Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex F

Submission from the Police Superintendents' Association, Northumbria Branch

Air Weapons

  I have particular concerns about the possession and use of air weapons and soft air weapons (powerful "toys" designed to mimic the appearance of a genuine firearm and able to discharge various projectiles with ever increasing degrees of power and accuracy). Proposed legislation should be directed principally at providing control mechanisms in that area.

  At the very least, the previous recommendation to the Firearms Consultation Committee that air weapons should be subject of a certificate must be reinforced and laws controlling possession and use strengthened.

  Air weapons are becoming increasingly sophisticated (high capacity magazines, carbon dioxide powering, red dot sights, etc.) and many are designed to be exact replicas of Section 1 firearms and handguns. We deal with numerous incidents involving use of these weapons, invariably by juveniles and, in line with modern tactics, the majority are dealt with by the deployment of armed response vehicles. I dread the probable consequences of a young person pointing one of these guns at an armed officer, deliberately or inadvertently, as that officer will find it impossible to identify the nature of the threat he/she is facing.

  It follows that the introduction of a certification process would involve strict controls upon sale and greater demands upon the police service. So be it.


  Whilst statistics do not suggest that the criminal use of shotguns is a major problem (and is virtually non-existent amongst certificate holders) it is clear from intelligence sources that there are large numbers of sawn-off shotguns in circulation. Improved licensing arrangements would not immediately impact upon this situation but would represent a sensible development in imposing enforceable standards of security by requiring applicants to justify possession of the weapons (in some cases an arsenal of weapons).

  I support the view that the simplest way forward would be the introduction of a combined firearm/shotgun certificate with standardised requirements.

D Crosthwaite


22 September 1999

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