October 8th, 2012 – Kneejerk changes to the law are never a good idea and unfortunately the Scottish National Party, who run the Scottish Govt., seem to be set on arguably the looniest kneejerk change to gun laws yet seen in the United Kingdom – the extension of firearm licensing to lower power airguns. (I.e. air rifles with a muzzle energy of 12 ft/lb or less and air pistols with a muzzle energy of 6 ft/lb or less, which are currently considered to be firearms for the purpose of British law, but exempt from licensing.)
The origin of the concern about the availability of air guns in Scotland was the tragic slaying of two-year old toddler Andrew Morton by a yobbo in Glasgow. It’s fair to say however the SNP have since used the issue of an airgun ban to win votes by claiming it makes them a champion of law and order.
Let me stress one thing here – air guns, even the lower power unlicenced variety, are not toys. They are capable of causing serious wounds and obviously when wielded against a small child can cause potentially fatal injuries. Air rifles in particular are usually designed for the killing of small pest animals. However things must be kept in perspective, lots of things can be used to cause serious injury that could easily kill a small child but yet we do not require the owner to be licenced under an onerous licensing scheme.
It is of course always easy to say, “let’s ban it” or “let’s introduce licensing”. So let us look at the facts.
Currently there are just under 26,000 firearm certificates on issue in Scotland. Section 10 of the Scotland Act 2012 gives the Scottish Justice Minister the power to regulate airguns other than those declared especially dangerous (i.e. above the exempt power limits and subject to firearm certificate controls.)
We don’t exactly know yet what the power limit will be for an airgun subject to the new licensing regime, but let’s say it’s 1 Joule, which is the minimum threshold the now defunct Forensic Science Service set for the definition of “lethal” as in “lethal barrelled weapon“, the legal definition of a firearm. Such a definition would exclude toys and the majority of “airsoft” guns.
So how many of these lower power guns are in circulation in Scotland? No-one really knows of course, I’ve seen figures of half a million bandied about, but let’s say for the sake of argument it’s only 250,000 (the number of legally-held shotguns is currently 140,000). Let’s say each air gun owner owns an average of two, meaning 125,000 affected people.
What that means of course is that the police would have to issue somewhere on the order of 125,000 airgun licences in Scotland, which is five times the number of firearm certificates currently on issue.
Not surprisingly, the police, in the shape of ACPO(S), have essentially wet themselves when faced with this reality.
This is all in an environment where recorded offences committed with air weapons in Scotland have fallen dramatically, from 618 in the 2005-06 year to 233 in the year 2010-11. Whether or not this is a result of action by the police is hard to say definitively, but clearly moving police resources behind desks shuffling paperwork doesn’t sound like the best idea.
Not satisfied with this lunacy, the Scottish Justice Minister, Kenny MacAskill MSP, wants to do even more and limit the number of guns certificate holders can own, even though the aforementioned statistics indicate that the number of firearms held per certificate is less than three (bearing in mind a person can hold both a firearm and a shotgun certificate). He has written to the Home Secretary to express his outrage.
Now tell me, if you were someone who owned a few airguns, would you be more or less likely to apply for an airgun licence and comply with the law knowing that the Minister in charge wants to reduce the number you can own before you’ve even applied?
And there is the rub – what will compliance with this onerous new requirement be? Will the police actually issue 100,000+ new licences? Unlikely, because changes to the law such as this are almost always poorly advertised. Possibly a compensation scheme will be devised for people who do not want to obtain a licence, money that could clearly be better used if spent on normal policing activities – however to date Mr MacAskill is apparently adamantly opposed to the idea of compensation.
Of course, anyone who wanted to evade a new licensing requirement could readily do so by acquiring an air gun in England or Wales where the law will remain unchanged – a point made to the Scottish Govt. by the Home Office, who of course ignored it. Because you see in the delusionary world of the SNP, one day in the near future Scotland will be an independent country and able to impose whatever border controls they please. Except, hang on a second, they don’t want border controls. Yet more muddled thinking.
Scottish airgun owners need to point this out to their local MSP – quickly. The general idea was apparently for the Scottish Govt. to have a clear idea of how they were going this by the end of the year, but the amalgamation of Scottish police forces into a single force may have slowed things down somewhat.
As much as we may have wanted it, unfortunately there was only one pistol shooter in the British team, the reality of choosing a team with people who have proven results in shooting competition saw to that. Of course, Britain no doubt could have put in a better pistol team – but regardless of how talented you are you have to go to competitions and establish a track record, and that’s hard to do when pistols are prohibited. Two members of the Army pistol team apparently had the skill but not the track record. Thank you Mr Blair.
However, despite this, Peter Wilson still managed to win a gold medal in Double Trap for Great Britain.
Don’t burgle gun owners
The rather surprising message from Judge Michael Pert, after Andy Ferrie shot two masked burglars in his home with a shotgun. In most countries, even European countries, this would hardly be headline news, but in Britain of course it is met with an almost shock reaction. So much so that Mr Ferrie and his wife felt obliged to immediately emigrate, due to the hurt feelings of the local criminal community.
Two more “unarmed” police officers shot dead
PCs Nicola Huges and Fiona Bone were shot dead by a fugitive wanted for murder last month, this of course (as per usual) led to the predictable drivel from the Home Secretary, about how there is a “British model of policing” and that she supports “unarmed policing”.
This is of course total nonsense as the police are armed with a wide variety of weapons, e.g. PR-24 batons, Tasers, and chemical sprays – all prohibited weapons that cannot be legally possessed by the public. But apparently carrying a firearm as well means they would be “armed”.
I’ve already covered this topic at length in a previous editorial and I have nothing really to add, other than to note with sadness that basically nothing has changed.
“In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.” – Napoleon Bonaparte