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
To present the shooters’ case to the Cullen inquiry and limit Government
restrictions to its proposals.
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.
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.
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.