Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Mr Richard H A Loweth



  Following the publication of the Cullen Report the then Government moved legislation to prohibit from private possession modern handguns. It was intended that a character such as Thomas Hamilton would never again be able, lawfully, to obtain such a weapon,

  Yet the very law intended to prevent such an occurrence in fact, still today, expressly allows a man such as Hamilton to acquire and keep a lethal handgun, at home, for which bulleted cartridges are readily available.

  Hamilton formed a series of "Boys' Clubs" in order to come into contact with young male children so that he could fulfil his paedophilic agenda. These clubs took the form of "Outward Bound" clubs.

  Yet was Hamilton to be alive today, and to form a series of "Boys' Clubs" with an "Athletic Sports" emphasis he would disturbingly be able to lawfully obtain permission to acquire and keep at home a handgun identical to one of those used during the Dunblane murders.


  Section 5(a) and 5(b) of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 specifically exempted from the handgun prohibition firearms kept for the purpose of starting races at athletics meetings.

  These are not purpose made blank firing handguns in a weak metal alloy, but Smith and Wesson or other make handguns originally manufactured to fire lethal missiles in a readily available calibre such as .38" Special.

  In many cases no modification to the original lethal handgun are made. It remains just as manufactured and will chamber and fire, with no work required, bulleted cartridges.

  In some cases these handguns have the barrel shortened to three inches and a blockage welded into them. Yet a few minutes with a hacksaw can cut away the blocked section to produce a handgun just as manufactured, but albeit with a shorter barrel.

  Alternatively the blocked barrel can be removed and an illegally obtained barrel substituted, one which the Government said could be easily obtained when dismissing amendments to allow target shooters to use disassembly as an option to retain their handguns.


  It is suggested that the exemption for lethal handguns to be retained for starting athletics meetings be repealed. It is incredible that a person can possess a handgun quite capable of killing a man just because they say it is wanted to start running races.

  There is no specification to ensure, as with deactivated firearms, that these exempted handguns cannot be readily put back to lethal capability and indeed many never were much altered initially. Barrels do not have to be pinned through the breech, nor the rifling removed or the tube itself over-bored.

  Yet why are such guns still allowed? Magazines such as "Gun Mart" are full of advertisements for blank firing guns that never were and never can be lethal. Purpose made blank firing guns with light alloy construction incapable of chambering or firing bulleted cartridges.


  The last few years have seen the bankruptcy of the British Amateur Athletics Association (the body that claimed to "vet" applications for race starters) and the conviction for a series of serious sexual assaults on children of a national swimming coach . . . Just the sort of person that the exemption on the 1997 Act was designed to cover.

  The Home Office classes .38" calibre handgun ammunition as being readily available. It does not permit "heritage handguns" in .38" calibre to be kept at home yet allows identical and more modern guns to be so kept by race starters!


  There are alternatives to lethal handguns being kept a home merely to start races. These were never examined during Committee stage of the 1997 Act and the exemption under section 5(a) and 5(b) passed into law.

  No specification was laid down to ensure that, if these pistols were retained, they were certified by a Proof House, as with deactivated weapons as being irrevocably converted to blank firing status. Probably because they cannot be so converted or altered.

  If that is so, then had this area been more fully explored this exemption would not have been allowed. It is respectfully suggested that it is perhaps time for the Home Affairs Select Committee to repeal this clause. In the year 2000 there is no need to have a gun that can kill a man to merely make a flash and a bang to start a race.

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Prepared 13 April 2000