The Smallest Minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities. - Ayn Rand
You correctly identify two things that prevent many people joining in - the high cost and the difficulty in getting a licence and a gun.
I already have the licence, but not really the facilities to store modern guns safely at the moment (the police don't seem to mind my BP muzzle-loaders).
This is excellent news! But, yeah, get those prices down.
...called for tighter checks on those seeking permission to possess large numbers of guns.
I've never understood this. A person only has two hands -- who cares if he owns five guns or five thousand? You can only effectively wield one at a time.
"The large increase has alarmed anti-gun charity International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA)."
That's probably shorthand for their tax status, but I'd like to see anyone describe the NRA as a "charity".
The MMM was destroyed by people looking into their tax status, someone should be doing the same to the IANAL.
There are some areas of the country where "good gun culture" is still present and is quite noticeable.
As a case in point, I just returned yesterday from an elk hunt in northern New Mexico. I stayed at a hotel in Raton (on the NM - Colorado border) as I hunted on Vermejo Park near there. I arrived on Saturday, acclimated by visiting friends in Angel Fire on Sunday, hunted Monday, photographed wildlife (mostly speed goats) on Tuesday, and came home Wednesday.
I kept my rifle with me at all times, meaning it stayed with me in the hotel at night, and it stayed with me in my truck at all other times. So, I carried it, in a Boyt soft-sided gun case, back and forth through the hotel lobby a great many times. There were no double-takes, no second glances, and no one ran screaming into the parking lot. It was, as the cliche says, no big deal.
Now, try doing that at a hotel in downtown St. Louis.
Perhaps being a few miles away from the NRA Whittington Center helps. Perhaps being hosts to innumerable elk and deer hunters helps. Perhaps being hosts to innumerable competition shooters helps. Perhaps the simple observation, repeated innumerable times, that possession of a gun does not make one do evil things with a gun, helps.
It's nice to be normal ...
Kevin, as ever, you are correct. When I left college (1988 ), shooting sports were very much the domain of what is known here as the "county set" & those that lived in the countryside.
Nearly twenty years on, more & more people seem to be not only taking up shooting, but also just taking part on an ad-hoc basis, in some form of shooting.
Even 10 years ago, it was very unusual to receive a shooting releted corporate enterainment invite. However these days, a lot of companies are doing for example clay shooting days as a means of hospitality.
This trend has extended into 'driven game' days & I now get one to two invites a year. Clearly companies think that this is worthwhile because it is eye wateringly expensive. For example, a 250 bird pheasant day will cost between £5,000 - £7,500 for a team of eight guns. For grouse, double even triple that!
However, the upside is that more & more people in the UK are coming into contact with firearms in a very positive way.
Now all we have to do is tackle our stupid laws!
Hearts first, minds second.