For several months now shooters have been holding their breath awaiting the report of the Home Affairs Committee.
The Committee, at the behest of former Chairman Chris Mullin, announced a review of firearms control in England and Wales last summer. This apparently sent alarm bells ringing at Queen Anne’s Gate, as Chris Mullin had written a Labour response in 1996 to the last review, making various bizarre demands, among them a ban on the possession of firearms in urban areas. As the Labour Govt. had just announced that they would never ban shooting (don’t laugh), it was likely a report by Mullin would be seriously embarrassing.
Chris Mullin found himself promptly fired, er, I mean, “promoted” to a Government job upon the announcement, and Robin Corbett MP found himself Chairman of the committee.
You can read the report by clicking here.
It’s not all bad, but there are some serious clangers in it. The one that made me laugh the hardest is in paragraph 35 of the report, Zimring’s comparison of homicide rates in London vs. New York City. The committee appears blissfully unaware that in the period Zimring looked at there were actually more legally possessed handguns in London than New York!
The committee makes some 44 recommendations, the overwhelming majority of which are perfectly sensible and non-controversial. However, there is plenty for shooters to be worried by:
The committee recommends that all airguns capable of causing lethal injury be licensed, which to put it mildly is a disaster in the making. This is a fundamentally flawed recommendation for too many reasons for me to go into detail here. The committee makes no attempt to do a cost/benefit analysis, and it is hard to see how the nine figure sum needed to license the several million airguns in circulation (assuming people complied) can be justified given the scale of airgun misuse (about 125 serious woundings and one death a year on average).
It is also hard to follow their logic on airguns. Clearly most of the pressure for airgun licensing is coming from the police, but the police are worried more by airsoft guns and replicas it appears from the evidence they gave. As non-lethal items, they would remain unlicensed and thus the committee’s proposal would achieve nothing in that regard.
There are two other worrying proposals. The first is that there should be an absolute minimum age at which a person can use a firearm, even under supervision. This would mean for example that it would be illegal for a parent to teach their child how to use an airgun in the back garden. That is clearly unwarranted and addresses no specific public safety issue.
The committee strongly rejects Mullin’s nutty idea of banning guns from urban areas, but they do make considerable recommendations for tightening shotgun licensing that should be of concern to any shotgun owner. Some of the recommendations are acceptable, such as requiring the same standard of “fitness” as for a firearm certificate and requiring referees instead of the countersignatory requirement. However, there are also some bad proposals, such as in paragraph 93 – requiring an applicant to state how many shotguns he wants to own, and having to vary the certificate if he wants more. My own view is that this issue is already covered by the requirement to keep guns securely. Surely if the guns are kept securely it doesn’t matter how many the certificate holder owns, as a certificate holder can cause as much mischief with one shotgun as with a hundred.
Shooters will need to watch developments as a result of this report closely, and you should be making representations to your MP.
New guidance on secure storage has been published, and it is comprehensive to put it mildly. You can read it by clicking here.