Submission from Police Superintendents'
Association, Cleveland Branch
For ease of reference I will deal with each
issue under the headings outlined in the press notice, as follows:
As long as an air weapon has a muzzle
energy below a specified level, there is little control subject
to age limits on who can buy a rifle or pistol and how many a
person can have. This causes difficulties not only in terms of
their possession by "inappropriate" peopleusually
juvenilesbut also in terms of regulating their sale.
Police regularly encounter problems
with air weapons, and more recently ball-bearing guns, with "poundage"
so small as deems them not to be firearms. Clarification of definitions
would be helpful in these cases.
In addressing some of these issues
I believe that it has already been recommended to the Firearms
Consultative Committee (FCC) that air weapons should be subject
of a certificate which would permit police to assess suitability
As a matter of interest, of the 200+ air weapons
and ball bearing guns seized by this force in the last 12 months
the vast majority are held in connection with alleged misuse,
with a number of inquiries being progressed relating to injuries
caused to innocent parties.
In respect of shotguns, the main issues appear
Police cannot place conditions upon
a shotgun certificate in the same way as we can with firearm certificates.
We cannot limit the number of shotguns
that can be held, other than through an assessment of security.
Effectively once a shotgun certificate has been granted, the holder
can buy as many shotguns as they wish. We only become aware of
this if and when they inform us of the acquisitions.
The licensing procedure for shotguns
is far too weak and should be in line with other firearms.
The security requirements for the
storage of ammunition are weak. Ammunition only has to be "kept
secure", whereas firearm ammunition must be kept in a locked
cabinet. Additionally cartridges can be purchased without the
need for production of a certificate.
Police can only revoke, within the
five year life of a certificate, if the holder becomes a "danger
to the public safety or to the peace". Powers should be brought
in line with those relating to firearms, whereby full or partial
revocation can be sought.
If the "good reason" grounds
cease during the life of a certificate, police can only refuse
to renew. Usually this is only discovered at the time of renewal
enquiries, which is unsatisfactory.
Reduced control and licensing requirements
for shotguns has led to an increase in numbers, and hence increased
opportunities for criminal use. Legislation has not been amended
for a number of years and is in urgent need of overhaul.
In the past 12 months this force recovered 42
shotguns pending enquiries into crime and/or decisions concerning
Small and large calibre handguns
may have been taken out of circulation but the numbers of pistols/revolvers
in circulation have not dropped in proportion. One reason is that
many shooters purchased Black Powder (or muzzle loading) handguns
to replace those surrendered.
Many shooters have moved to rifles
from handguns, following their imposed surrender.
There may have been an opportunity
to reduce the number of firearms in circulation had the Home Office
not allowed a free "one-for-one" variation following
Police face an ongoing problem caused
by the manufacture of the long-barrelled pistol (LBP) by Uberti
since the 1997 Act. The dimensions mean this weapon does not fall
within the description of a small or large calibre handgun, although
it is a Section 1 firearm. This case is unlikely to be the only
attempt to circumvent the legislation.
New Home Office guidance to the Police
is being prepared, but as yet we still await a draft.
Lord Cullen recommended a PNC database
for firearms. This is still two/three years away as we understand
Revised legislation could do much
to reduce the bad feeling still felt by many shooters towards
Since this force stopped accepting
postal renewals in 1996 a number of things have been discovered
which has led to a reduction in the number of guns in circulation.
The practice of postal renewals should cease altogether, but it
will demand increased resources to cope.
Black Powder licence requirements
need tightening. It is felt that the present ability to keep up
to 15kg in a house is not only excessive but also highly dangerous.
Discussions are ongoing to reduce this amount to 2kg.
I trust that this response will assist in informing
the position of the association nationally.
23 August 1999