Monday 20 December 2010

Home Affairs Committee report on firearms control

Well the report is out - and it might have been a lot worse. And it seems Parliament will be debating the subject of Firearms Control this afternoon! I wonder how many MPs will even have time to read the report first, never mind consider its implications or discuss them with their constituents.

Under the heading "Gun laws a mess, says Home Affairs Committee" the report "recognises that thousands of people use firearms responsibly for recreation and in their work". and says it "has no intention of restricting such activity".

The committee does say, however, that our complicated firearms laws "place an onerous burden" on the police and on members of the public who wish to abide by the law, because it is “so complex and confused”.

The committee urges the Government to "codify and simplify the law" - recommending a single licensing system to cover all firearms which require a licence "(which would also add greater safeguards)".

And it identifies age restrictions on firearms use as "a particular area of uncertainty".

BASC has welcomed many of the committee's recommendations. Their pre-released statement, embargoed for 0001h today, reads:
BASC welcomes many of Home Affairs Committee recommendations on firearms control

The UK’s largest shooting organisation, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) has welcomed many of the recommendations on the UK’s firearms laws made today by the Home Affairs Select Committee.
Bill Harriman, BASC director of firearms said: “The committee’s report contains several recommendations which we think will help to secure the dual purposes of the UK’s firearms laws: to protect public safety and to allow the continued lawful use of firearms. BASC thanks the more than 900 people and organisations from the shooting world who submitted evidence to the enquiry. The volume of responses indicates the seriousness with which the shooting community views these deliberations.”

“In particular BASC welcomes the rejection of tagging every firearms certificate holder’s medical records, the dismissal of proposals to require guns and ammunition to be kept outside the home and the rejection of a reduction in the license term from five years to two. BASC welcomes the proposal to update police guidance on the licensing system and to smooth out the peaks and troughs in the flow of grant and renewal applications. BASC also welcomes the rejection of licensing for low-powered airguns and the emphasis on enforcement of existing law to deal with any problems.”

“However, this is not the end of the road in terms of the political battle to secure effective law which serves both public safety and firearms users. The report highlights several areas for future debate. BASC does not agree with recommendations to impose minimum age limits on certificate applicants, in the knowledge that the current laws and police powers are robust and allow people to be introduced to the sport with increasing degrees of responsibility until they can shoot unsupervised.”

“BASC firmly rejects the recommendation to apply the current complicated section one firearms licensing system onto shotguns and to increase licence fees to cover costs without firm and reliable evidence of what those costs actually are. BASC will continue to work with the Government and the police on the issues raised by the report."
The Countryside Alliance are less enthusiastic. Their release, which reached me at 09.26 this morning, reads:
Home Affairs Committee misses the target

The Home Affairs Committee’s Inquiry into Firearms Control has proposed a series of recommendations which would penalise the law-abiding shooting community and do little to protect public safety. Proposals will affect hundreds of thousands of people.

Following the terrible murder and maiming carried out in Cumbria by Derrick Bird earlier in the year, the Inquiry was set up to look at the firearms licensing system. The Countryside Alliance submitted written and oral evidence to the Committee’s Inquiry.

Robert Gray, Countryside Alliance campaigns director, said: “The Home Affairs Committee report presents a missed opportunity. The vast majority of gun crime is carried out using illegally-held weapons yet only a tiny minority of the report explains how the government might address the problem. The shootings in Cumbria were the main reason for the Firearms Inquiry but the police report into the incident reveals that none of the Committee’s main proposals would have stopped Derrick Bird.

“Proposed restrictions on shotgun owners and young shooters, and the broad-brush involvement of GPs, domestic partners and increased licence fees would be hugely disproportionate. The Countryside Alliance welcomes the proposal to simplify the existing gun laws but simplification must not mean tighter restrictions. We will strongly resist any recommendations brought forward that penalise law-abiding shooters without improving public safety and preventing criminals from breaking the law.”
Elsewhere, Nigel Allen blogs that the signs are good for airgunners.

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