Shooting and gun control is one of the most hotly-contested issues of recent times, with strong feelings on both sides. IAN CRAIG takes a look at how the issue relates to people in Wales.

THERE are few subjects as contentious as guns.

While shooting is a popular and highly-skilled sport, the spectre of tragedies such as Dunblane looms large in many people’s minds.

And recent events such as last week’s shooting in Munich, in which nine people were killed, and June’s attack on a gay club in Orlando, Florida, in which 49 people died and 53 were wounded, has thrust the issue to the forefront of public conciousness.

Just yesterday, a gunman killed two and injured more than a dozen more at another Florida nightclub.

Few would argue guns should be freely available to all, but the issue of licensing is far from clear-cut.

Pro-shooting group the Countryside Alliance recently wrote to all newly-elected assembly members in an effort to highlight the positive aspects of the activity from a recreational or sports perspective.

In its brochure ‘Shooting in Wales – For Countryside and Community’ the organisation claims claimed shooting brings £75m into Wales’ rural economy, as well as £7.4m into conservation, every year.

In the foreword to the brochure, Welsh rugby legend Sir Gareth Edwards said: “I truly believe that shooting in rural Wales is bound up with our nation’s sporting culture and traditions.

“I ask you please – whether a politician, journalist or member of the public – to take just five minutes to read what’s inside, with a genuinely open mind.”

The organisation’s director for Wales, Rachel Evans, said she hoped the brochure “opens the door for further discussions”.

“We feel this brochure establishes the Alliance as the authoritative voice that AMs can turn to whenever issues concerning wildlife management or shooting arise in Wales,” she added.

One of the most pressing issues around shooting is that of firearms licensing. Every shooting club requires members to be fully licensed to use their firearms and farmers and others who use guns as part of their everyday lives also must be licensed, with different requirements for different types of gun. Possessing a gun without a license can result in a prison sentence of up to seven years.

But some argue the current licensing conditions are not as strict as they could be.

Terry Lowman of Monmouth Rifle Club - which counts among its membership two members of the Great Britain gallery rifle shooting team - said he would like to see a driving test-style testing system before licenses were granted.

“The UK has probably the strictest gun controls in the world,” he said. “Its very, very well run.

“But with the licensing system itself I would prefer to see something like a driving licence with a course of lessons followed by an exam.

“That would make it a little more safe.”

But he added he believed properly regulated shooting was as valuable a sport and pastime as any other.

“There’s a lot of skill involved including training your motor skills,” he said.

“It’s very good for young people who want to get involved because they have to be of good character, so it’s good from a discipline point of view.”

“And there’s no discrimination in it – everyone can have a go at it, even people with severe disabilities.

“There’s even systems in pace for blind people to get involved.”

Gwent even boasts its own Olympic shooter - Russia-born Elena Allen, who today lives in Blackwood, represented Team GB at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and is travelling to Rio to again compete in next month’s games.

She also won bronze for England at the 2006 Commonweath games and silver for Wales in 2014.

Hunting is surely one of the most controversial forms of shooting, with many arguing it is cruel from an animal welfare point of view.

But Mr Lowman said the issue was not as black and white as that.

“Anyone who hunts must respect what they hunt,” he said. “The welfare of the animal is paramount.

“I love animals, but when I hunt it’s to put food on the table. It’s not just done for the sake of it.”

He added hunting also played a key role in controlling animal population levels to stop the spread of disease and cut the risks of animals dying of starvation as they compete for food and territory.

“Out of control numbers often leads to high disease mortality and starvation, which in itself is a cruel way to treat any animal,” he said.

“Leaving things to nature can be very cruel.”

But sadly not everyone is as reasonable or careful when it comes to gun ownership.

Councillor Paul Hannon today represents Beechwood on Newport City Council, but he was a county councillor for Hungerford in Berkshire when Michael Ryan shot 21 people, killing 15, before committing suicide in August 1987.

Although it has never been established why the 27-year-old, who legally owned a number of shotguns, pistols and semi-automatic rifles, carried out the killings, mental health experts have said it is likely he was schizophrenic and psychotic.

Cllr Hannon said his experiences in Hungerford had left him firmly of the belief that stricter gun controls were needed.

“The very fact that a person seeks to obtain a whole range of firearms should be a cause for concern,” he said. “What sort of person needs an arsenal?

“The shadow still hangs over the town today.

“The killings may have been very quick, but the consequences last for generations.”

He added his opinions were reinforced when Christopher Parry shot his estranged wife Caroline dead in Seabreeze Avenue, Newport, in August 2013. Parry, who legally owned a double-barrelled shotgun, also shot himself, but survived and was jailed for 26 years in 2014.

Cllr Hannon said he believed the firearms licensing process should be revamped.

“There is a lot of cause for concern that firearms are, in my view, so freely available,” he said.

“There needs to be an approach that puts safety first, saying we’ve got to be sure this individual is reliable enough to have guns at home.

“And they need to have a very serious case to be allowed to hold them at home.

“And there needs to be a system where we can review firearms licences when someone is brought to the attention of police or mental health services.”

He added: “The people with the biggest vested interest in a system that works are the police, because in a lot of cases its officers who get shot.

“They are literally in the firing line.

“It does no harm to remind people to be more careful around guns, too.”

Under current regulations when applying for a firearms license the applicant is required to provide a reasonable explanation for why they need it. And pro-shooting campaigners argue owners may need multiple firearms for different sporting disciplines or types of hunting.

Newport West AM Jayne Bryant, who was elected to the Senedd for the first time in May, is a long-time campaigner for animal welfare and has particularly praised the work of the Welsh branch of the RSPCA.

“RSPCA Cymru is a fantastic charity that carries out crucial work fighting for the rights of all animals across the country,” she said.

“Animal rights is an issue that matters to me and many other people.”

For more information on The Countryside Alliance visit and for more on RSCPA Cymru visit

Any suspected gun crime should be reported to police on 101, or 999 in an emergency. Information can also be reported anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via