The most astonishing thing that has occurred in the past six months was Tony Blair’s claim to be a “friend of shooters”, with a firm vow that he will not ban shooting. Er, bit too late for that isn’t it Tony?
In reality, the reason for our Leader’s comments are the increasingly effective marches organised by the Countryside Alliance. The PM seems to think that a lot of misguided shooters are joining in with opposing the ban on fox hunting. Actually, Tony, your urgent need to ban handguns as soon as you took office basically put the nail in that coffin. No amount of words from you now is going to reassure shooters.
On the bright side however, it would appear that Blair is so worried that he does not want anything to pop up which could confirm the claims of the Countryside Alliance that shooting is up next for the chop after fox hunting. Noticeable is the appointment of Kate Hoey to be Minister of Sport, someone who is well-known for her tolerant views of fox hunting.
More blatant was the packing off of Chris Mullin MP (Sunderland) into a minor ministerial job after he announced as Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee a review of firearms controls. In 1996 Mr Mullin made his views quite clear that he wanted virtually everything banned, with the exception of a few tightly controlled airguns and the odd shotgun owned by someone who lived only in a “rural” area. That he would recommend a virtual ban on everything was obvious, so we now have Robin Corbett MP (Erdington) to contend with instead. Mr Corbett is known to be independent-minded and made some speeches in 1987 and 1996 in support of shooters. He is not a pro-gunner per se, but he knows silly laws when he sees them.
We await the report of the Home Affairs Commitee with interest (apparently this will be in May). You can read the evidence of the Home Office by clicking here. Note especially paragraph 388 of the oral evidence, and the subsequent comments about how the handgun ban will have little effect on crime. So why bother with it?
Antis fail to impress
The report of the Firearms Consultative Committee this year made for interesting reading, I won’t bore you with the details as it has been overshadowed by the HAC review. The main thread running through it though is the utter intellectual bankruptcy of the Gun Control Network, which doesn’t even seem to be able to network that well given their microscopic membership. In virtually every instance the GCN disagrees with the rest of the committee, thus leaving them wandering out into the void of isolation.
Jersey is where the “action” is at the moment. For those of you from foreign climes or the truly ignorant Brit, Jersey is a little island off the coast of France which is sort of part of Britain, but it’s not, because it has it’s own legislature. Jersey is well-known as a tax haven and also a tourist destination.
I was fortunate enough to be involved in the formulation of their new law, and was able to direct them away from some serious gaffs. Unfortunately their Home Affairs Committee insisted on persevering with some of the worst provisions of the Bill, and it looked headed for defeat in the States (their legislature) until at the last moment they pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat, in the form of an Attorney General’s opinion that the current law has no provision for visitors who wish to shoot shotguns on the island. So the Bill passed. Time will tell whether I was right or not about the bad parts of it.
In fairness, the States got rid of some of the bad parts, like a total ban on expanding ammunition. The FCC has recommended the repeal of our ban, which has exemptions. The Jersey Bill would have banned it entirely, but fortunately it was amended out of the Bill.
However, the worst provision, the introduction of firearm certificates for shotgun possession, remains in it. The problem is that the Police have completely underestimated this task. The Bill provides for only a one year transitional period, and there are estimated to be on the order of 10-20,000 unlicensed shotguns on the island. Assuming the average owner owns two, that is 5-10,000 applications to process in one year, in addition to all the additional new requirements involved in the renewal or variation of currently issued certificates for handguns and rifles (based on our own 1997 Act). By my reckoning, the police will need another three to five staff, but the Bill begins by saying: “The Chief Officer of the Jersey Police has assured the Committee that there will be no manpower or financial implications…”
The main bright spot is that the new law (which will probably be called the Firearms (Jersey) Law 2000) does not ban handguns, and centrefire semi-automatic rifles also remain legal on the Island.