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

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, for the information he has shared with me and for his expertise in this area. The point I will come on to is that we need to learn in England from what happens in Northern Ireland and Scotland and that children in Bristol South should be afforded the same level of security as children there, and I will return to that.

Hon. Members will know that, following a series of tragic incidents involving air weapons, the Scottish Government acted to address the problem. Under the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015, it has been an offence since the start of this year to use, possess, purchase or acquire an air weapon without holding an air weapon certificate. It is a condition of that licence that weapons are securely stored in order that access and possession cannot be gained by a person who is not authorised. The licence application also requires the disclosure of criminal convictions, and the police must be satisfied that the applicant can possess an air weapon

“without danger to the public safety or to the peace” before issuing an air weapon certificate. That is over and beyond section 21 of the Firearms Act 1968, under which a person who has been convicted of an offence may be prohibited from possessing firearms, including air weapons.

In the run-up to the change in the law, 20,000 air weapons were surrendered to the authorities in Scotland and destroyed—20,000 fewer potentially lethal weapons were on the streets, and I think the House will agree that that makes Scotland safer. However, in England, just since the start of May 2017, there have been incidents involving air weapons and children in Carlisle, Bury, Chelmsford, Ipswich, Exeter and, most tragically, Loughborough, where, in August, a five-year-old boy was reportedly shot and killed with an air rifle—another tragic child death. In spring 2016, a 13-year-old boy was killed in Bury St Edmunds.