Friday, March 02, 2007


Someone asked me this week if I have a gun in Guatemala. The answer is no. Though contrary to what many might suspect, I do know how to handle firearms. I was a member of the Cambridge University pistol club (pre-Dunblane) and fired both revolvers and 44 magnums in competition against Oxford. I also had a little extra coaching from a friend's father who was a Colonel in the Military Police and one of the Army's leading marksmen. I was generally quite competent at marksmanship as a young man. I also tried archery, and was fairly good at that too.

However, I cannot imagine the circumstances in which I would be prepared to take aim and shoot at a real flesh and blood human being with the intent to kill, or maim. It's just so against what I believe in that it would make gun ownership fairly pointless in the circumstances referred to, especially when one considers the additional dangers that it usually presents. V knows of several people in her peer group who, like the King of Spain, accidentally shot and killed a family member at some stage in their formative years.

I have however had a gun pointed directly at me in Guatemala. I was walking alone up a quiet street in Antigua and when I reached a crossroads a car pulled up next to me. The driver's side window came down and out came the business end of an automatic pistol. The gunman was a youngish member of the country's elite en route back to the capital after what was presumably a coke-fuelled weekend. Imitating a suitable amount of recoil he made a bang bang you're dead mate gesture, cackled and hit the gas.

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