Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the Scottish Countryside Alliance



  The Scottish Countryside Alliance, is a semi-autonomous part of the Countryside Alliance, representing a membership in excess of 10,000 and rising rapidly under the threat perceived by people living in the countryside to their traditional ways of life. The headquarters are at Redden, Kelso, Roxburghshire TD5 8HS.


  The Board and staff of the Scottish Countryside Alliance recommend that the following be brought to the attention of the Select Committee.

  1.  A.  It is essential that existing firearms legislation be consolidated before further acts or amendments are considered. The existing Firearms Acts and amendments go back to the Firearms Act 1937 which introduced modern firearms controls. However, the Firearms Act 1968 (which is still in force) re-enacted and absorbed all the earlier legislation, we then have the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 to introduce tighter controls in the aftermath of Hungerford.

  In 1992 the Firearms (Amendment) Regulations which came into effect on 1 January 1993 had the effect of modifying the earlier Acts to bring them in line with the European Community Weapons Directive.

  The two Firearms (Amendment) Acts of 1997 banned most pistols.

  With the above in mind, we recommend that a Consolidation Bill would make the law easier for both the Police and Sportsmen to understand and implement.

  B.  Following a consolidation bill a full and comprehensive review of firearms law and administration be undertaken, with full involvement of members of the shooting community.

  C.  In view of the difficulties some of our members are reporting, concerning the interpretation of the law by various Chief Constables, we would recommend that an independent, centralised, licensing appeal procedure administered by civilian staff should be adopted.

  2.  A.  Air Weapons:  Within your remit, the use and purchase of air weapons has to be considered, it is our belief that certification of air weapons is both unnecessary and costly. However, we would like to suggest that a simple booklet aimed at parents and outlining the points of law in relation to such weapons could be attached at point of sale. It would seem that not only have the public inadequate knowledge on air weapons, but the police seem to have a problem with this as well.

  B.  Shotguns:  Some politicians have been reported as saying that they would like to see an "upgrading" of Shotguns from Section 2 to Section 1 status, and that a ban be imposed on Shotgun ownership for anyone living in an urban area, both of the above you must robustly resist. The implications of this would be horrendous for our members, and add considerable costs to the police.

  We would also suggest that a person holding a shotgun certificate be allowed to lend a shotgun to a person known to him who does not hold a certificate, for the purpose of sport on private land.

  C.  Other firearms:  emphasis should be placed on illegal firearms and armed crime as this should always be central to any debate on firearms and the public. Under existing law, there have been two cases of murder with Kalashnikovs this year, although they have been illegal since 1988, and the number of shootings with pistols has increased way above the levels prior to the 1997 Firearms (Amendment) Act, which proves the bans have only affected the law abiding.

  The following are for your consideration:

    (a).   Raising the age limit. This would have the detrimental effect of banning by the back door young peoples entry into Country Sports as by the time they had reached 18 or 21, they would have interests outside shooting, and be lost for ever;

    (b)  Some police forces have implemented their own laws in as much as, it is perfectly legal to hold five guns without a burglar alarm, but a condition of ones certificate to hold six guns. This is surely a nonsense and an abuse of power which should not be allowed under legislation.

    We would recommend that the number of firearms listed on a single certificate should not be restricted, as if a person is deemed to be a responsible member of society, then numbers do not matter;

    (c)  We understand the difficulty that the law enforcement agencies have in dealing with armed crime, but if legislation only affects the law abiding, more of the same legislation will not improve the situation;

    (d)  The select committee should, we feel call upon the media and entertainment industries to avoid promotion of gratuitous violence, particularly where guns are shown;

    (e)  It is felt by our board that in the short term, all shooting organisations should be encouraged to promote and expand their existing voluntary education and training schemes while further avenues are explored, with the possibility of public financial support for this educational project;

    (f)  Sections 9 and 10 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 should be removed. This law was included in the Act for handguns and was never intended for the sporting rifle. The use of solid point ammunition in the sporting and pest control field is very dangerous and should be rescinded as soon as possible;

    (g)  As the law stands, it is not possible for war trophies to be inherited by a relative of the original owner, we feel this is unjust as many if not all are deactivated.

    (h)  At present, the law states that barrel length must be no shorter than 61cm (24"). This should be amended to 60cm to bring it inline with the European Firearms Directive;

    (i)  Following the recommendations laid down in the Inquiry Report of Lord Cullen, consideration by the Government should be given to the annulment of the law relating to target pistol shooting, given the evidence of late from official figures, this ban has had no effect other than to deprive people of their legal pastime.


  The above suggestions and recommendations, we feel will enable a very bitter shooting public to come to terms with changes, which can be shown to be for the right reasons and not just a knee-jerk reaction to satisfy a popular press or give a political party some perceived advantage in the polls, as was evident at the time of Dunblane.

  As we stated earlier, when legislation has shown that only the law abiding conform and obey, then more legislation to further prohibit the legitimate is a waste of the select committee's time.

  The answer to the gun problems in Britain today, lies with the illegal guns in circulation and with the lenient interpretation of existing legislation by the law. It has been proved over and over again, that people participating in shooting sports are among the most law abiding citizens in the country today and also the children of these adults are statistically much ore balanced members of society, as they have been taught from a very early age that one must respect ones quarry and treat firearms with utmost respect.

October 1999

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