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Opinion: Keeping Phuket’s guns out of range

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: The Phuket Gazette joins the rest of the island in extending its condolences to the family of young Scotsman Liam Colven, who died at a newly-opened shooting range in Thalang from a gunshot to the head last weekend (story here).

News of the death has resonated in the social media as the story touches on so many relevant issues here in Phuket, including the widely-perceived, yet statistically unproven, high incidence of foreigners who choose the island as a ‘last resort’ destination to end their lives.

Detailed accounts of what specifically led to Mr Colven’s death have yet to be revealed as this goes to press. By all accounts, it followed a heated telephone argument that sent him in search of a place ‘to shoot’ – a wish quickly and easily obliged to by a local taxi driver in Thalang, home to the island’s newest and growing number of tourist-oriented shooting ranges.

Reaction among older readers is almost unanimous in recognizing that the greatest tragedy is the young age at which Liam’s life ended: just 21. Many of us remember the intense emotions that engulfed us when we were of a similar age, when a broken heart or similar negative passion could feel so overwhelming as to make life itself seem no longer worth living.

Most of us who have lived through similar experiences see in hindsight that they ultimately make us stronger, more insightful and wiser in the long run, deepening our appreciation for this inconceivably precious gift of sentient existence – even if it comes at the stiff admission price of being aware of one’s mortality.

The issue of terminally-ill patients in chronic pain choosing to end their own lives, as well as to have such decisions respected and supported by society, are often understood, but the Gazette deeply laments deaths like this one among young people apparently acting on impulse alone.

As for the proliferation of tourist-oriented shooting ranges on the island, we hope this tragedy will at least prompt authorities to review their role in the island’s tourism industry. Do we really want island roads lined with huge billboards filled with graphic images promoting gun use?

Further, is it wise to allow such facilities on a tourist island that has at least once been linked to the ongoing insurgency in the Deep South, where more than 6,000 people have been killed over the past decade and the sight of soldiers carrying automatic assault rifles is all some school children have ever known?

We need to carefully consider how well these shooting ranges really mesh with the oft-stated goal of attracting ‘quality tourists’, as well as the wider safety ramifications of handing over firearms and ammunition to each and every tourist who asks for them, no questions asked.

After all, in this day and age, it is far from inconceivable that the next tragedy could involve a customer turning his rented weapon on fellow shooters, with even more horrific results.

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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