Memorandum by Acting Chief Inspector John
EXTRACT FROM A LETTER TO MR CHRIS MULLIN
This Area Command and indeed other areas of
Northumbria Police suffer from an unacceptable number of calls
from the public in connection with the use of air weapons and
soft air weapons (powerful "toys" designed to mimic
the appearance of a genuine firearm and able to discharge various
projectiles with ever increasing degrees of power and accuracy).
Proposed legislation should be directed principally at providing
control mechanisms in that area.
Currently, legislation exists which controls
the power of these air weapons, ages when they can be possessed,
restrictions on purchase and control of their use. For example,
an air gun does not require a firearms certificate under Section
1 of the Firearms Act 1968 providing the kinetic energy produced
when it is fired does not exceed six foot pounds. Similarly, an
air rifle must exceed 12 foot pounds before it is classed as "Specially
Dangerous" and therefore attracts certification. Many of
these weapons are under the six and 12 lbs restrictions but are
still capable of causing serious injury or damage.
A person under the age of 17 years may not possess
an air weapon in a public place unless it is covered with a securely
fastened gun cover so as it cannot be fired. A person under 14
years may not have with him any air weapon or ammunition. Other
restrictions relate to trespass, carrying a loaded air weapon
in a public place and criminal use. The legislation is far from
simple especially to members of the general public.
At the very least, the previous recommendation
to the Firearms Consultation Committee that air weapons should
be the subject of a certificate must be reinforced and laws controlling
possession and use strengthened.
It follows that the introduction of a certification
process would involve strict controls upon sale and greater demands
upon the police service, but I feel this would be worth it.
Air weapons are becoming increasingly sophisticated
(high capacity magazines, carbon dioxide powering, red dot sights
etc) and many are designed to be exact replicas of Section 1 firearms
and handguns similar to the ones I demonstrated to you during
We deal with numerous incidents involving use
of these weapons, often by juveniles and, in line with modern
tactics, the majority are dealt with by the deployment of armed
response vehicles. I dread the probable consequences of a young
person pointing one of these guns at an armed officer, deliberately
or inadvertently, as that officer will find it impossible to identify
the nature of the threat he/she is facing.
It is estimated that 50 per cent of calls relating
to firearms received force-wide turn out to be connected to the
use of air weapons.
Many people currently get enjoyment out of the
lawful use of air weapons, which if legislation were introduced
would make it harder for people to participate without first having
to go through a certification process. (It needs to be remembered
that there are air weapon shooting events in both the Olympic
and Commonwealth Games.)
I enclose a copy of an article taken from the
Police Review magazine
in which it is apparent that other forces are also clearly concerned
about the current situation.
John T Parish
Acting Chief Inspector, Northumbria Police
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