June 27th, 2012

Olympic Starter Can’t Use His Starter Pistol at UK School Race

Starter Pistol Alan Bell ScotlandAlan Bell, the “Chief Starter” for track events at the 2012 London Olympics, has been called one of the “world’s top race starters“. Over the past 36 years, using his trusty blank-firing starter pistols, Alan has started over 25,000 events, including Olympic and World Championship races. Bell, the current Chairman of the IAAF International Starters Panel, is widely recognized as one of the most capable (and knowledgeable) race starters on the planet.

However, the regional Council in West Dunbartonshire (Scotland) recently decided that Bell should not be allowed to start a running race at a local elementary school. Bell had originally been invited as an Olympic VIP for the benefit of the student athletes in this small community near Glasgow. Bell was even planning to start the school race by firing the same starter pistol which will be used to start the 100m Finals in the 2012 summer Olympic Games.

Why did the West Dunbartonshire Council send Bell home? It’s all about gun-phobia. Council members feared “that the sound of a pistol discharge would frighten the children and, perhaps, psychologically scar them forever”. (Source: Outdoor Life Blog).

As might be expected, some locals lambasted the Council’s action. One parent told The Scottish Sun: “It was ridiculous. We were told that the children would be distressed by Mr Bell firing his starting pistol. Anyone who believes they would be frightened by a starting pistol has never experienced the noise at a typical three-year-old’s birthday party.” So worried was the Council over the firing of a starter pistol (which shoots blanks with no projectile), that it tried to find a “politically correct” alternative. One proposed solution was to use an iPod to play a recording of a starting pistol. The school’s administrators eventually decided to start the race with a Klaxon horn noise instead of the crack of a starter’s pistol.

Score one more victory for the gunphobic Nanny State. One wonders if the West Dunbartonshire Council’s next move will be to ban local broadcasts of the actual Olympic Games, so the sound of a starter’s gun on television will not traumatize young viewers.

Related News Stories about Starter Pistol Controversy: Daily Mail Online | The Telegraph.

Permalink - Articles 6 Comments »
August 5th, 2010

Brits Ban Starter Pistols — Five Years Mandatory Jail Time

starter pistol Britain BanGovernment officials in the UK have banned blank-firing starter pistols, claiming they can be converted to fire live rounds. As of June 4, 2010, possession of an Italian-made, bright orange Olympic .380 BBM starter pistol is now a criminal offense (whether or not the pistol has been converted), with a mandatory 5-year jail term. Approximately 1500 of the Olympic starter pistols have been imported into the UK since 2006, and they are widely used in other countries.

UK officials announced an amnesty during which the starter pistols could be surrendered to police in Britain and Wales. But the amnesty has expired. Now, if prosecuted, those who did not give up their starter pistols will be locked up for five years. According to BBC Online: “After 4 June the weapon will be prohibited under the 1968 Firearms Act and anyone caught possessing it faces a mandatory prison sentence of five years.” Note that possession of the starter pistols is now illegal whether or not the pistols have been converted to fire live ammo. Imagine being jailed for FIVE YEARS for having a noise-making device, which is all an unmodified starter pistol really is.

The purported reason for the starter pistol ban is that a few of the pistols have been converted to fire live ammunition. Law enforcement officials in London claim that black-painted, converted starter pistols have been “linked” to a handful of serious crimes.

Yorkshire Post Story on Olympic Starter Pistol Ban | BBC Online Story on Starter Pistol Confiscation

Sporting groups in Great Britain have protested the draconian ban on starter pistols. David Brown of UK Athletics equated the banning of starter pistols with taking whistles away from football [soccer] referees. As quoted in the Yorkshire Post, Brown said:

“The implications for our major Olympic sport in the lead-up to 2012 should not be underestimated. The guns are the only thing that give a dual signal, a flash and smoke, to the athletes in front of you and the timekeepers. There is nothing else [to use], except at the Olympic Games level where they have electronic guns.”

Permalink - Articles, News 6 Comments »