Clause 30 - Manufacture, import and sale of realistic imitation firearms

Part of Violent Crime Reduction Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:30 pm on 25th October 2005.

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Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Minister (Justice), Shadow Solicitor General 12:30 pm, 25th October 2005

My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Prisk) reminds me that earlier in the debate, the Minister advised the Committee how wonderfully the Government are doing in this area. Perhaps the hon. Lady thinks otherwise; I would be interested to hear what the Minister thinks of her figures.

Many interested parties have written to me say that they support wholeheartedly any action that will reduce violent crime, and that they will obey any law that is passed, but none of them can fathom how the proposals will reduce violent crime. How will they remove the difficulties encountered by the police? How will they stop them incorrectly shooting a young man with what they think is a real gun but turns out to be an imitation?

The purpose of amendments Nos. 266 and 267 is to refine the definition of a ''realistic imitation firearm''. By including in the definition that it must be capable of being mistaken for a firearm for which a firearm certificate or the authority of the Secretary of State would be required, we would prevent this and other clauses from capturing toys and weapons that they are not intended to capture. The amendment would make the definition more stringent, and would refine it sensibly so that it would not encompass guns that are not a threat.

The proposed formulation is consistent with existing firearms legislation, particularly section 1 of the Firearms Act 1982, which provides for an imitation firearm to be treated as a real firearm in law. The amendment would mean that an air weapon must not look like a firearm for which a certificate would be required, but that a paintball gun would not be caught by the definition unless it looked like a gun for which a firearms certificate would be required. The Minister did not give much of an explanation as to why that would not work. She said that her problem was that shotguns would not be covered. Would she be more amenable to the amendment if it were expanded to cover them?

For the reasons that I have discussed, amendment No. 266 would alter the definition of imitation firearms for the purposes of the Bill only, but the wider amendment No. 267 would alter the definition of imitation firearms in the Firearms Act 1968 and, therefore, across the raft of firearms legislation. We   think that that might be preferable, to avoid further anomalies in the firearms legislation.

Despite the fact that the Government have now dedicated an entire clause to the definition of a realistic imitation firearm, we cannot stress enough that that will not avoid the anomalies that I have described. No matter how complicated the definition is made, if a table leg can be mistaken for a firearm the effectiveness of the amendments must surely remain in doubt. How are the police expected to enforce this complex clause in practice? It seems to be asking a lot of the police force. For those reasons I shall consider pressing amendment No. 266 to a vote.