LAW COMMISSION REPORT - FIREARMS LAW: REFORMS TO ADDRESS PRESSING
Release - 15 December 2015
This deeply disappointing report completely fails to address the
pressing problems that public safety demands. It has been hijacked
by the shooting lobby and become enmeshed in technicalities which
are of no interest or relevance to the general public.
Around 55% of all gun crime is committed with weapons that are
perfectly legally held, either because they are licensed or
because they don’t need a licence. This is the ‘Pressing
Problem’ that should have been the focus of the Commission’s
The Gun Control Network outlined some of these public safety
concerns e.g. the failure of the system to license thousands of
lethal weapons, the lack of an independent element in the
licensing process, the failure of the police to integrate their
domestic violence and firearms data, and the failure of the
judiciary to record a declaration of interest when dealing with
firearms licence appeals and revocations.
GCN also recommended interviewing the victims and survivors of gun
violence but this was never done due to an ‘oversight’.
Instead, the Commission has listened to the Gun Trade Association,
the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, the UK
Airsoft Retailers Association, the UK Airsoft Players Association,
the Deactivated Weapons Association, the Countryside Alliance, the
Historical Breechloading Small Arms Association, and,
astonishingly, Her Majesty’s Council of Circuit Judges. This
latter body was represented by a Judge who is himself a shooter.
The one significant recommendation is that a ‘lethal gun’ should
be defined as one with a muzzle energy of one joule or more. This
would have been helpful if the intention was to license all such
weapons but there is no such intention. Shooters are re-assured
that weapons such as Airsoft guns and airguns will not be licensed
even where they have a kinetic energy of over one joule. [Airsoft
guns are realistic imitation military weapons which are
unregulated, available through the Internet, and proliferating.
They are used in violent and racist skirmishing scenarios of a
particularly concerning nature and the Home Office has no idea how
many Airsoft sites there are around the country.]
Gill Marshall-Andrews, Chair of the Gun Control Network, says:
"This report demonstrates how effective the shooting lobby has
been over the years and how they have succeeded in resisting
reforms to the gun laws in this country, much as the NRA has done
in America. They have employed their usual modus operandi and
overwhelmed the Law Commission with technicalities which are
likely to make little difference to public safety. A great deal of
money has been spent in order to make the lives of shooters easier
and every effort has been made to re-assure them that nothing will
be done to constrain their access to weapons.
Not a single mention of the concerns expressed by the Gun Control
Network appears in the report and not a single victim or survivor
of gun violence was interviewed.
The report is a lost opportunity to make us all safer and as such
has been a waste of public money."
HER MAJESTY'S INSPECTORATE OF CONSTABULARY REPORT ON FIREARMS
Release - 15 September 2015
HMIC have today released the report of their inspection into how
guns are licensed in this country, and it contains no surprises.
We have known for years that:
Legally held guns are responsible for almost all the multiple
shooting murders committed in this country over the last 30 years
– Hungerford, Dunblane, Cumbria, and Horden being the most
Most women killed by a gun are killed by a firearms licence holder
using a legal weapon.
The gun licensing system in this country is not fit for purpose -
it puts the interests of the shooter before public safety, it is
inconsistently applied, and even where there is official guidance
this is often ignored.
Now at last these deficiencies have been recognised and clear
recommendations have been made.
Gill Marshall-Andrews, Chair of the Gun Control Network says:
“We welcome this report which Stephen Otter has conducted with
care and integrity. He has recognised that firearms licensing is
not primarily a service for gun owners but a service to the
general public – intended to keep them safe and ensure that only
suitable people can own guns. He has ensured that the views of
victims and their families have been heard and has made
recommendations about how the licensing process should change.
The question is – will the government implement these changes?
There have been recommendations in the past which have been
ignored. This government repeatedly refuses to implement measures
which might constrain the shooting community, but which would
undoubtedly improve the licensing system and save lives.
The government says it wants to keep Britain safe. This report
outlines how it can be done.”
ENFORCER OR PUBLIC
SERVANT: WHAT SORT OF POLICE FORCE DO WE WANT?
Release - 20 May 2015
A society is defined by its police force. In America
the police are armed, guns are ‘normal’, and levels of gun
violence are high. In the UK the police are not armed, guns
are not ‘normal’ and levels of gun violence are low (and
have fallen by almost 50% over the past decade). We must
decide what sort of police force we want and not drift,
unthinking, into a fully armed force. It is especially
perverse that key changes in the deployment of armed police
officers are being proposed – not as a result of rising
crime but as a direct result of threatened cuts.
Every decade or so there are proposals to fully arm the
police. It is argued that times have changed and more
criminals and terrorists carry guns so the police should do
so too. Now it is being argued that we cannot afford to have
highly trained firearms officers waiting around for a gun
incident to happen.
But the reality is that we should be thankful that our
firearms officers don’t have much to do. It is perverse to
respond to that benign situation by arming more of them and
thereby bringing more guns into our streets and communities.
Not only that. It will not save money. Any extension of
armed policing will cost millions to train a larger cohort
of officers to the standard of the elite, who must
re-qualify for their firearms authorisation twice a year.
The standard of competence amongst this vital group of
specialists is bound to go down as the financial and social
costs escalate and criminals upgrade their weaponry to keep
up with the police.
There is extensive evidence from America that police
carrying guns are more vulnerable to being ambushed, more
likely to be killed and injured themselves, and more likely
to kill and injure the public. Nothing erodes public trust
and confidence in the police quicker than a police fatal
shooting, as both Britain and America have recently found to
their cost. Further arming of the police in this country is
highly likely to result in more of these, and more damaging
incidents such as that in Nottingham in October 2014 when a
police automatic weapon was discharged with live ammunition
at a public event, injuring a 7-year-old girl.
Police with guns make mistakes now. They will make more
mistakes if their numbers increase, the standard of training
falls, or they are performing routine duties on the streets.
Gill Marshall-Andrews, Chair of the Gun Control Network,
“The best sort of policing is community based and
intelligence led. In the UK the public generally trust the
police and are willing to provide information and
intelligence. The police are respected and not feared, and
they are not armed. If officers start attending routine
incidents, or worse still patrolling the streets, with guns
the public will feel they are in danger when they are not.
Our police force becomes more of a paramilitary organisation
which in turn attracts a different kind of recruit.
So do we want our police to be enforcers as they are in America,
or public servants as they are here? Will we continue with our
decent unarmed police force? We will, emphatically, be safer if we
do and we should fight for it.”
ROUTINELY ARMING THE POLICE WITH TASERS IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE
Release - 13 February 2015
The Police Federation have recently called for the arming of
all police officers with a Taser. This is said to be
necessary in order to protect them from potential murder
attempts by terrorists.
They say they will be safer if they all carry a Taser.
However, it is not clear that this would be so; indeed there
is some evidence that police who carry firearms might be in
greater danger than those who do not. In the US, for
example, police are frequently ambushed for their weapons.
The duty of the police should be, above anything else
including their own safety, to protect the public, yet a
consequence of the routine arming of the police would be to
increase the likelihood of members of the public being shot
Can all police officers be trusted to handle a lethal weapon
appropriately? Even trained firearms officers misuse their
weapons, as highlighted by an incident in Nottingham in
October 2014 when a police machine gun was discharged with
live ammunition at a public event, injuring a 7-year-old
girl. Three police officers have been served with gross
A Taser is a firearm, a prohibited weapon under the Firearms
Act 1968, and can be lethal. There have already been
fatalities following incidents in which someone was tasered
by police officers (see below), and there is little doubt
that the routine carrying of Tasers would mean more
incidents of this sort.
So is this really what the Police Federation want?
A change in the relationship between police and the
More suspects and innocent people killed or injured by
A sharp increase in the police use of Tasers. Tasers were
already being used on more than 10,000 occasions in 2013 –
a rise of 27% on 2012.
A new market created for Tasers as criminals upgrade their
weaponry to keep pace with the police the consequence of
which could be more police killed or injured in the line
Gill Marshall-Andrews, Chair of the Gun Control Network,
“The basis of good modern policing is intelligence and
trust. It is clear that the routine arming of police with
guns and Tasers will lead to a deterioration of both these
things. The public will no longer feel the police are on
their side if there is now the possibility, however remote,
of being shot by any police officer. They won’t trust them
because they find guns intimidating.
Arming the police is a one way street. It will never be
reversed. In this country we have a unique and valued
relationship with our police and we must protect that. Of
course some officers need firearms training and there are
some situations in which they will need to be armed with
guns and Tasers but this must always be the last resort. The
Police Federation are not serving their members well by
arguing for them all to be armed routinely. They are in fact
putting them, and us, in danger”.
Since GCN began collecting data about Taser incidents in
2009, we have recorded 456 serious incidents reported in the
media. The following is a selection of recent incidents.
24 December 2014
A man died after police shot him with a 50,000-volt Taser
gun during an alleged burglary at a flat in
Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. Officers responding to
reports of a break-in shot the victim and placed him in a
police car, but he shortly lost consciousness and could not
be revived despite treatment by emergency workers.
10 November 2014
A 34-year-old man with mental health problems died after
being tasered by police in Gwent.
29 January 2014
An extensive search is underway after a Police Taser Gun was
lost in Great Windsor Park. A Police Officer has been
26 April 2013
A man died from severe burns after he was a shot with a
Taser gun by a police officer while covered in flammable
liquid at an address in Plymouth, Devon. Officers were
called to the house after the 32-year-old was seen holding a
can of flammable liquid in the garden of the property. A
Taser was deployed and he suffered serious burns, and
although he was taken to hospital he died five days later
from his injuries. The Independent Police Complaints
Commission has begun an investigation into the incident.
12 July 2013
A 23-year man died after being tasered by police at his home
in Gorton, Manchester. The man’s mother dialled 999 because
her son was involved in a row with a neighbour.
UKIP WOULD LEGALISE HANDGUNS
Release - 15 November 2014
In January 2014 Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader, said that it was party
policy for handguns to be legalised in the UK despite being banned for
the last 18 years. He said that the current ban on handguns, which were
made illegal following the school shooting at Dunblane in 1996, was
In March 1996 16 small children and their teacher were gunned down in
their school by Thomas Hamilton, a legal handgun owner. When GCN began
to campaign for a ban on these lethal weapons we were told by shooting
organisations that this couldn’t be done because pistol shooting was the
fastest growing sport in the country. The UK was clearly following the
USA and heading for a dangerous gun culture.
Now, the handgun crime rate in this country is low (having fallen by 50%
over the last decade) and the rate of gun homicide is 60 times greater
in the US than in the UK.
Gill Marshall-Andrews, Chair of the Gun Control Network, says:
“The handgun ban was not a knee-jerk reaction to the Dunblane tragedy,
it was a brave and hugely significant measure to make this country
safer. And it has succeeded. We have one of the lowest rates of gun
crime in the world. All decent thoughtful people should be proud of that
and those thinking of voting for UKIP might want to consider what they
are promising and what sort of society they really want.”
N.B. data from gunpolicy.org
Gun Homicide in 2011
US 11,101 Rate per 100,000 population
Rate per 100,000 population 0.06
This means that the US has 60 times the rate of gun homicides as
WHEN WILL THE GOVERNMENT GET A GRIP ON GUN LICENSING?
Release - 30 October 2014
Gill Marshall-Andrews, Chair of GCN says:
"Almost all women and children killed by a gun in this country are
murdered with a licensed weapon.
These tragedies are preventable. The current licensing system is not fit
for purpose and terrible multiple murders will still be committed in
this country by people with licensed guns if we don’t sort this out.
The most notorious of these firearms licence holders are Michael Ryan
(Hungerford, 1987), Thomas Hamilton (Dunblane, 1996), Derrick Bird
(Cumbria, 2010), Michael Atherton (Horden, 2012) and now John Lowe
Concerns had been expressed to the police about all of these people but
still they still hung onto their guns. Those tragic murders could all
have been prevented if the licensing regime had been more robust.
A good licensing programme needs three things: money,
independence and intelligence.
Currently none of these elements are in place. The gun licence fee is
absurdly low, there is no independent element in the licensing process
and the police do not seek or adequately respond to information from
members of the public.
All of this can be remedied with proper funding and a change of culture.
First, non-shooters should be involved in the licensing process
as well so firearms officers do not become too close to gun owners.
Second, the license fee currently costs £10 a year for as many shotguns
as you want. This does not pay for an effective licensing system.
Shooters will pay thousands of pounds for a day’s shooting and champagne
yet the taxpayer is subsidising them by about £100m over 5 years. The
license fee should cover the whole cost of running more robust checks
and gaining better intelligence about gun owners. A reasonable estimate
of this is around £200 per licence.
Third, anyone with a history of domestic violence, drug or alcohol
abuse or mental illness should not have access to guns. Families
should be asked if they have concerns about guns in the house. Domestic
partners, neighbours and health professionals should be consulted.
Concerns raised by the public should be acted on and the police should
be more prepared to revoke and refuse licences.
The proposed new Crimestoppers’ gun hotline may provide a channel
for information about gun owners’ behaviour if people know about it. If
it is to be successful the police will have to respond to the
intelligence adequately and the phone line will have to be properly
marketed to the general public."