Air Rifles

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:11 pm on 9th October 2017.

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Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd The Minister of State, Home Department 10:11 pm, 9th October 2017

I thank my right hon. Friend for her intervention. I have a huge amount of sympathy for that instinct, and I encourage her to write in along those lines, as she suggests.

The Home Office provides guidance on the practical steps that owners can take to secure air weapons and on how to handle them. We will shortly—genuinely shortly—be publishing a revised edition of the guidance, which will be available online and to new purchasers as a leaflet to help reinforce the important safety messages. We will also promote the messages in magazines that are aimed at air weapon users. It is an offence for a person to fail to take reasonable steps to prevent unauthorised access to their airguns by those under the age of 18. That measure was introduced to help prevent more tragic accidents, following a number of deaths involving young people under the age of 18 playing with air weapons.

When I look at what is in place to avoid the misuse of air weapons, I see a robust set of regulations. It is an offence for any person

“to use an air weapon for firing a pellet beyond the boundaries of the premises. It is an offence for a supervising adult to allow a person under the age of 18 to use an air weapon for firing a pellet beyond the boundaries of premises. It is an offence…
to have an air weapon in a public place without a reasonable excuse…
It is an offence to trespass with an air weapon…
It is an offence to have an air weapon if you are prohibited from possessing a firearm…
It is an offence to fire an air weapon without lawful authority or excuse within 50 feet…
of the centre of a public road in such a way as to cause a road user to be injured, interrupted or endangered. It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly kill certain wild animals and birds…
It is an offence to knowingly cause a pet animal to suffer unnecessarily, which could be committed by shooting at a pet animal. It is an offence to have an air weapon with intent to damage or to destroy property. It is also an offence to have air weapons and be reckless as to whether property would be damaged or destroyed. It is an offence to have an air weapon with intent to endanger life.”

Looking at the statistics, it is clear that most offences involving air weapons—around two-thirds—relate to criminal damage. As for death or serious injury relating to air weapon offences, there were around 30 serious injuries relating to air weapons or their misuse in 2015-16. Although the number of air weapon offences has decreased significantly, reducing by 77% between 2003 and 2016, there was a rise last year, so it is clear that we cannot be complacent, which is why I have instructed the review that I have mentioned this evening. I hope that it has the support of the hon. Member for Bristol South.