SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
(a) We agree with
the Firearms Consultative Committee and with the Home Office that
the maintenance of public safety is the vital benchmark for the
consideration of all firearms issues. We also believe that any
assessment of the risks to public safety must weigh carefully
the welfare of the general public against the rights of the individual
(b) We believe that
a firearm's potential to kill ought to be explicitly reflected
in any system which seeks to regulate the possession and use of
firearms (paragraph 32).
(c) We recommend that
the Government adopt and implement, as soon as is practicable,
the Firearms Consultative Committee's proposal for a comprehensive
study of all weapons seized or recovered by police forces and
Customs in England and Wales over the course of one year (paragraph
49).The findings of the study should be published (paragraph 49).
(d) While we do not
believe that any significant further burden should be placed on
those shooting activities which operate within a well-regulated
framework, we recognise that there is concern over developments
in shooting which may foster a "gun culture" (paragraph
(e) We recommend that
when toy guns are offered for sale, they must be clearly described
and identified as toys (paragraph 54).
(f) We recommend that
firearms control is based on the following principles:
- Protection of public safety.
- Simplicity of administration.
- A uniform test of an individual's fitness
to possess firearms.
- Application to all firearms which have the
potential to kill.
- No undue restriction on the legitimate occupational
and recreational use of firearms.
- Sufficient flexibility to respond to potentially
dangerous developments in firearms technology.
- Efficient administration at no net cost to
- Firm and definite strategies to counter the
illegal possession and criminal use of firearms (paragraph 56).
(g) We believe that
the controls applied to section 1 firearms are stringent, and,
if fairly and consistently applied, they make adequate and justifiable
provision for their safe use (paragraph 64).
(h) The possession
of shotguns in urban areas does not appear to pose a particular
problem, and we accept that urban dwellers should be as able as
rural dwellers to hold a shotgun certificate. However, we believe
that it is vital that weapons are kept securely, whatever their
location. Chief constables of all force areas should be able to
satisfy themselves that the shotguns licensed under their authority
are being securely kept, especially where they believe there is
an increased risk of theft (paragraph 71).
(i) We welcome the
Government's moves towards a licensing system which concentrates
on identifying the suitability of a person to hold firearms. We
note, however, that the requirement to provide two detailed character
references has not yet been extended to the shotgun licensing
system. We recommend that the system of countersignatures on applications
for shotgun certificates be replaced by a requirement to provide
two character references. (Paragraph 84).
(j) We believe that
the criteria for assessing of the fitness of an individual to
possess any licensed firearm should be identical, regardless of
the class of firearm concerned. This test of fitness ought to
be the one which presently applies to the possession of section
1 firearms, i.e.
We neither believe nor intend that this should
have any adverse impact on responsible firearm and shotgun users
who presently hold shotgun certificates (paragraph 85).
(k) We believe that
the law should be amended to give a chief constable the power
(subject to appeal to the court, as at present) to revoke a shotgun
certificate if he believes the certificate holder is "is
of intemperate habits or unsound mind or otherwise unfitted to
be entrusted" with a shotgun (paragraph 86).
(l) We recommend that
the notification to the licensing authority by the licensee of
all purchases, sales and transfers of weapons covered by a firearm
or a shotgun certificate ought to remain mandatory (paragraph
(m) We recommend that
applicants for shotgun licences should be required to show that
they have a good reason to possess shotguns. We do not expect
that this will impose a great burden on genuine and responsible
occupational and recreational shotgun users: nor do we believe
that it should (paragraph 90).
(n) We believe that
to impose specific territorial conditions on the use of shotguns
will place an unreasonable burden on their occupational and sporting
use. We do not believe that such conditions should be applied
to the licensing of shotguns (paragraph 92).
(o) We recommend that
a shotgun owner should be required to state at the time of grant
or renewal of his certificate the maximum number of firearms he
wishes to hold over the period of the certificate's validity.
This number may be more than the number of shotguns he holds at
the time of application. However, the chief constable must be
satisfied that the applicant has good reason to possess the stated
number of shotguns, and is able to meet the security conditions
for their safe storage. The number of shotguns specified on the
certificate should be variable upon application (paragraph 93).
(p) We recommend that
when new types of firearm are developed which appear designed
to circumvent the provisions of the existing law, the Secretary
of State ought to consider using the powers at his disposal to
re-classify them. If, in his view, long-barrelled revolvers or
other form of firearm are being developed in a way which he considers
a particular threat to public safety, he should promptly lay an
appropriate order before both Houses for consideration (paragraph
(q) We recommend that
the Home Office, in consultation with all recognised shooting
organisations, draw up a list of accepted disciplines for target
shooting; and that, subject to present conditions, pursuit of
these disciplines alone be considered good reason for the grant
of a firearm certificate for target shooting with a particular
firearm (paragraph 109).
(r) We believe that
a well-regulated system of firearms controls should allow the
legitimate possession of firearms for lawful activities which
do not threaten public safety (paragraph 112).
(s) We recommend that
the Government establish unambiguous criteria for judging the
lethality of a firearm, and undertake the necessary research to
provide an authoritative assessment of the power level at which
a firearm is considered lethal (paragraph 128).
(t) We recommend that
the Home Office and the Forensic Science Service introduce a common
standard for the testing of air weapons (paragraph 129).
(u) We recommend that
the Government assess present developments in air weapon technology
as a matter of urgency, amend the Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons)
Rules to take into account any particular dangers to public safety,
and publicise such dangers. (Paragraph 130).
(v) We do not believe
that an absolute ban on low-powered air weapons is an appropriate
measure to tackle the problem of air weapon abuse (paragraph 143).
(w) We believe that
a proportion of air weapon abuse committed by juveniles may derive
from wider social problems which will not be properly addressed
simply by tightening firearms controls (paragraph 147).
(x) We recommend that
the existing legislation controlling the use of low-powered air
weapons should be more thoroughly enforced, and that, where appropriate,
local strategies should be devised between police forces, schools
and community leaders to reduce the misuse of air weapons (paragraph
(y) In addition to
the enforcement of existing legislation, we recommend that the
Government and police forces should work together on the following
initiatives aimed at reducing air weapon abuse:
- a national air weapons hand-in campaign;
- a targeted programme of public education on
the proper storage and use of air weapons;
- an encouragement towards a common safety standard
for the storage of air weapons;
- an enforcement of the present restriction
on the sale and availability of air weapons, and air weapon ammunition,
to those under 17;
- a requirement on air weapons dealers to include
safety literature with all air weapons sold;
- further development of safe training programmes
in association with the National Small-bore Rifle Association
(z) We do not accept
that any lethal weapons should fall outwith firearms licensing,
even iffor reasons of practicalitythe regime may
have to be transitory for the short to medium term. If a system
of firearms control is to be consistent and simple to administer,
while recognising the lethality of all firearms, it will need
to be extended to lower-powered air weapons which are lethal.
Licensing will require the air weapon owner to demonstrate fitness
to possess firearms and a good reason for wishing to do so: it
will also require owners to provide appropriate safe storage for
their weapons (paragraph 155).
(aa) We recommend
that the threshold at which air weapons must be licensed is set
at that power level at which the potential to kill is proven by
the best scientific evidence. Below that level of lethality, licensing
would impose too onerous a burden for too little benefit; above
it, however, licensing is necessaryfor the safety of the
public, and for the integrity and consistency of the licensing
regime itself (paragraph 156).
(bb) We recommend
that there should be a transitional period of eighteen months
to two years at the start of the new licensing system for air
weapons, during which no licensing fees would be charged for
the registration of air weapons owned at the beginning of the
transitional period (paragraph 160).
(cc) We recommend
that the purchase or sale of any imitation firearm by or to persons
under eighteen via telephone, mail order or Internet should be
prohibited (paragraph 174).
(dd) There should
be a minimum age limit below which a child should not be allowed
to handle a lethal firearm, even under supervision. We are inclined
to the view that this age should be at least twelve, and possibly
fourteen. This lower limit should apply to the handling and use
of firearms in all places, including approved gun clubs (paragraph
(ee) We believe that
the lowest age at which a young person may have unsupervised use
of any lethal firearm on private land should be sixteen (paragraph
(ff) We believe that
the most appropriate minimum age for the legal possession of a
lethal firearm, and the grant of a firearm certificate, is eighteen
(gg) We recommend
that the administration of firearms licensing, and the decision
on the fitness of individuals to possess firearms, should remain
the responsibility of chief constables and their firearms licensing
divisions (paragraph 194).
(hh) We recommend
that clear Home Office guidance to the police on the operation
of the Firearms Acts should be regularly updated and promulgated
to all forces, and that chief constables should make it a priority
to ensure that the guidance is consistently followed (paragraph
(ii) We find it unacceptable
that no firm date can be given for the implementation of a key
provision of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997. We expect the
Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO) and the Government
to ensure the swift establishment of the national firearms certificate
database, and we intend to pay close attention to the progress
of this development (paragraph 198).
(jj) We are appalled
that the national database of certificate holders and applications
is not yet in immediate prospect, over two years after the implementation
of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 (paragraph 199).
(kk) We believe it
is equally important for a national firearms certificate database
to record the registration details of legally-held firearms. This
is an essential requirement if the problems of firearm theft and
the illegal pool of firearms are to be addressed effectively.
We welcome the Minister's strong commitment to the delivery of
this database, and look forward to its implementation (paragraph
(ll) We believe that
periodic personal contact between the licensing authority and
the certificate holder is vital for the safe and effective administration
of the firearms licensing system (paragraph 204).
(mm) We recommend
that renewals of firearm and shotgun certificates should be maintained
on a five-yearly basis, but that a home visit by a firearms inquiry
officer should be an integral part of the renewal process for
firearm and shotgun certificates; and that the practice of postal
renewals of certificates should be discontinued (paragraph 205).
(nn) We welcome the
Minister's stated intention of consulting the British Shooting
Sports Council on the new scale of firearms administration fees
before laying any amending Order before Parliament. We intend
to examine the Order once it is laid (paragraph 208).
(oo) We understand
that the improvements in the licensing system which we recommend
and support have to be paid for. We therefore welcome the Minister's
assurance to us that the cost of the national firearms database
will not be subject to any form of cost recovery via the fee structure
in the future (paragraph 208).
(pp) We believe that
the fees for the licensing of firearms should continue to be set
at levels which enable full recovery of costs. However, we also
expect a licensing system which is funded on this basis to provide
fair and equal treatment to all certificate holders (paragraph
(qq) While we respect
the technical expertise of the Firearms Consultative Committee,
we conclude that there is merit in constituting a consultative
forum with a broader remit, and including representatives of organisations
with interests in the safe use of firearms in society. We recommend
a two-tier structure:
(i) a smaller
consultative committee, constituted on a statutory basis and along
similar lines to the present model, with a remit to consider the
technical aspects of the operation of firearms legislation and
to report directly to the Secretary of State;
(ii) a broader, non-statutory body, which
may include ex officio the membership of (i),
composed to reflect the interests of shooting organisations, law
enforcement agencies, public safety bodies and other organisations
with an interest in shooting issues, with a remit to consider
the operation of firearms legislation in the round, with a particular
emphasis on public safety (paragraph 217).
(rr) We believe that
the present Firearms Acts are sufficiently complex and misleading
in their practical application to require urgent consolidation.
We therefore recommend that the Government prepare a Consolidation
Bill for introduction at the earliest opportunity (paragraph 226).