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

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

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.

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