Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by The Bath Historic Breechloading and Muzzleloading Club


  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 prevented.

  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),[111] 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

October 1999

111   Not printed. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 13 April 2000