CAMPAIGNS: LOBBYING; BSSC guns for personal liberty

Campaign: Opposition to gun restrictions Client: British Shooting Sports Council PR Team: John Kendall Associates/Advocacy Partnership Timescale: June - October 1996 Cost: Estimate pounds 250,000

Campaign: Opposition to gun restrictions

Client: British Shooting Sports Council

PR Team: John Kendall Associates/Advocacy Partnership

Timescale: June - October 1996

Cost: Estimate pounds 250,000



Following the Dunblane tragedy in March, shooting enthusiasts feared a

heavy Government crackdown on their sport to appease public outrage at

the private armoury held by killer Thomas Hamilton.



The Dunblane parents launched the Snowdrop Appeal which culminated in a

705,000 signature petition being handed to the House of Commons in July.



The British Shooting Sports Council - the umbrella organisation for ten

separate gun groups - responded with a campaign to prevent tough new

legislation in the wake of Lord Cullen’s October report.



Funds were raised from gun club members and in June, the BSSC hired John

Kendall Associates to undertake a PR campaign on behalf of the shooting

fraternity. Shortly afterwards it also took on lobbyists Advocacy

Partnership.



Objectives



To present the shooters’ case to the Cullen inquiry and limit Government

restrictions to its proposals.



Tactics



JKA’s main thrust was media relations. It handled press calls, issued

press releases and organised one-to-one journalist briefings at national

and local level. The agency tried to raise the profile of shooting teams

at sporting events and personalities within the sport. Key messages were

the popularity, safety and classlessness of shooting.



JKA also liaised with shooting clubs, encouraging them to conduct their

own PR campaigns and provided advice and information on how to do so.

The agency media trained key individuals, produced printed material and

managed a limited press advertising campaign.



On the lobbying side, Advocacy Partnership wrote to MPs and worked

through the summer Parliamentary recess encouraging shooters to approach

their MPs personally. Through the autumn, the lobby firm organised

stands at the Conservative and Lib Dem party conferences and fringe

representation at the Labour conference.



Results



The media looked askance on JKA’s leaked advice to members on

substituting camouflage gear for a suit and tie and resisting shooting

at ‘humanoid’ targets. Scotland’s Daily Record went as far as to say: ‘A

sickening campaign is being masterminded to keep an evil armoury of

millions of guns on Britain’s streets.’



JKA puts such reaction down to ‘hysteria’ and claims success in

achieving recognition and credibility for the BSSC. MD Andrew Kendall

points out that recent leaders in the Times, the Daily Telegraph and the

Independent have shifted their position from opposition to gun

ownership, to advocating liberty in such matters.



At a political level the Government went further than the Cullen Report

proposals, restricting gun ownership to.22 weapons and making home

storage illegal. However it stopped short of a total ban.



Verdict



Although there are reports of dissatisfaction among shooters with the

failure of the campaign to restrict legislation to the Cullen proposals,

many will be relieved at the Government’s decision to take a line

between the gun lobby and a public cry for an outright ban.

Particularly impressive when one considers that many of the Government’s

own MPs support the latter option.



Paul Lions of Advocacy believes the campaign has been effective but

admits ‘the work has only just begun’.



Legislation is expected to be introduced to Parliament early in November

and the parents of Dunblane, supported by the Labour Party, have pledged

to continue their fight.



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