Air Rifles

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:00 pm on 9th October 2017.

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Photo of Karin Smyth Karin Smyth Labour, Bristol South 10:00 pm, 9th October 2017

Mr Speaker, thank you for allowing this debate on the use and control of air rifles. This is a subject that the House has debated in the past, but which continues to have serious consequences for many of those we represent. Too many lives have been unnecessarily lost and too many serious injuries have been inflicted upon innocent civilians. Sadly, a large proportion of these victims are children and young people. We cannot ignore the issue and we need to do something about it.

Let me explain my interest in the issue. On 1 July 2016, my young constituent, Harry Studley—then just 18 months old—was shot in the head and critically injured with an air rifle. Thanks to the efforts of the local emergency services, including the swift intervention of the Great Western air ambulance and the clinical staff at Bristol Children’s Hospital, little Harry pulled through despite his injuries. Harry’s parents, Ed and Amy, have explained to me that he has been left partially sighted, suffers memory loss and has post-traumatic seizures as a result of the incident. A local man was convicted of causing Harry grievous bodily harm and jailed for two years.

Many people living in Bristol and the west country will recall hearing about this devastating incident in the local media. Parents listening to the heart-breaking details of the case would understandably have asked, “Could this happen to my family? Could the incident have been prevented? What can be done to make these weapons safer? Should these weapons be banned?”. Those are all valid questions and there are more. In young Harry’s case, it was suggested that the weapon was being cleaned. Would legislation making trigger locks compulsory on these weapons have prevented this dreadful and life-changing incident? We will never know in this specific case, but we have a solemn duty as elected representatives to scrutinise, to keep asking questions on behalf of those we serve and to bring greater safety.

As Harry continues to recover, I pay tribute to his family. They have shown great resilience in the face of adversity. Crucially, they have been tenacious and determined that we should all learn from the incident that transformed their futures. As part of this work, they have closely monitored further incidents with air weapons. They were encouraged by the debate held in Westminster Hall in September 2016 by my right hon. Friend David Hanson, whose long-standing interest in the issue dates from 1999 when a constituent of his, aged just 13, was killed. The 2016 debate called for the introduction of trigger locks, the safe storage of air weapons and a review of the impact of recent Scottish legislation, which I will come to later.

In a written response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn, the then Home Office Minister responsible, indicated that the Government would

“review the current air gun leaflet” and

“keep a close eye on the introduction of air weapons licensing in Scotland”,

an issue to which I now turn.