Firearms Control - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by the Preparatory Schools Rifle Association


1.  Sporting Firearm use in the UK cannot be equated to illegal firearm use.

2.  UK Firearms law is now very complex and is difficult to understand.

3.  Tagging of medical records needs further consultation.

4.  The administration of the current firearms law has meant that the Police are now more concerned with the type and use of the firearm rather than the person who wishes to use it.

5.  The effects of changes in airgun law need to be properly assessed before further legislation is proposed.

Whether or not the current laws governing firearms licensing are fit for purpose, including progress on implementing the Committees recommendations set out in its Second Report of the 1999-2000 session:

6. According to Home Office and police figures, the number of legally-held firearms in the UK has been declining since 1988, whilst at the same time the number of reported offences involving firearms has risen.

7. The government has accepted that young people who show a genuine interest in shooting should be allowed to have access to firearms in a controlled manner from a relatively early age. The PSRA believes that it is a matter for their coaches, parents and guardians to determine that age rather than it being imposed by law. Children mature at differing ages and can handle the responsibility at different times.

8. The minimum age for the grant of a Firearm Certificate is 14 years and the police place restrictions on the use of the firearms held. Nobody under the age of 15 can use a shotgun without being supervised by someone over the age of 21. Nobody who is under 18 may buy any firearm or ammunition for themselves.

9. These controls placed on young people are based on a graduated approach which permits greater levels of access as age and responsibility increase.

10. The current laws and amendments appear to have related more to the type of gun, the use to which it may be put, where it might be used, the type of mechanism, the length of the gun and so on. Naturally this has led to the police having to concentrate more on these issues than the suitability of the person concerned to have and use a gun safely.

11. This has led to a complexity in law which even the administrators—the police—have great difficulty in understanding and operating. To add to this, many of the conditions placed on Firearm certificates are unenforceable, unpolicable and have little or no impact on the public safety. This brings the law into disrepute.

Proposals to improve information-sharing between medics and the police in respect of gun licensing

12. At first glance the proposal that a doctor should inform the police if a person holding a shotgun or firearm certificate appears to be suffering from a mental or physical disorder which may make them a danger to the public does seem to be a good idea. However the implications of court appearances if that person's firearm or shotgun certificate is revoked will put an extra strain on the medical profession. It would also deter a certificate holder from visiting their GP with any from of stress related illness, which would be detrimental to all.

13. There is also the major problem of patient and doctor confidentiality, and the risk of a belief forming amongst certificate holders that their doctor may not be trusted in this matter.

14. There are also concerns about the tagging of medical records of every lawful shooter, which are kept for the benefit of the patient and doctor and not as an aid to crime prevention. There may also be issues of data security.

The danger presented by, and legislation regulating, airguns

15. Most airguns are not certificated, but this does not mean that they are not controlled. Airguns are considered to be "firearms" for the purposes of the criminal law. Those who misuse airguns are subject to over 30 criminal offences with harsh penalties.

16. Air rifles are limited in power to a kinetic energy of 12 foot-pounds (ft/lbs). Above these power levels, air rifles can only be possessed on the authority of a firearm certificate and any air pistols with a power over 6 ft/lbs become prohibited weapons. (There is a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for possession of such a prohibited pistol.)

17. Low-powered air rifles and air pistols are used in PSRA target competitions and Olympic disciplines.

18. Early training in the safe use of firearms (usually air guns) benefits everyone as the risk of injury due to miss-handling is reduced. There are many benefits to the pupils as they learn to concentrate and be calm to achieve a high score when target shooting.

19. Shooting is a sport in which male and female competitors compete on equal standing. It often appeals to the pupil who may not excel in the more physical sports. I have found that success often increases their self worth - with all the benefits which this brings.

20. It is an offence for anyone to fire an air pellet beyond the premises where they have permission to shoot. When young persons aged 14 and under are being supervised by an adult aged 21 or over, both the young person and supervising adult commit that offence.

21. Young people between 14-18 years of age may not buy or hire an airgun or ammunition or receive one as a gift. However an airgun may be borrowed from a person over 18 years of age and used on private property with the occupier's consent without supervision. A person within this age group may not carry an airgun in a public place at any time unless supervised by a person of or over 21 and then only with a good reason for doing so.

22. Nobody under 18 years may buy an airgun or its ammunition.

23. Licensing airguns would impose a huge administrative burden on the police which would have an adverse impact on public safety by diverting scarce resources away from front-line policing to licence the law-abiding..

24. The Home Office statistics show that airgun crime has been declining rapidly since 2003.


25. That the current Firearms Acts are consolidated into a new Firearms Act.

26. No major changes need be made to the Firearms Act, other than some simplification.

27. The effects of the latest air gun legislation are assessed before any changes are proposed.

28. There should be a thorough examination of the medical record "tagging" proposal with all parties agreeing on strict guidelines.

29. If there is to be a new Firearm Act then the accent must come back on the person rather than the types of firearm involved, their uses or mechanisms.

30. The administrators in firearms licensing departments should have knowledge of, and training in the sports they administer.

24 August 2010

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Prepared 20 December 2010