Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the Country Landowners Association




  The CLA's 50,000 rural business members own 60 per cent of the rural land of England and Wales.


Firearms are Essential and Universal Tools for Effective Land Management

  A variety of firearms are required to deal with pests and predators in rural areas. In this context the word firearm also includes shotgun.

The Economic and Social Importance of Firearms

  Shooting is of crucial importance to the rural economy as well as being a deep rooted part of rural life: 12,000 people, mostly in rural areas, are directly employed in connection with shooting, and 14,000 FTE (Full Time Equivalent) employees in allied trades. The estimated total value of shooting in Great Britain lies in the region of £400 million per annum.


  Firearms are also important to conservation. Not only does recreational shooting contribute directly to habitat management, but shooting is also a significant influence on the wider management of the countryside for biodiversity.


  The CLA considers that more should be done to address the problem of illegally held weapons. Home Office figures show that the rate of crime committed with handguns has not decreased since the ban on all handguns in private possession very significantly reduced the number of legally held handguns in the UK. This clearly demonstrates that tighter regulation of legal ownership of guns does not automatically have an effect on weapons related crime.

  Further the figures available demonstrate that the proportion of licensed weapons used in homicides outside the home is very small, approximately 6 per cent of all murders committed in England and Wales between 1992 and 1994 (just nine cases). No licensed weapons were used in organised crime, drugs related or contract killing which accounts for nearly 30 per cent of all homicides.

  The total of all shotgun related offences has reduced from 1,234 in 1987 to 580 in 1997. The total of all rifles used in notifiable offences was 51 out of a total of 305,000 rifles.


  The CLA submits that air weapons do not present any significant problem in rural areas but is aware of problems arising from their misuse in urban areas. Air weapons are useful for controlling smaller pests such as rats. The careful and properly supervised use of air weapons provides a relatively safe and essential introduction to young people to the skills necessary for the safe handling of shotguns and rifles. The CLA recommends consideration of the following controls.

  No use of airguns by those under the age of 12.

  No young person to use an air gun unless accompanied by a responsible adult over the age of 18.

  All air weapons to be kept within houses or club buildings under lock and key in secure cupboards.

  The Police should have a right to inspect premises where air guns are kept.


  Whilst legislation quite correctly distinguishes between shotguns and other firearms the specific comments made under the following paragraphs could equally apply to the firearms used by landowners and farmers and should be read together.

    —  Firearms related crime arises in the vast majority of cases from weapons illegally obtained and held. The ban on handguns shows that additional controls on legally held firearms will not directly affect the rate of crime committed with illegally held guns.

    —  A large number of those who participate in occupational use of firearms eg those who assist farmers with pest control, and recreational shooting live in urban areas. It is important to note that the shotguns legally kept in urban areas are used almost exclusively in rural areas.


  The CLA submits that existing shotgun licensing procedures are satisfactory. We see a case for tightening up existing procedures and recommend the following:

    —  We would recommend that references are fully checked when applications are made for shotgun licences and firearms certificates, and that the referees of standing in the community who are required to have been known to the applicant for a number of years should be required to confirm this to the police.

    —  The element of discretion currently exercised by the Chief Constable should remain in the granting of applications however the appeals procedure should be simplified and include provision for the amendment of conditions attaching to the licence or certificate where this is appropriate.

    —  The CLA considers that it may be appropriate that no person under the age of 16 should own or use a shotgun unless under the supervision of an adult who is possessed of a current shotgun licence.

    —  That current requirements for secure accommodation for the firearm are sufficient and that any changes should be balanced against the requirement that guns should be accessible to their legitimate user. The Police should continue to have the right to inspect the premises and this should be mandatory upon renewal of licences and certificates.


  The main problems relating to the criminal use of firearms arise from those illegally obtained rather than those held legally it is this question which has yet to be addressed. It is the CLA's view that proper enforcement of existing controls will deal with the small number of cases involving misuse of those held legally.

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