Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Dechmont Airgun Club



  Enclosed herewith is a statement regarding the above subject prepared on behalf of the management Committee of Dechmont Airgun Club together with a selection of newspaper articles[112] reporting on the activities of that club. The members and management of the Club have asked me to request that the Home Affairs Select Committee take cognisance of the information contained therein and to recognise that Dechmont is but one of the organisations representing the large majority of the estimated 7 million airgun users in the United Kingdom.

  The strong feeling among Club members is that while they would, of course, comply with any new legislation which results from your deliberations, the minority who cause all of the problems of airgun misuse would certainly not. The only result would be that while legal and responsible airgun shooters would be penalised, the illegal use of airguns would not be significantly reduced. Law abiding airgun shooters are not the problem and legislation aimed at them would surely miss the target. (If I may use a shooting metaphor.)

  The current laws as laid out in the excellent Home Office document "Gun Sense is Good Sense" are sufficiently severe to deter such criminal misuse if they were only to be applied by the judicial system. Police officers should seek to charge offenders under the relevant sections of the law which would lead to an exemplary sentence and the courts should play their part by passing sentences commensurate with the gravity of the offence. Only then will we see a reduction in the activities of those criminally minded louts who cause all of us such concern.

J Craig

Club Secretary

11 October

DECHMONT AIRGUN CLUB (formerly Spittal Airgun Club & Spittal and Toryglen Airgunners)

  Dechmont Airgun Club has been operating in the South East District of Glasgow for about 12 years. Situated in a large area of multiple deprivation encompassing Castlemilk and Toryglen, two of Glasgow's post war housing schemes which have long been recognised as areas for priority treatment by both Glasgow City Council and the now defunct Strathclyde Regional Council. Both of these local authorities had both tacitly and factually recognised the value of the work being carried out by the club by awarding a number of small local grants to the club to allow the purchase of equipment and the training of local youths in the disciplines of target air rifle shooting.

  The club was extremely successful in its operations and has trained two Scottish champions in the recoiling rifle discipline and one Junior Scottish Masters champion in field target shooting.

  Well rooted in the community, the club actively participated in the life of the centre in which it was based (The Geoff Shaw Community Education Centre), raised funds for local charities and generated a considerable amount of favourable publicity for the Centre. During the period of the club's tenure at the Geoff Shaw Centre, the incidence of misuse of airguns in the local area was so low that, according to local crime prevention panels, it did not warrant a separate section in police statistics but was included in the general minor nuisance category.

  A selection of some of the newspaper reports concerning the club is appended[113] for your information and in support of this plea for fair treatment by the Committee.

  All prospective members of the club were required to serve a probationary period, to pass a written and oral test on airgun law and safety and to demonstrate their proficiency in safe airgun handling before being accepted as a member. Junior members had first to secure the prior written consent of their parent or guardian before being given any training in marksmanship or airgun handling and all in all the senior club members felt that they were not only providing sporting opportunities for the community in general but that they were contributing to instilling a disciplined attitude among its members.

  All of this was lost in the aftermath of the tragedy at Dunblane when Glasgow City Council changed its policy and the club was prohibited from using any of the local authority's premises. Despite a 10 year record of safety (the club was the only user group of the centre never to have had an accident in the Accident Book) and of sporting achievement the club was forced to close down its activities and concentrate instead of providing sport shooting for its senior members in the new discipline of field target shooting. The loss of its base in the community led over time to a significant decrease in club membership and an increase in the incidence of airgun misuse due to lack of proper training and shooting facilities for local young people.

  The general feeling among club members and indeed other airgun shooters is that the present law which allows for sentences up to and including life imprisonment for use of an airgun to resist arrest or to endanger life or property and up to and including 14 years imprisonment for lesser offences (Gun Sense is Good Sense Leaflet, HMSO) is more than sufficient to act as a proper deterrent if the courts could be persuaded to actually award such sentences. Any further legal restrictions would of course be obeyed by the law abiding majority of the estimated seven million airgun users but ignored by the mindless minority of thugs who cause the problem in the first place. So in five years or so when such restrictions were found to be ineffective and confiscation was proposed, only those who had registered their airguns would be so affected and the troublemakers would be left with their airguns to continue their mayhem. Much time and effort, energy and, no doubt, public money would have then been wasted by concentrating on penalising the law abiding majority and letting the criminals once again go free.

  I dare say that I have wasted my time and yours by submitting this statement but I still retain some measure of belief in the idea that it is the duty of any democratic government to protect the rights of the minority when such rights do not seriously infringe on the prerogatives of the majority and it is my contention that this is precisely such a case.

112   Not printed. Back

113   Not printed. Back

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