Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence



Airgun Abuse

  Thank you for your letter dated 14 October regarding airgun abuse.

  Having served in HM Forces Welsh Guards, attained the Rank of Captain in the Army Cadet Force and completed 21 years service with the Ambulance Service, I have first hand experience of how lethal air weapons can be, especially in the hands of juveniles.

  Since my retirement two years ago as a Divisional Officer in the Ambulance Service, I have devoted most, if not all of my spare time, to rescuing abandoned, injured, sick and ill-treated animals in our county borough.

  In March of this year, one of my rescued cats appeared to be unwell and had difficulty breathing. I rushed her to my veterinary surgeon who after taking x-rays confirmed that she had been shot in the throat with a .22 airgun pellet.

  Despite horrific injuries, she survived only to be shot again two weeks later, this time fatally in the back of her head at very close range.

  A 13 year old boy living directly behind us was interviewed by the police after neighbours reported seeing him firing an air rifle from an upstairs window. The air rifle was later confiscated, but no charges for being under age and in possession of the weapon were brought against him or his parents.

  Following the death of my cat I set about getting as many signatures as possible to ban the use of these weapons. The response was overwhelming, but at the same time alarming. Many veterinary surgeons that I approached told me that they see hundreds of pets brought into their clinics each year as a result of airgun misuse.

  Most of these occur during the school holidays.

  Airgun injuries involving pets are not always easy to detect. Unless an animal is given an x-ray, these injuries can go undetected for months, even years. Without x-raying every family pet, we are unlikely to get an accurate picture of the scale of this problem.

  Airgun misuse is not only confined to animals and property.

  Within a few days of starting my petition, a local schoolgirl was shot in the face. Since then, there is not a week that goes by without some report or another of a person being injured by these weapons.

  As recent as last Friday, the South Wales Police issued an urgent warning to parents in the Bridgend area. Having received a 999 call, they despatched an armed response unit to an incident, only to find that the culprits were children with air rifles.

  Senior police officers are now expressing their open concern that it will only be a matter of time before someone is killed by these weapons, or mistakenly shot by a police marksman.

  Many of these weapons the children are using are fitted with silencers and are high powered. It is very difficult to distinguish them from real firearms.

  History, unfortunately, has a habit of repeating itself. We have already witnessed several incidents in America this year where young persons have shot and killed schoolchildren. I, together with the signatures in my petition are deeply concerned that we do not have a repeat of Hungerford or Dunblane in our country again.

  We wish to thank you for raising this very important issue in The National Assembly for Wales with the First Secretary and would be most grateful if you would now forward this letter, together with our petition to the Home Affairs Select Committee.

  I enclose some additional press cuttings regarding airgun abuse for your attention.[114] I believe that the existing laws governing the use of these weapons are inadequate and are difficult to enforce. The only way forward for our society is to ban them completely.

16 October 1999

114   Not printed. Back

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