In the current politically-charged climate in the USA, with multiple state and Federal gun bills being proposed around the country, it is more important than ever for gun owners to be aware of how their words and actions may influence public opinion.
A British airsoft range in Wallasey, Merseyside, now features a “light-hearted” target depicting the likeness of Shamima Begum, the infamous defector who betrayed her citizenship in the UK to marry and have two children with a terrorist combatant fighting under the ISIS banner in the Middle East.
The shooting range offers the Begum target to recreational shooters, including children as young as six. The range owners report massive demand for the target from customers. Many Britons are outraged at politicians’ and the news media’s sympathetic attitude toward a traitor – and the possibility that at some point she may be allowed to return to the UK – where she would not only be eligible for taxpayer-funded assistance, but could also continue assisting Jihadist fighters in future terror attacks on British soil.
Westerners aren’t the only ones to express outrage. The citizens of Iraq hate ISIS even more. They’re even going so far to hold tribunals for captured ISIS brides, and execute them. In the photo below, Iraqi officials inform a foreign ISIS bride of the charges against her shortly being executed.
In another less extreme example after the liberation of France in WWII – outraged mobs attacked and shaved the heads of women known to fraternize with German soldiers.
All emotions aside, this is a bad judgement call. Though it is an airsoft range, many members of the news media and public don’t distinguish between firearms and airsoft guns. For many these are one and the same. The decision to use the likeness of a real person as target practice casts the gun community in a bad light. Cases like this also reinforce the widespread belief that guns are only useful as weapons of killing other people, ignoring their use for entertainment, hunting, and other mundane activities and sports enjoyed by law-abiding people.
This story is similar to another incident in the USA in 2015. The North Miami police department used mug shots as target practice. While using photographs is scientifically proven to be crucial training for law enforcement and military personnel to overcome their hesitation to take another human life, this practice backfired. The photo of a black teenager (arrested on misdemeanor charges) was left out on the range. Shortly after, a National Guard unit arrived to conduct their own target practice, and the teenager’s sister discovered the photo of her brother covered in bullet holes.
The North Miami incident not only caused outrage because the police were using photos of people who had only committed minor crimes, it led to speculation and accusations of racism. While that charge is likely unfounded (the officers probably used photos of both men and women of various backgrounds) – the bad press damaged North Miami police force’s public image.
All citizens who concealed carry or otherwise use firearms – particularly retail and range owners – are ambassadors of the gun community. Before doing anything – even if you think it is patriotic or funny – be aware of how your actions may be perceived by the general public, and the consequences those actions might have in later debates about gun legislation. What you see as good fun might be reprehensible to someone else. Think before you act.