Memorandum by Admiral of the Fleet Sir
Benjamin Bathurst GCB DL
REVIEW OF FIREARMS LEGISLATION
LETTER TO THE CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE
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