Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex A

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:

Air Weapons

    —  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" people—usually juveniles—but 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 of applicants.

  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 to be:

    —  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 certificate revocation.


    —  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 handgun surrender.

    —  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.

Related Matters

    —  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 it.

    —  Revised legislation could do much to reduce the bad feeling still felt by many shooters towards police.

    —  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.

Kevin Robson

Honorary Secretary

23 August 1999

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