Second Reading

Part of Crime and Security Bill – in the House of Lords at 7:06 pm on 29th March 2010.

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Photo of The Earl of Shrewsbury The Earl of Shrewsbury Conservative 7:06 pm, 29th March 2010

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to speak briefly on this important Bill and in doing so I declare an interest as honorary president of both the Gun Trade Association and the British Shooting Sports Council. I am also a member of the Countryside Alliance. You will be delighted to hear that I intend to restrict my comments to matters in this Bill that I know about-those concerning air weapons.

I and the organisations with which I am connected have always supported the aim of Her Majesty's Government to address the misuse of firearms, including air weapons. However, I am very much of the opinion that legislation should target criminal and malicious misuse, rather than those members of society who are both law-abiding and responsible. The users of legally held guns for sporting, target or vermin-control purposes are widely considered to be among the most law-abiding and responsible members of the community.

The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 made it an offence to have an airgun in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse. The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 made obligatory the sale of airguns, by way of trade or business, through a registered firearms dealer, and raised the age for the purchase and acquisition of such an airgun to 18 years of age. Both Acts have had an influence on the reduction in offences involving airguns.

It is a well known fact that the very considerable majority of airgun users are responsible adults who already take reasonable precautions to prevent any person under the age of 18 having the weapon with them. This Bill will reinforce the legislation already in place and should, if properly administered, not hamper the legitimate user of an airgun.

So, while giving the Bill a cautious welcome, I have only one criticism. Should the Government not have waited a while longer to assess further the beneficial effects of the two previous Acts before proceeding with the air weapon part of this Bill? It seems to me that it should be rather unnecessary and produce yet more red tape for the gun industry to bear.