Memorandum by The Bath Historic Breechloading
and Muzzleloading Club
LETTER TO THE CLERK OF THE COMMITTEE
We would like to offer the following for consideration
in the review of Firearms Legislation you are conducting.
One major shortcoming we feel must be addressed,
is the granting of a firearms licence being the decision of an
individual Police Officer with no checks or balances on the wisdom
or propriety of that decision.
This issue is significant, as following Hungerford,
the Home Office recognised this problem and to ensure the safety
of the decision making process, concluded the individual responsibility
for granting licences should be changed to a collective responsibility.
Proposals were then raised to create a Civilian Firearms Control
Board, that would make the decision making process a shared one.
Sadly the ACPO and the Police Federation chose
to oppose this only to ensure a repeat of the totally preventable
licencing irregularities of Hungerford at Dunblane. The Firearms
legislation in place at the time of Dunblane was entirely adequate
to have made the removal of Hamilton's licence a formality, given
his numerous breeches of the Act. If only the responsible officer
had used the power the Act gave him, Dunblane would have been
There is also an opportunity to clarify unequivocally
the vagueness of the existing legislation. As the application
of Firearms Law is open to the interpretation of individual Police
Forces, there is an unequal and often contradictory level of application
over the country as a whole. This has led some Police Forces resorting
to the courts to establish the limits of their responsibilities
and others to seek extension of theirs far beyond the intent of
Parliament. The ensuing extensive legal costs have inevitably
fallen to the Crown and clarifying the law would mean a significant
saving to the Public Purse and the end of a major source of conflict
between the public and the police.
From the media, it appears the review intends
considering both shotgun and airgun legislation. With regard to
shotguns, it is understood there is a proposal to place these
on firearm certificate.
There are two existing certification systems,
in order to differentiate between the lesser venue restrictions
necessary for shotgun use, in comparison to the greater restriction
necessary for rifles. Creating a single system must reflect this,
otherwise there will be completely unsupportable and unworkable
restrictions placed on existing shotgun venues. With no demonstrable
benefit to public safety.
The banning of shotguns in urban areas. Clay
pigeon and sporting shooters living in urban areas represent the
majority of shotgun users in the UK. This proposal is so unjust
as to defy comment, and appears to owe more to malice than common
sense. It would also involve compensation costs to urban owners
of expensive shotguns of a magnitude that would be unacceptable
to both the public and the Treasury.
The registration of air rifles. Illegal possession
and use by minors is the commonest form of abuse, very few parents
are aware of the existing comprehensive legislation (copy enclosed),
or the severe penalties if transgressed by minors. A campaign
by the Home Office in the schools to raise awareness, assisted
by the shooting association, would be far more effective than
registration. Given the number of air rifles held the burden on
police resources to accomplish registration would be unsupportable,
also in many cases non-compliance would be instinctive due to
the deep distrust of the motives behind it. Attention is also
drawn to the German Government recently reducing restrictions
on air rifles to a level comparable with UK ones.
We hope the review is not merely a vehicle for
the anti-gun lobby, but a genuine attempt to reform both the current
firearms law and achieve a fair balance between public safety
and the legitimate activities of thousands of ordinary law abiding
citizens. We sincerely hope this is the case and look forward
to your response.
C A Currie
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