Irish Shooting Politics

March 19, 2009

Communication


There have been numerous observations over the years as to the degree of communication entered into by the Governing Bodies of our sports. In the main, those observations have noted that the degree of communication is felt to be insufficient by the average shooter, who often feels they are uninformed as to the nature and specifics of the activities carried out by their representatives. It has been difficult to disagree with this observation in past years, often to the point where I feel it would have been impossible to do so. Simply put, communications from the boards and committees of our Governing Bodies to the ordinary members of those bodies, have not been as voluminous, as expansive, as frequent, as divulgent or as innovative as we would like.

There were reasons for this state of affairs. Our sport has known the unique inequity of being the subject of a cynical application of the law by the state, and that is the kind of experience which can scar the mind for a lifetime. That it would create an ethos which seeks to control the disclosure of information is at least understandable; but it must be understood as a vice, not a virtue. That the efforts to control disclosure were taken to the degree that the ordinary members of shooting organisations felt that their representatives were at a distant remove is evidence of this, and the infamous “2% problem” is a direct result of that perceived remove. Why should – indeed, how could – the majority of members volunteer to aid their sport when they feel they are so poorly informed as to the state and direction of that sport that they cannot judge where their efforts would be best directed?

There is, however, a distinct trend of improvement in this regard in more recent times. Websites run by the Governing Bodies have been established, have been used, have been improved upon and their use continues in this vein today. New technologies are being adopted, such as Twitter, Facebook, Bebo and other social networks used by the younger shooters in the community – and the younger potential members of the community. We must never forget that when we fail to attract new members to our sport, we take one step away from success and towards failure for our sport. Older and more pervasive technologies such as SMS messaging (how many of our community have no computer, but do have a mobile phone?) are also being exploited, and while it is true that some lead the vanguard in this respect, all shall follow where success is seen to occur, if neither immediately nor without a degree of resistance to change.

By way of an example, consider the current lauding of the Olympic sports within the shooting community by the Powers That Be. This happy change from the outright suspicion the entire community has endured for decades has been rumoured to be evidence of a conspiracy between the Powers That Be and a select cabal of Governing Bodies; in truth, it is evidence that by pursuing a more public image, the Olympic sports have become known quantities, understood, safe and harmless in the minds of those now lauding them. This should not be seen as a coup nor as a fait accompli, but as a successful experiment which shows a path that others may tread along their own individual journeys.

I feel it would be remiss of me not to point out a highly-successful venture in this field, namely the Boards.ie shooting forums. Following a number of posts on target shooting events in the general Sports forum run on boards, the administrators there were generous enough to offer us our own dedicated forum, which has since grown to a main forum and three sub-forums dedicated to Hunting, Target Shooting and a For Sale/Wanted section. At the time of writing this entry, some 73,000 posts have been made in some 5,400 threads on these forums, and they are read on a regular basis by all of the Governing Bodies, the Department of Justice and others amongst the Powers That Be. Of course, such success does not come without a degree of contraversy; but we feel that what has been gained more than makes up for any perceived loss.

All of which serves as prologue to my main thesis, which is that while we have made strides in improving our communication, we as yet have not achieved a sufficient award of laurels to afford us much in the way of respite. We must aspire – and strive to realise that aspiration – to a state of affairs where each and every member of the community, regardless of their status as farmer, hunter, target shooter or otherwise, is fully appraised of the available sources of information of which they may avail, and that those sources are sufficiently well-stocked that no member of the community ever feels that they are under-informed or otherwise isolated from that community. Often we speak of unity amongst shooters with the motivation of politically furthering our interests as shooters; the first, and indeed perhaps the only step along that particular journey is the one of full communication and disclosure of information.

It must be said however, that the step is one of full communication. In the words of one who could surely have claimed to be an expert in such things, we must become the change we wish to see in the world. So it is not sufficient to merely lament a perceived lack of information; we must demand to know what we feel remains undivulged. We must seek out and utilise the avenues of communication which exist and we must seek to know more about our community and our sports, because until we do so, we never will.

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