Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex A


  69.  Firearm certificate holders are very rarely involved in firearms crime (Maybanks 1992).[107] Licensed firearms are seldom involved in firearms crime: over the period 1992-94 no legally held firearms were used in homicides arising from organised crime or drugs; moreover, about 61 per cent of those homicides which were carried out with legally held firearms were not (in the narrow sense) criminal but `domestic'—and 70 per cent of domestic incidents involved shotguns. The same study found only a single example of a firearm which had been at one time legally held having been used for robbery (CSE&W 1997, 3.28). In 1996, the Home Affairs Committee noted that a study into the provenance of guns used in robbery in London and subsequently recovered had found that in 3.6 per cent of cases the gun had been previously licensed (HAC 1996, 34, citing Maybanks 1992). But the frequency with which licensed firearms are used for criminal purposes in general is unknown.

  70.  Pistols, used in 2,648 of firearms offences in 1997, are the preferred weapon (54 per cent) of the criminal (CSE&W 1997, 3.4). The proportion of these pistols which will have been legally held is unknown. But, applying the 3.6 per cent to this figure, it may be expected that currently about 95 pistols which had at one time or another been legally held are used for unlawful purposes in any one year—or about one in three of those `misappropriated'[108]—but these 95 pistols are garnered from the entire unregistered pool, which is believed to be much larger than 162,353, the number of pistols surrendered following the 1997 Acts.

  71.  Estimates of the size of the entire unregistered pool vary from over 1 million to more than 4 million: for the purpose of this exercise, let us assume 2 million and that one-quarter of these are pistols. Thus in any one year, the number of pistols used in firearms offences which had been legally owned (95) as a percentage of the pistols within the entire unregistered pool (500,000) is 0.019 per cent. There were 162,353 pistols surrendered following the 1997 Acts. Had they not been surrendered, then in 1998 the number of registered pistols at risk of being used in crime would have been 31 (0.019 per cent of 162,353).

  72.  To determine the effect over time of bringing about the surrender of 162,353 pistols at a stroke, one needs to consider the likely longevity of pistols. Although firearms are durable there is a limit to their serviceability, determined by the availability of ammunition and replacement parts. Given the pace of technological change, it would seem likely that for the majority of those pistols their serviceability would have diminished to vanishing point within 100 years. Thus, assuming that 31 registered pistols are taken directly from the legal pool for criminal use every year for 100 years, the 1997 Acts compelled criminals to find an alternative source for 31 x 100 = 3,100 pistols.

107   He found `No part of [his] empirical research [to have] disclosed any evidence to link a licensed firearm holder in [sic] crime' (154). Back

108   In 1997, 305 pistols were misappropriated, ie `stolen, obtained by fraud or forgery etc, or handled dishonestly' (CSE&W 1997, 3.24). Back

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