When praise doesn’t improve matters

Every so often a shooting magazine will publish a letter from a reader, in which the correspondent offers a peon of praise to a police force for the prompt and efficient service it has provided. The framing of such letters is nearly always one in which the writer has previously experienced a slow or indifferent response to a fresh application or renewal. One such letter published in the latest issue of BASC magazine, Shooting and Conservation serves as an excellent example. The writer tells how in the past he had to enlist help from BASC when dealing with the West Mercia force, but after a house fire and the loss of paperwork, the force replaced his certificate in three days and didn’t make a charge. On the face of it then, that’s pretty good. But the reason we might all share that reaction is because it varies so much from the norm.

In this, the experience recounted by the BASC member is sadly typical of dealings which most of us have with public bodies generally – the NHS and the Inland Revenue especially – in that when we actually get the service which we have paid for and to which we are entitled, we are so relieved and surprised that rather than say thank you and go on our way we are moved to lavish praise on those involved. The reason for this is that we have all become used to that which should be provided to us as a right now being widely regarded by these bodies as a privilege. That was made startlingly clear – or at least it was so in the case of the police – when two years ago the Manchester force sent a circular to gun owners, advising them that owning a firearm was “a privilege” not a right. It is, of course, no such thing. A privilege is a favour which can be given and withdrawn without qualification. A right can only be exercised subject to meeting certain criteria, but once fulfilled may not be withdrawn without cause. Of course when service standards are met and exceeded then recognition is both due and usually welcome, but the firearms licence renewal system is a very long way from meeting basic standards and to offer praise for no more than the perfunctory is to encourage the bar to be set lower rather than higher.

Pic: Shooting and Conservation magazine