Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex C

Submission from the Police Superintendents' Association, Humberside Branch


  I refer to Bob Pattison's letter dated 5 August 1999 with attached correspondence and my comments to those areas to be addressed are as follows.

Air Weapons

  The most common problem with air weapons is that of causing a nuisance rather than criminal. Young persons obtain possession of them and do not receive the appropriate supervision whether being used within the confines of their own home or elsewhere. The firing of air weapons outside the perimeter of their own gardens or on land at wild birds is a common cause of complaint. The impression I have gained is that the users believe, because the weapons do not need certification, that there are no controls over the use of them. There is also a misguided view, even by adults, that air weapons do not present a danger because of their relatively low power. However, deaths and serious injuries have resulted from their misuse.

  Air rifles and guns are dangerous, there should be greater controls to prevent them being possessed by immature individuals who do not appreciate nor understand the safety issues or legal implications.

  I believe that the acquisition of air weapons should be by certification and in the same manner as shotguns and firearms. A minimum age limit of 17 years for unsupervised possession should be applied and a fee levied for the certificate. Police enquiries could be kept to a minimum, ensuring the applicant is a fit and proper person and has a good reason to possess the air weapon, ie vermin control or target practice as a member of an approved target shooting club. Land surveys would be unnecessary.

  This will prove to be the only means of exerting control of possession of such weapons.

  It is appreciated that such control will in all probability reduce the number of air weapons being sold, thus affecting the trade of those shops selling them. It will add to the administrative burden of the Firearms Licensing Sections, however, this action will eventually ensure air weapons are possessed only by mature sensible persons who have a reason to do so.

  It would be possible to send out guidance/safety advice to those issued with air weapon certificates.


  I am unaware of any real problems that exist as far as shotguns are concerned, including their misuse.

  However, I do find it difficult to understand the ease with which shotgun certificate holders are able to lawfully acquire as many shotguns as they wish with the opportunity to build up an arsenal of shotguns, which at short range can be more lethal than firearms. It is not unusual for a shotgun certificate holder to possess five or six shotguns and there are some who possess eight or nine. I do believe that individuals should be required to obtain permission to acquire each and every shotgun as is the requirement for firearm certificate holders. The "good reason" test should apply for each and every shotgun required and this would reduce the number of shotguns held by some individuals.

  A person who has been granted a shotgun certificate, and has attained the age of 15 years, may lawfully possess and use a shotgun without being supervised. Although there are mature persons of that age, I take the view that the unsupervised age should be increased to 17 years when individuals have become more mature and safety conscious.

  Section 30(1)(2)(3)(4) of the Firearms Act 1969, as amended by the 1997 Act, permits the Chief Officer of Police to revoke a firearm certificate. However, the Chief Officer has far more limited powers to revoke a shotgun certificate under Section 30(1)(a), 2(b), (3). I believe the same powers should be available in revoking a shotgun certificate as exist for revoking a firearm certificate. Both firearms and shotguns are lethal weapons and the powers of revocation should be the same.

Other Firearms

  The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 has been very successful in significantly reducing legally held handguns from circulation but it has no effect on those illegally held. A small minority of firearm certificate holders have turned to acquiring carbines, muzzle loading handguns and long barrelled revolvers as replacements for handguns they surrendered but to date these firearms have not become popular within the shooting fraternity.

  In the Humberside Police area, very few handguns which became prohibited have been retained by individuals, this being because of the limited number of exemptions permitting them to do so. Additionally, only a very small number of handguns were exported. The remainder of the handguns surrendered have been or will be destroyed, with the exception of those which are claimed by the Museum Consortium.

  My comments in relation to juveniles possessing shotguns unsupervised at the age of 15 years apply also to firearms, particularly in view of the longer range at which they remain lethal.

David J F S Hunter

Detective Chief Superintendent

Head of CID

Crime Management Branch

24 September 1999

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