BASC: Airgun licensing
Will airguns soon be subject to licensing in England and Wales? Connor O’Gorman believes that the real solution to airgun abuse lies in educating users and enforcing existing laws
Last year, the Home Office launched a public consultation as part of its proposed review of airgun regulations in England and Wales. The consultation closes on 6 February 2018.
The Home Office was asking for feedback on whether existing controls were sufficient to prevent unauthorised access by children to airguns, and the potential for placing extra requirements on adults regarding the security of airguns when children were present. The briefing also covered storage and the safekeeping of airguns, other security measures and manufacturing standards.
On the same day that the public consultation launched, BASC and other organisations received a letter from the Home Office which contained further information on the scope of the consultation.
There was a list of 10 questions, some of which contained explanatory briefings. The question that jumped off the page was whether “air weapons in England and Wales be subject to a licensing regime”. BASC’s response was a resounding ‘no’ to any licensing of airguns in England and Wales.
In Scotland, in 2016, the shooting community fought a battle against airgun licensing. Some 87% of responses to a Scottish government consultation on airgun licensing were opposed to any form of licensing. Over 22,000 people signed a petition against airgun licencing which was presented to the Scottish Parliament Petitions Committee and debated.
Ultimately, all these arguments and lobbying efforts fell on deaf ears and the Scottish government went ahead with a licensing system. As of October 2017, 18,500 air weapon certificates have been issued by Police Scotland and 20,000 airguns handed in. With an estimated 500,000 airguns in Scotland before the licensing system took effect, that leaves a huge amount of airguns unaccounted for and trade members in Scotland have reported a collapse in airgun sales.
There are an estimated 4 million airgun owners in the UK, the vast majority of whom reside in England and Wales. An airgun licensing system in England and Wales would be immensely expensive and administratively burdensome to a police service that is already overstretched dealing with only 700,000 shotgun and firearm certificates.
We believe that the solution to airgun abuse lies in the education of youngsters and their parents and enforcement of existing laws.
In January, BASC emailed all its members in England and Wales with a briefing urging them to email the Home Office with their views. We also used social media to encourage shooters to get involved. Hopefully, many shooters will have acted on this call to action.
Will the Home Office listen to our collective voice during this review? Some people reading this will be thinking ‘no chance’, but I strongly believe that we must not allow apathy and cynicism to cloud our efforts. Certainly for BASC, there can be no room for any sort of defeatism.
We will work hard to protect shooting from the threat of airgun licensing in England and Wales.
STAY UP TO DATE For any information on shooting and conservation, the BASC website should be your first point of reference. www.basc.org.uk