Isle Of Man / Ellan Vannin

Gun ownership crime link 'disappointing', says ex-pro shooter

Stewart Watterson
Image caption Former champion rifle shooter Stewart Watterson said gun owners were "normal people"

Linking legitimate firearm ownership to criminal offences on the Isle of Man is "very disappointing," a former champion rifle shooter has said.

On Wednesday new data revealed nearly 40% of all registered Manx gun and crossbow owners have a criminal record.

But Stewart Watterson said analysis of other regulated pursuits, such as fishing, would reveal similar results.

He said gun owners were "normal people" who did not deserve to become a "headline".

Mr Watterson represented the island at the Commonwealth Games in in 1978, winning a bronze medal and has worked as an Olympic official.

He said: "If you were to do the same analysis with fishing or TV licence ownership, you would probably come up with similar statistics.

"People in the firearm community are just normal people and it is very disappointing when they are used as a headline".

Image caption More than 90 firearms were handed in during a month-long amnesty in 2017

A Freedom of Information request submitted by Manx Radio confirmed 2,003 people held certificates for firearms and regulated weapons - about 2.3% of the island's population.

Police data showed 789 of those (39%) have at least one criminal conviction.

However, Insp Gavin Callow, of Isle of Man Constabulary, said the majority of the convictions in question were "low-level" and every application to own a firearm is judged on its merits.

The force said majority of convictions include less serious crimes, including minor motoring offences.

"Firearms and weapons licensing is a very rigorous process," Inspector Callow said.

"Applicants are asked to declare any previous convictions when applying and decisions are on a case-by-case basis.

"A history of convictions for violent offences would generally preclude an applicant from having a firearm."

Image caption Source: Isle of Man Constabulary

The Isle of Man has 12 shooting clubs and has produced a string of world and commonwealth champions.

Chief constable Gary Roberts said there have only been only two firearms-related deaths on the island in last 40 years and there is four times less recorded crime than England and Wales.

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