Submission from the Police Superintendents'
Association, Northumbria Branch
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.
22 September 1999