I congratulate Karin Smyth not just on securing the debate but on her persistence in pursuing an issue of great importance and on how she has framed tonight’s debate on safer use of airguns. I know that she has been concerned about the issue for some time following the appalling injury suffered by Harry Studley in her constituency. He was just 18 months old when he was shot with an air rifle in July of last year, and I join the hon. Lady in applauding the resilience of his family and the actions of the emergency services in saving his life.
As will become clear in my speech, the Government are not remotely complacent on this issue, but it is important to make the point early on that we have strong firearms controls in this country. They are there for a purpose—to minimise the risk of harm to the public —and, within the general consensus about the importance of these controls, the regulation of air weapons has long been a matter of debate, with lawful users arguing that they should be allowed to enjoy their property without unnecessary restrictions, and others arguing for tougher regulation to improve public safety.
As the hon. Lady rightly pointed out, the recent decision by the Scottish Government to introduce a licensing regime for lower-powered air weapons has quite rightly led to a renewed focus on the regulatory position in England and Wales. She will know as well as I do that a balance has to be struck, particularly regarding weapons that present a lower risk and weapons that are used in well-regulated environments such as shooting clubs.
I have listened carefully to the hon. Lady’s remarks this evening, and I have also given careful consideration to the report presented by the coroner in relation to the tragic death of Benjamin Wragge, who was 13 when he was accidentally shot with an air weapon in 2016. I have recently written to the coroner and confirmed my intention to review the regulation of air weapons in England and Wales. I think that this is an appropriate time to take stock of the regulatory position and assess whether the current controls, which are already strong, continue to be appropriate and effective.