Robin Butter: It Takes My Mind Off Things
‘It takes my mind off things’ is a wonderment at and interrogation of the shooting culture in the Netherlands. In this provocative piece, Robin Butter poses the question; has the Netherlands always been a ‘secretive’ gun-nation?
Secretive in that it has a long-standing fixation with firearms that is systematically hidden and denied. From the political-economic sphere of transnational interactions – the Netherlands place in the top five for creating firearm components in Europe – to the socio-cultural realm of the individual – the joy many Dutchman find when firing at shooting ranges, a tradition that has existed for over hundreds of years.
Think of the famous Dutch painting of the ‘Nightwatch’ by Rembrandt van Rijn probably one of the oldest paintings of a shooters range, in that time called a marksman guild being portrayed. Without realizing firearms are deeply rooted in the soil of the Dutch cultivation.
Members of Royal Dutch family have always served as the patron saint, until the death of Prince Bernard in 2004. This made the sport an elitist phenomenon. There are in the Netherlands a legion of shooting clubs, some of which are existing for over a hundred years, where weekly Dutch men and woman empty with full gratification their magazines. With over eight hundred shooting ranges in the Netherlands with an average of hundred fifty members, this is a large group within the Dutch society.
In 2011 a horrible shooting incident took place in the Netherlands, in Alphen aan de Rijn. The young Tristan van der Vlis shot several people in a shopping mall, before taking his own life. The shooter was a member of a range, with a registered weapon licence, which allowed him to keep his weapon at home in spite of his psychotic and suicidal tendencies. In the wake of the incident, not only the government but everybody wondered how this was allowed to happen.