Election 2015

2 May, 2015 – Bit late in the day with this editorial but there isn’t really much to say when it comes to the election on May 7th.  The SNP with the help of Labour are currently trying to licence airguns in Scotland, so that rules them out.  One would like to think the Liberals would remember their rural roots, maybe some of their candidates do (so ask).  UKIP is well, UKIP.  A lot of their candidates favour shooting, but it’s hard to see how they can win in more than a few constituencies.  That leaves the Tories, David Cameron is a shooter, and so he’s been subject to this sort of rubbish.  He also stood in the way of the new Fees Order for some time.  And he did follow through on the promise to allow some Olympic hopefuls to get section 5 authority for their pistols.

However, let us not forget the Tories were responsible for most of the handgun ban back in 1997 as well as the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 as well as various other bits of foolishness.  So if you’re going to vote Tory, please check with your candidate first as to where they stand.

Much more importantly, check with your Labour candidate because there appears to be a schism between the party in Scotland and the party in England & Wales on the subject of licensing airguns.  If your local candidate supports doing that, then obviously vote for someone else, if they say they’re against it, try and get it in writing and send it to BASC Scotland.


The licensing Bill, which includes airgun licensing (and various other types of licensing) unfortunately sailed through Stage One debate as it is known in the Scottish Parliament, unfortunately Labour have decided to support it as well, so any chance of any real changes to the Bill have completely evaporated.  The SNP did at least decide not to follow the recommendation of the standing committee that airguns should be given unique identifying marks.  Because that is obviously barking mad, especially given that some airguns are largely made of plastic.

In an absolutely bizarre move, Police Scotland have decided to slash the number of firearm enquiry officers.  Yes, you read that correctly – on the eve of the introduction of a new licensing system that will require many thousands of licenses to be issued, the police have laid off the staff who will be responsible for doing the licensing.  Words fail me.

No more ACPO

Well, sort of.  It’s still around but they’ve changed the name to the: “NPCC”.  Which stands for: “National Pissing Contest for Constabularies”.  Er no, it stands for: “Narcissistic Police Chiefs’ Cabal”.  “Nearly Pointless Coppers’ Committee”.

But anyway the National Police Chiefs’ Council will apparently spend the grants they get more wisely.  Personally I think that could have been assured if they reported to Parliament, but they won’t be.


Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary will be having a nose around a few licensing depts.  I sincerely hope that one of them is Durham Constabulary, which was slated by the IPCC.  Ooh, and how about Surrey Police.  And how about Gwent Police?

Suffice to say this HMIC report should make for interesting reading.  What I’d really like is for them to say that firearm licensing should be removed from the police and put into the hands of an independent agency, but given that would put HMIC out of part of their job, I doubt that’s going to happen.

“During the course of the investigation, staff spoken to across each of the respective roles within the Firearms Licensing Unit commented that they had received little or no formal training by Durham Constabulary.” – para. 187, Mr Michael Atherton – IPCC investigation into the granting, management and review of his shotgun certificate and firearm licence by Durham Constabulary.


Bye bye Blair

June 30, 2007 – When Tony Blair became Prime Minister in the UK, I suspect like most people I was glad to see the back of the previous Tory Govt.

However, at the time I wasn’t that impressed with the replacement. Tony Blair’s first real act as Prime Minister was to push for a ban on handguns. The reality was that the previous Govt. had already banned handguns in the wake of the Dunblane massacre, and the limp three section Act that Blair pushed through Parliament simply removed a very narrow exemption that allowed .22 pistols to be possessed if they were stored at secure gun clubs.

I got the impression then that what we were dealing with was a man who was obsessed with style over substance, and the ensuing ten years more than proved me right.

What will Tony Blair be remembered for exactly? It’s hard to actually pin something to his chest that speaks of a major success, either on the domestic scene or overseas. The only thing that comes to mind really is the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Unfortunately what he will be remembered for is failure more than success. Or at best, mediocrity.

The number of “spin” disasters is frankly too long to go into, such as infighting with Gordon Brown, or successive embarrassments caused by being overly attached to Peter Mandelson or Alastair Campbell.

Various major incidents involving university fee hikes, pension fights or public/private partnerships to build hospitals, etc. were more a case of economic reality that any Govt. would have been forced into.

The list of promises broken is frankly too daunting to list, and was replaced instead with endless Acts of Parliament foisting huge amounts of legislation on the British public that spoke more of Blair’s barrister background than a real connection with making Britain a better place.

Most of these Acts were not even new legislation, they were simply amending Acts designed to increase criminal penalties and to expand the range of criminal offences. Many things associated with the Blair administration, such as Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) were in fact a creation of the previous Govt., and Blair’s Government simply enacted legislation making them easier to issue.

So expansive did the creation of new legislation become that Blair himself apparently lost track of the major provisions of it. The only real piece of legislation I can recall that was a positive development was the Human Rights Act 1998, which incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law. This achievement was however overshadowed by successive Home Secretaries attempting to gut it in the name of fighting terrorism and a limp defence of the Act which made it sound as though people actually having civil rights was more of an unfortunate inconvenient reality than a positive development.

And then, of course, there is the war in Iraq.

A lot of people excuse Blair’s mistake in taking the UK into a war in Iraq to find non-existent weapons of mass destruction on the basis that he had to do it because the UK is allied with the US, and in fact Bush made the mistake.

In reality, this is a perception caused by the fact that the US is the dominant power.

But in fact, as Paddy Ashdown’s (former leader of the Liberal Democratic Party) autobiography illustrates, Blair himself was concerned about Iraqi WMD before he became Prime Minister, and certainly a long time before anyone had an inkling that George W Bush would become President.

President Bush himself quoted British intelligence sources during his State of the Union address in 2003.

It may be hard to hear this, but the reality is that Bush was Blair’s poodle rather than the other way around, at least to begin with. Although in fairness, I doubt even Blair could have imagined the scale of the disaster the US has made of the Iraq war.

Personally I supported invading Iraq to get rid of Saddam Hussein, however it was obvious that the WMD issue was smoke and mirrors from the very beginning. And Blair totally discredited himself forever by wedding himself solely to the idea of getting rid of Iraqi WMD. I can’t recall him ever making the statement that Iraq should be invaded to get rid of Saddam Hussein, only that that would be a helpful by-product of the invasion.

So basically to sum up, Tony Blair appears to have been little more than an opportunistic PR guy whose most major decision while he was Prime Minister was gravely mistaken.

At least he lived up to the tagline on this website! [Since removed – ed.]

Gordon Brown cometh…

It’s too early to say whether Gordon Brown will be more successful as Prime Minister, however the omens are not good, neither for the country or for gun owners, based on the appointment of Jaqui Smith to be Home Secretary.

To date, her CV doesn’t indicate that she is up to the task, having only been a Minister of State in various much lighter weight roles, her most significant former post being Minister of State for the DTI, which is hardly in the same league as the Home Office.  Especially considering her new role as Secretary of State, rather than being merely a minister.

She appears to have been appointed to the role merely because she is a Brown loyalist, rather than because she has any particular talent for dealing with terrorism or immigration.

This would be bad enough, but the Home Office is currently in the middle of a major upheaval with the re-organisation of the department started by John Reid, who has been cast asunder no doubt because he most certainly isn’t a Brown loyalist.

She could however redeem herself by firing the bureaucrats responsible for the following fiasco and encouraging the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to do the same:

The persecution of Mick Shepherd

I won’t rehash this one at length, because the BBC do a pretty good job of laying out this shambles masquerading as law enforcement in their article.

I suppose one could argue that justice was done in that Mr Shepherd was found not guilty, but unfortunately it clearly wasn’t, as it is hard to see why he was locked up on remand in Belmarsh maximum security prison for nine months prior to his trial.  One can only hope that Mr Shepherd successfully sues the Met for every penny they’ve got.

My main point of disagreement with the BBC article is that the law on antique firearms is not a grey area at all.  It has in fact been on the statute books for 87 years at the time of writing, and there is literally acres of case law defining every single word of section 58(2) of the Act in excruciating detail.

The problem is that the Home Office likes to ignore all the case law that fails to agree with their own guidance.  As a result, the police are often misled into thinking they have a case against someone when in fact they don’t, although the Shepherd case has to be by far the most spectacular failure of the guidance to date.  The basic problem is that the Home Office insist that antique firearms must be chambered in an “obsolete” calibre, although there is no basis in law for that definition, and there is plenty of case law that disagrees with that definition as well.  It’s also a very vague standard, because something that is obsolete today can be manufactured tomorrow.  So at the end of the day, the Home Office cops out and says: “we’ll let the courts decide”, which isn’t really of much help to the police.

This issue has been growing increasingly messy in recent years because of the additional guidance added in 1997 in relation to section 7 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, which has never made any sense to me.  If you read section 7(4) of the Act, it says quite clearly that the section is without prejudice to anything covered by section 58(2) of the 1968 Act.  The end result is that there are firearms, such as a .32 Browning 1910, which Mick was charged with the illegal possession of, that could fall under section 58(2) of the 1968 Act or section 7(3) of the 1997 Act.  In the latter case, you need a firearm certificate (or prohibited weapons authority) and need to keep the gun at a “designated site”, in the first case you don’t.

The jury decided that Mick didn’t need a firearm certificate and he was in possession of an antique, thus basically sinking the Home Office guidance on section 7 of the Act, something I tried to do unsuccessfully in court in 2000 myself (a case which the Home Office has also put a misleading spin on in their guidance).  This ruling renders section 7(1) of the 1997 Act (antique handguns that can be kept at home with an FAC) essentially redundant.  If it doesn’t, then the passage of time will in a few years when it becomes impossible to argue that a gun made in 1918 isn’t an antique.

The Home Office has been making noises for years that when and if the desperately needed firearms consolidation Act comes to pass that they will re-write the section dealing with antiques to agree with their guidance.  Don’t be surprised if this happens sooner rather than later in light of this court case.  However this won’t alter the reality that it’s a very vague definition of an antique.  I’ve always felt that simply setting a 100-year old standard would be the simplest solution, it’s generally accepted with the public, easy to understand and easy to enforce.  There may be 100-year old guns knocking about that are still dangerous weapons, but the same can be said of the swords displayed in various National Trust properties.

The other point brought out by this court case is how the police like to exaggerate the armed crime problem.  As the BBC article points out, absolutely no evidence was presented in court that any of Mick’s guns had ever been involved in any sort of criminal activity, despite Scotland Yard strongly suggesting this to the press.  No doubt the Met would say that for operational reasons they did not want to disclose information about on-going investigations, however to not present any evidence at all of any criminal misuse implies quite strongly that they were exaggerating the problem.

The police are no strangers to exaggeration, as I have detailed at great length in previous editorials, e.g. this one.  Finally they’ve been caught with their pants down in a spectacular fashion.  This is one of the few good things to come out of this fiasco of a court case and will hopefully cause the police to tread more cautiously in the future.

“Today’s verdict is a message to anyone who should try to covertly sell illegal firearms.” – Detective Superintendent Kevin Davis of Operation Trident commenting on Mick Shepherd’s case, before he found out what the verdict was.


Lies, damned lies and hey, you know the rest.

Rarely has history seen a company commit suicide in such a public way as Smith & Wesson appears to be doing.

First, a quick bit of history – S&W is the largest (or was) handgun manufacturer in the US, holding about 20% of the market.  Various lawyers came up with an idea to sue gun companies and hold them liable for gun-related deaths and injuries around the US, basically turning tort law on its head.  The idea is that if you whack your thumb with a hammer while nailing up a picture, you can hold the company who made the hammer liable for the injury to your thumb.  There’s a bit more to it than that (some are suing on the basis of “negligent” marketing practices), but that’s the long and short of it.

The lawyers, and the cities who they have managed to get to sign on to this claptrap, figure that they don’t actually have to get gun companies to be held liable, the costs of defending all the suits will force them to settle.  Unfortunately the lawyers will be in for a rude surprise as the gun companies do not have any money with which to settle (unlike the tobacco companies, the last victims of this nonsense), so most gun companies have decided it’s better to risk going bankrupt than give in to extortion.

But not S&W – they have signed an agreement with the largest entity suing, the US Housing and Urban Development Dept., and most cities suing have agreed to drop their suits as well.  Sounds great, until you read the agreement – all wholesalers and dealers who sell S&W products will have to agree to a wide variety of things, such as no longer selling large capacity magazines, requiring specific safety training for customers, limiting the number of sales to customers and so on.  The net effect is that no wholesaler or dealer is going to be crazy enough to sign up to this nonsense, because to do so will put them out of business very rapidly.

The level of revulsion among gun dealers in the US has got three states fired up enough to target wholesalers and other manufacturers on anti-trust grounds – which surely is the height of hypocrisy as it is the cities themselves who are colluding to restrain business.

In desperation to save their silly agreement, about 60 cities and counties have agreed to give S&W “preferential” treatment in contracts for police guns.  This is illegal, unless the cities can establish that S&W sells something that they need that no-one else sells, because bidding has to be open and competitive.

And S&W knows that, because in the most supreme irony of all, it was S&W who sued the US Government in the mid-80s alleging bias in the military bidding for a new service pistol.  S&W’s suit established various principles on tendering for Government contracts.

Turnabout is fair play, it appears!

My personal (highly cynical) view is that S&W is simply trying to save some money on lawyer’s bills, because their current business contracts run until the end of this year – by which time Bill Clinton will have 20 days left in office and S&W can safely tear up this agreement.

Handgun ban a failure

Recently there has been a flurry of critical press stories concerning long-barrelled revolvers in GB (which are legal due to their length).  The most idiotic of all was the story that appeared in the Times, which in the same breath as condemning the import of a few hundred Ruger Super Redhawks with 18-inch barrels pointed to a police source that estimated that 10,000 handguns had been illegally imported since the ban.  A thousand or so long-barrelled revolvers in the hands of licensed target shooters hardly seems a great worry by comparison!

A most interesting question asked in Parliament elicited some useful information that for the first time breaks down firearm-related homcides by whether the firearm was legally owned or not.  Unfortunately they only cover the period up to the end of 1998.

Although there is a slight trend downward in firearm-related offences across the board (excluding airguns), what is fascinating is that handgun-related offences dwarf offences in which a shotgun was used, despite the fact that handguns are banned whereas shotguns are legal.

Colin Greenwood, well-known for his research into armed crime, postulates that armed robbery is the real measure of armed crime.  However this is one area in which I disagree, because with homicide and serious assaults, you can be fairly sure that the firearm used is real.  With armed robberies it might just be a sawn-off cucumber in a coat pocket.  However, the injury statistics on their own show quite clearly that the use of a handgun to cause injury is far higher than with a shotgun.

The injury figures presented in the above stats (follow the link) do include blunt trauma (i.e. pistol whippings), but it’s fair to say a higher proportion of them involve real firearms than armed robberies.

Clearly, despite the prohibition of handguns, they remain the gun of choice of serious criminals.

A further interesting set of statistics is presented here, these indicate that there are currently 163,000 firearm certificates and 690,000 shotgun certificates on issue in Great Britain – a dismal total, when compared to the numbers from ten years ago.  (In 1989, there were 183,000 firearm certificates and 952,000 shotgun certificates on issue in GB).

And on the subject of statistics…

A war of words has erupted between two countries at opposite ends of the Earth, or rather between the NRA of America and the Australian Government.

At issue are some statistics presented in an NRA video about gun bans around the world not being as effective as some would like to believe (you can watch the video at NRA Live).

The Australians say the statistics in the video are false, which is rather amusing seeing as they were sourced from the Australian Government website.  What we have here is a classic case of political novices going up against perhaps the most formidable political lobby on the face of the planet.  By opening their mouths, the Australian Government have given the NRA huge amounts of free publicity and invited the NRA and Australian pro-gunners to ram the Australian Attorney General’s foot down his throat.  I’ll wager he won’t try that again.

Don’t you wish we had a gun lobby this effective?

Trigger locks?  Ha!

There is currently a legislative effort in the US to require all handguns to be sold with trigger locks.

Anyone who holds a firearm or shotgun certificate will know how restrictive our storage requirements are by comparison.  BASC among others have helped draw up new guidance for the police, and you can see it by clicking here.  “Comprehensive” is an understatement.

The notes accompanying this guidance make it clear to the police that they should be sensible and keep their more silly opinions to themselves.  About time too.

So my next project will be to build myself a gun room…

And remember, the reason why anti-gunners use such short sound bites to attack gun owners is so that anti-gunners can understand them.