Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Admiral of the Fleet Sir Benjamin Bathurst GCB DL



  I have been shooting since I was 11 years old and since retiring in 1995, I have run a medium sized syndicate shoot in Somerset.

  2.  The Government have stated that they have no intention of abolishing game shooting. In the south west this activity is a vital element in conserving the environment and whatever one's views about rearing pheasants, it does enable hard pressed farmers and estates to get a "crop" off their land. Thus any revision of shotgun legislation should avoid placing restrictions on game shooting unless there are overwhelming arguments of public safety.

  3.  My concerns are as follows:

    (a)  Young people. Safety in the field is paramount and this must be instilled into all shotgun owners at the earliest opportunity. Safety is a matter of good habits and a young person of 12 to 14 years is far more likely to listen to the advice of his elders than an 18 year old, coming to the sport for the first time. The shame of being rebuked among your peers or even sent home for a lapse in safety standards is far more telling at that age than later on. It is essential for the safety of our sport that young people continue to be allowed to carry shotguns under adult supervision. After all we allow young people to shoot rifles of .22 calibre on a range under supervision.

    (b)  Custody of shotguns. Present regulations require us to satisfy Chief Constables that a shotgun is kept in a secure place wherever we live and none would quibble with that. However it has been suggested that there should be extra restrictions on those who live in urban areas. Many people who shoot live in towns and may shoot as frequently as their country counterpart. Chief Constables at present have a right to establish that there is a valid reason for holding a shotgun but it would be grossly unfair if the urban dweller, who may well be only living in a town or city because of his work, were to be told that he could not keep a shotgun at home. We should also be careful not to exclude the user who may only shoot a few times a year. Over one's lifetime the pattern of one's shooting life is irregular.

    (c)  Number of Guns. Any restriction on the number of guns to be held by one person needs thinking through. The security requirements for one gun are the same as for several. In this context I am not thinking of the collector or shotgun dealer but of the regular game shot. Some of us are lucky enough to be asked on "two gun days". Even though we may own a good pair of shotguns, there are still occasions, such as rough shooting or controlling vermin, when one does not wish to use one's best guns and prefer to rely on a lesser quality gun. Then there is the gun that one learnt to shoot with when young, which is probably of smaller gauge ie 20 or 28 Bore, and which one wishes to hang on to, to pass on to the next generation or use again when age is beginning to catch up on one. So I hope that if it is felt necessary to restrict the number of guns held on one licence that such factors will be taken into account.

  4.  These are my main concerns and I hope that my comments are helpful. I also hope that the Committee will avoid unfair and unworkable restrictions on the game shooting community whose record on both safety and security is of a very high standard. None of us want shotguns falling into the wrong hands and will give full support to sensible effective legislation which is based on facts rather than on hearsay or prejudice.

12 September 1999

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