The Countryside Alliance has warned the Government not to miss an opportunity to do something positive for the shooting community. Amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill which would make some important technical changes to existing firearms legislation were debated yesterday (Tuesday 26 April) in the House of Commons.
The amendments, tabled by Conservative MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, would clarify the law, address health and safety concerns and assist both the police and lawful shooters in this country. The changes, which have been agreed by the British Shooting Sports Council and the police, would:
- Move expanding ammunition back to Section 1 of Firearms Act 1968 and enable a firearm certificate to continue to be valid whilst a renewal is pending.
- Improve health and safety at gun clubs and ranges.
- Clarify the law with regard to who may lend firearms.
Responding for the Government, the Minister Karen Bradley MP, said the priority of this Bill was closing loopholes to prevent “exploitation by criminals” and did not want to include these amendments. However, the Minister did assure Mr Clifton-Brown that the amendments would not be kicked into the long grass and said “we will study [these] new clauses further” and they may be taken forward as part of the codification process.
Responding for Labour, Jack Dromey MP said “Those new clauses are in line with recommendations published by the Countryside Alliance in March 2016, but we are not in favour of them. We believe that tough laws on gun control are necessary, and that they work.” But research recently undertaken by the Countryside Alliance has proven that that Mr Dromey’s claims are not the case.[i]
Mr Clifton-Brown also tabled an amendment to Section 81 of the Bill which would have made it a statutory duty to consult other relevant stakeholders, such as shooting organisations, when drawing up, or reviewing, statutory guidance to the police. This was something that had caused great concern to the shooting community as at present the Bill only contains an obligation to consult the police on any new guidance.
The Minster did not want to introduce a statutory duty to do this but did say “we will consult widely on the first edition of the new statutory guidance, and that consultation will consider the views of shooting organisations as well as the police.” The Countryside Alliance will work to keep the Government to their word on this.
Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said: “The Government’s suggestion that we should wait for the Law Commission to codify all firearms law is simply not acceptable. While codification is desirable it will take many years and is unlikely to be achieved in this Parliament. The Policing and Crime Bill presents an opportunity for the Government to deliver some important changes now to the benefit of the police and shooting community and there is no good reason for the Government not to act.”
“The Countryside Alliance will continue to work closely with the British Shooting Sports Council and all other shooting organisations to ensure that these small but necessary changes are achieved. The Government has a real opportunity to do something positive for our community and should do so.”
Notes to Editors:
This debate was Day 1 of the Report Stage of the Policing and Crime Bill.
New Clauses are available here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2015-2016/0158/amend/policing_rm_rep_0420.1-7.html#top [relevant New Clauses are NC7, NC8, NC9 & Amdt 1]
The Hansard transcript of the debate is available here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-04-26/debates/16042639000001/PolicingAndCrimeBill
[i] A Freedom of Information request submitted to all police forces in England and Wales revealed nationwide confusion and huge regional disparities in the quality of service licensing departments were able to provide. Police forces were shown to be using six different definitions of ‘occupier’ and to be issuing wildly varying numbers of Section 7 Temporary Permits to cover for their inability to process renewals in a timely fashion. While some two forces managed to issue none at all in 2015, Hampshire, Lincolnshire, Thames Valley, Kent and Essex were all shown to be issuing thousands of Temporary Permits.