignorant piece” and it expected “better standards of journalism”. “Even the imagery seeks to demonise legal gun owners by depicting them as thugs,” it went on.
Others mocked the Post’s story: “Look at all the mass shootings we have with all them bad guns,” said Carl Wiles on Facebook. Damian Brook asked the media to “stop calling legally owned firearms ‘weapons’ and using misleading images of ‘prohibited firearms'” to support their agenda.