I have a gun. I have had it for several years now, and it lives in a heavy metal cabinet in my sitting room. In owning a gun, I am one of a very small percentage of Britons who do so. I own it, not for any perceived need for protection, although it is comforting sometimes to feel that should I actually be in the sitting room when someone breaks in, I might actually be able to point it in a threatening manner. No my gun is for shooting rabbits and small game for the pot. At which I am not particularly successful, but that which gives me some enjoyment as there is nothing as entrancing as walking by tall hedges and solitary copses on a frosty morning hoping to shoot wild game. I have shot duck, pheasant and the odd rabbit, and they have all been delicious. Pigeons? Well, they are simply too fast for me. Of more interest possibly, is what I had to do in order to buy a gun and keep it in my house. I couldn’t buy any old gun, I had to buy a gun that was allowed by the licence. It had to be fit for purpose. The details required by the gun licensing authority, in this case Thames Valley Police, are designed to keep gun ownership to the bare minimum. The idea of say for instance walking off the street, and presenting a driving licence and acquiring a gun would be regarded in Britain as totally bonkers. It would also be quite illegal. Apart from having to prove that I have no convictions, have no physical or mental problems and intend to use my shot gun for the purposes for which it is designed, I had to obtain the references of two professionals – in other words a qualified doctor or a magistrate or some such. Once the licence had been issued, a policewoman came to my house to check the licence, interview me and make sure that the gun was held securely in a locked gun cabinet. None of this of course prevents a lively and illegal gun trade, nor does it stop drive by shootings and inner city gun toting. In recent years, Britain as with many other countries in Europe has seen an increase in the import of cheap weapons from Eastern Europe and some of the violence from the drug trade and gang wars spilling over into our cities. And yes, we have had deranged mass killers as well. Back in the 1980s, a young, disturbed loner went AWOL near the town of Hungerford killing many. But gun control clearly reduces the possibility of these sorts of mass killings taking place. Making it difficult to buy guns, makes it difficult for those who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near any gun, from getting one in the first place. The right to bear arms, which is a constitutional right in the United States, is also one that should take account of the constitutional right of all individuals to be able to live safely and not be threatened by the sort of lunatic who turned his fire on innocents in Tucson, Arizona, killing five. The trouble is of course, is that after each and every gun outrage in the United States, there is usually a lively debate about everything except gun control. The NRA sees to that. As a reporter, I have had to cover the aftermath of mass killings, assignments that are as memorable as they are ghastly. Of which there will be more to follow tomorrow.