Tuesday 21 December 2010

MPs debate firearms control

Just hours after the Home Affairs Committee published its report on Firearms Control, the subject was debated by MPs in the House of Commons.

The debate was available live on the web and can still be viewed in the box at the foot of this post if you have the necessary add-on installed (I don't so I can't see it!). Or read the full text here (scroll down towards the foot of the page, or search for 'Column 1234').

Coming so quickly after the report's publication, the debate didn't amount to much - and many MPs were absent, due to commitments back in their constituencies and, no doubt, the difficulties of travelling.

Therese Coffey (Con, Suffolk Coastal) read a prepared speech which made many positive points about shooters and shooting, and emphasised the need to "tackle criminals, not the innocent".

Keith Vaz (Lab, Leicester East), chairman of the committee, ran through the report - admitting that his only previous experience of firearms had been using a water pistol "many years ago". Considering his reputation of being firmly anti-gun, he appeared to have learned a lot in recent weeks, and had clearly been impressed by the responsible attitude of shooters.

He highlighted the muddled state of Britain's gun laws, and suggested they should be revisited, not to make them "tougher", but "even better" - ensuring they are effective but reducing the administrative burden on police and legitimate sportsmen and women.

Chris Williamson (Lab, Derby North) made a muddled speech in which he appeared to confuse legal and illegal firearms use, referring to "gun culture" as though it was the same thing as sporting shooting.

Home Office Minister James Brokenshire (Con, Old Bexley & Sidcup) said the government would "consider" revising the law to make it less complex; in the meantime they would consider the need for revised Home Office guidance to make existing law simpler to administer.

Other issues discussed included pistol shooters training in Britain for the Olympics, and concerns over young people being granted certificates. Again, the debate was calm and rational, and acknowledged that legitimate shooters are safe and responsible.

All in all, I felt we could hardly have expected better from this debate - and it raises the possibility of rewriting our confusing and bureaucratic gun laws to make them simpler and easier to follow, freeing up the police to concentrate on the real problem of illegal guns used by gangs and organised criminals.

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