PPC Discussion on Airgun Licensing; Debrief

David Ewing, both a founding member of Firearms UK and the founder of the “No to Airgun Licensing in Scotland” campaign was in the Scottish Parliament on the 3rd of September 2013 to provide an opening address and answers questions on behalf of the twenty one thousand who signed his petition against the Scottish Government’s proposal to introduce a licensing scheme and further restrict low powered airguns in Scotland. The following statement has been prepared by David.

Initially I was incredibly nervous when I sat down at the table. I am not used to giving presentations especially in a venue such as the Scottish Parliament. As the proceedings were running late I had to cut down the length of my opening statement from ten minutes to around five. Unfortunately this threw me a lot and left me having to think on my feet trying to draw together parts of what I had prepared. Gratefully the Committee Chair appeared very understanding which helped put me at ease.

My opening statement basically reiterated that this proposal would be a costly burden on the Police, Taxpayer and on the individual airgun user. I also stated that the proposal was disproportionate when compared to the amount of airgun offenses and so unjustified. The committee quickly moved onto questions and discussions pertaining to the evidence I had provided and the statements I made.

I had provided the committee with examples of the variety of airgun purchase prices which prompted a question as to why people who wanted to own airguns would be against licensing, particularly when airguns can cost £1000 or more. My response was that whilst people with expensive airguns may be OK with paying for a license [the license being a small fraction of the airgun cost] for example serious competitive shooters and possibly professional pest controllers [who could offset the cost]. License fees could have a huge impact on people entering the sport and those with cheaper airguns.

A discussion regarding terminology was had. Mr Tam Parker (The Scottish Association for Country Sports, SACS) correctly stated that referring to airguns as “air weapons” was incorrect unless the airgun was being used to harm or threaten someone. An airgun used for target practise should not be referred to as a “weapon”.

Key amongst the questions was what I thought the cost of implementing a license system would be and how I had obtained the figures. I stated that at the highest end of the scale it could potentially be around £100,000,000 in processing applications using figures obtained from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). Figures which the ACPO had provided regarding the cost of processing applications for Shotgun Certificates and assuming that there would be 500,000 applications. Clearly there is unlikely to be this number of applications so to balance this I offered the more conservative estimate that even if the amount of licence applications was reduced to the more reasonable number of 125,000 it would still cost around £25,000,000 to process, again using the ACPO figures.

There was, in my opinion, a rather cheap shot fired at me by Mr Chic Brodie MSP, who after asking if I had ever been shot with an airgun, to which I responded I had not, informed me that he had been shot with an one. Mr Parker pointed out that Mr Brodie being shot by someone using an airgun is already an illegal offence. It was pointed out by a member of the committee that an airgun licensing scheme would not necessarily prevent that type of crime from occurring.

Mr Brodie then proceeded to make a comment regarding a child killed by someone using an airgun. Mr Brodie’s comment regarding the child’s death offended me greatly, as in my opinion, it was an attempt to exploit a tragedy to try get people’s emotions fired up. I responded to his comment stating that whilst every gun owner would agree that it is a tragedy, there was a similar incident where a child was beaten to death with a golf club yet there is not the same outcry against golf. The death of a child is the death of a child and you cannot blame an inanimate object for the will of the person holding or using it. (Out of interest, I later found out that Mr Brodie is part of the Cross-Party Group in the Scottish Parliament on Golf)

Dr Colin Shedden (The British Association for Shooting & Conservation, BASC) mentioned that an unintended consequence of airgun licensing may be that people may not go for an airgun license, they may go straight to SGC/FAC instead.

A member of the committee highlighted that tickets for shooting sports at the Commonwealth games are among the fastest selling.

I feel that the prior to the meeting the committee did not have an understanding of the potential scale of the issue, i.e. the number of airguns in circulation (Dr Shedden confirmed that the 500,000 was a minimum figure), the potential costs of a licensing scheme and the potential impact on airgun sports.

There was a recommendation by Mr Brodie that the petition should be closed, however after a counter recommendation by Mr Carlaw of the Conservative party it was decided that it would be best to leave the petition open while the Justice Secretary responded to some of the issues presented.”

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17 responses to “PPC Discussion on Airgun Licensing; Debrief

  1. Licensing of ANYTHING only affect the law abiding. The Law Abiding don’t usually shoot people and therefore licensing will not affect the crime figures.
    Licenses are only a ticketed form of a Law. We have thousands, if not tens of thousands of them, but still there are crimes that are by definition illegal. Licensing is mainly a form of regulation by cost and I believe the naive think that if it costs then people who are likely to abuse the activity, what ever it may be, will not apply, if they don’t apply they won’t do it.. WRONG !!!! The abusers certainly won’t apply, but will then certainly do it anyway…..so yet again only the Law Abiding are affected and no improvement of crime figures will be seen……vast expense in setting it up, vast expense the the licensees and absolutely no benefit to the country at all….sounds like a perfect scenario for the government of this country……

  2. Thanks a lot. It is the same in Germany or Austria.
    Politicians usually don’t know the costs and their impact on law-abiding people. They also forget to look on similiar murder tools which they often use (golf clubs, knives, bats ).

    As long as the UN, Small Arms Survey, the EU and our politicians think, that less guns means less crime, we are loosing. We need proofs that there is no correlation between legal gun ownership and gun crime.

    Some evident proofs are published. It is our turn to show them. For this we need an international archive. The NRA-ILA started one this year, I started a German one 2 years ago.

    Small Arms Survey started an anti-gun-archive in 1997. Where is the one of WFSA? I cannot find it.

  3. Well done mate . At least one person (you) at the event had some foresight and sense.
    Keep up the good work.

    Dave . BASC 500066881.

  4. One questions: how many politicians have been in the audience? 6-10 or more?

    In Germany, every time they discuss gun law, only 10-20 politicians are in the audience. Often they don’t debate but write their speeches and give them to the protocoll. And all the time the German politicians voted for restrictions, it was near midnight, shortly before the summer holliday, the changes of the gun law was one of 20-30 changes who needed voting on that special day/night and most politicians were on the summer party of the chancellor.

    This is how in Germany restrictions in gun laws are voted for.

    • Hi Katja,

      There were 7 politicians at the meeting. 1 Conservative, 2 Labour and 4 SNP. others you see are Clerks and such.

      Doesn’t sound like they give it much thought in Germany. Hopefully we can change that.

  5. Thanks for the support everyone.

    It is clear that politicians act on their own whims and push agendas for their own or financial benefit, that’s why so many of them see fit to ban or further restrict things they clearly know so little about.

    It is also utterly disgraceful how all over the world, such acts of legislation are deceptively rammed through in the dead of night to try and hide publication or to get bills voted on so quickly no opposition can be mobilized, if politicians really do work for the people why do they take such lengths to make it harder for people to influence their work?

    • It none of Germanys business keep out of Britain.

      • True this may not directly affect Germany, however it is good to share experiences and learn from other country’s implementation of firearms legislation. Not only does the UK shooting community need to work together to counter attacks on our sports, we also need to work with organisations from other countries to counter EU and UN legislation that may affect us, e.g. EU Firearms Directive and UN Small Arms Treaty.

      • Firearms ownership is at risk all over the world, opponents to firearms ownership search out examples in other countries to further their own agenda and as Sean has pointed out we ourselves face threats to our rights born outside of the UK, including the recent EU consultation and the UN Small Arms Treaty.

        We at Firearms UK support organizations fighting the same fight all over the world and will continue to do, and we appreciate anyone who will support our cause and defend firearms ownership whether they live in the UK or not.

      • This is a silly post. I lived 7 months in London as a German in a Jew family as au-pair 30 years ago. I even had a Jew boyfriend who losts his grandparents in the holocaust. They did not treat me like you do.

        By now I work with some Poles. You heard right: Poles! Germany had overrun Poland in the last 500 years at least 5 times and deleted it together with the Russians at least 4 times. But we are not Germans, Poles, Scots or Englishmen – we are European People, we get overrun by the elites – in the UN, in the EU and in our national parliaments.

        So you may look over your own borderline – even when you live on an island. We do on the continental part of Europe.
        So I recommend to visit and share this page:
        http://www.firearms-united.eu/

        And you may look here, too. I also work together with the journalists of all4shooters. It doesn’t matter at all if they have Italian, German or other national background.
        http://www.all4shooters.com/en/news/law/2013/European-Commissionfirearms-internal-security-eu-protecting-citizens-disrupting-illegal-trafficking/

  6. Brian Usher is quite correct in the assertion that licensing is essentially a back door tax. It does not really matter that there is no correalation in Government between the revenue gained and the true cost of such licensing. revenues go to Treasury, licensing is paid for within Police budgets and there is no co-ordination between the two.

    Whilst Treasury may be concerned with cutting costs the Police priority is exactly the opposite, any Chief Constable’s priority must be to maintain staffing levels and budgets otherwise they are seen to be either undermining policing in the eyes of media and public or they are criticised by their own Federations for not supporting Policing, so in some fairness to them they are in an unenvious position. Please do not read this as sympathetic, it is merely trying to be realistic.

    I believe the time has come when all involved, Government, Police, Shooting Organisations, and everyone else with an interest should press for a fundamental rethink on the need and application of licensing in the first place. What does it achieve other than a list of who has what at any one time and restrict the personal freedoms of law abiding people, as Brian has already said it does not effect the criminal elements, they have made their choices to be outside the law so it no longer applies to them, they are ignoring it and Policing, whilst no longer just reactive, is always playing catch up.

    There are those who advocate a free for all with no restriction on ownership and use at all. Personally I believe there are those within society that whilst not being denied a fundamental right to own and use should not be at least unsupervised, why because there are some medical and personality disorders that do render a person unsuitable, and I inlude myself in that category were I ever to become incapacitated for similar reasons, even the USA and it’s perceived utopian model of 2nd amendment rights has some filters?

    Firearms licensing of any form is nothing more than application of an inadequate revenue raising scheme hiding behind a misgiven notion of public safety and public interest sold to the electorate packaged in fear, emotion and rhetoric, oh! and Government requirement for absolute conrol of the populace.

  7. Katja. I agree with your comments about Politicians and the way they operate, democratic, fair, objective, NO, not now and never has been, Politicians and Civil Servants are the last people I would let near any systemof governance. I am unfamiliar with the working of the German Parliament but I imagine it is no better than any other, self seeking, self serving, power for it’s own sake?

  8. Congratulations and well done to Dave who instigated the petition and presented the case against this abhorrent piece of political stupidity called aigun licensing.

    A petition of circa 21,000 signatures is an excellent achievement when you consider the abject apathy of the shooting communities and their support for each other’s continued freedoms. There are some airgun owners and users who should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves in their lack of support for your efforts on THEIR behalf.

  9. Great work. Well done for avoiding being intimidated both by the setting or by Brodie. Being prepared really does work.

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