Supplementary memoranda submitted by the
Gun Control Network
We thank the committee for giving us the opportunity
to answer questions about our recommendations for legislative
(i) reduce the risk of another mass shooting
following the terrible events in Cumbria; and
(ii) bring down the overall level of gun crime
in the UK.
We would like to add to our previous written
and oral submissions as follows.
1. What could have prevented the Cumbria shootings?
Under a more rigorous licensing system, such
as the one GCN is proposing, Derrick Bird's gun licence would
have been revoked on account of his having a significant criminal
record. He would therefore not have had access to legally licensed
guns. Since it is generally believed he would have been unlikely
to have gone in search of illegal weapons, he would not have had
the means of killing such a large number of people.
Police believe that our tightly enforced gun
laws have made it difficult to acquire illegal guns. The claim
made by another witnessa gun owner himselfthat he
would be able to get hold of an illegal weapon within 48 hours
is idly made and not borne out by police information. In January
2010 Detective Chief Superintendent Paul James, NABIS programme
director, was quoted as saying that it was wrong to suggest illegal
guns could be bought cheaply and easily. "It's a myth that
you can go into a pub and pick up a gun for £50".
Ironically, in the United States which we regard
as having very lax gun laws, Bird's convictions would probably
have barred him as a legal gun owner.
2. Do legal weapons contribute to gun crime?
There are two sorts of legally-held guns: licensed
guns and those for which no licence is required.
Licensed guns - predominantly shotguns,
rifles and high powered airguns:
Almost all mass shootings around the
world, including Hungerford, Dunblane and Cumbria, involve licensed
gun owners using licensed guns. The lone mass murderer is almost
always a man who loves his guns and acquires them perfectly legally.
Figures for licensed guns involved in
crime are not recorded in the UK, and the information is not in
the public domain. GCN's FOI requests are repeatedly denied. However,
the Home Office do seem to have produced some information for
the HAC and we hope that in future this data will be routinely
collected and published as in other countries.
In Canada where data about the criminal
use of licensed weapons is routinely collected and published,
1/3 of all traced murder guns are licensed. This, and anecdotal
evidence collected by GCN of domestic homicide in the Great Britain,
suggests that legal guns are used to kill on a regular basis.
Weapons for which no licence is requiredairguns
and imitations (including BB and airsoft guns)
53% of gun offences in England and Wales
involve airguns and imitations; 57% in Scotland;
23% of serious injuries involve airguns
67% of slight injuries involve airguns
and imitations; and
most reported convictions for armed robbery
with a gun are of people who were armed with an imitation firearm
or air weapon.
In 2010 GCN has logged 55 domestic gun incidents
(ranging from affray and possession of a firearm with intent to
cause fear of violence, to murder and unlawful killing). From
the information given in the reports 65% of these probably involved
a legally-held gun.
3. What changes should be made to the licensing
Improved licensing procedures should be:
guns that are routinely used to kill and injure ie rifles, shotguns,
simplea single system up
to Section 1 standard; clear purpose for each gun.
rigorous onus on the applicant
to prove s/he is suitable, offenders (for offences carrying a
prison sentence) refused, involve partners and/or ex partners
in the process as in Canada/New Zealand , GP to be notified, mandatory
checks for mental health, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence;
two years; and
cost neutralfee to cover
all administration. No cost to the taxpayer or police.
4. Why introduce a Hotline for registering
concerns about gun owners?
GCN receives many messages from people
fearful about partners or neighbours who have guns. There is currently
no procedure in place for people to register their concerns;
in 1995 Canada introduced a package of
measures to combat armed domestic violence, including a toll free
hotline and greater involvement of spouses/partners in the application
process. Around 26,000 calls were received in the first four years
of the hotline. The rate of firearms related spousal homicide
decreased by nearly 50% between 1997 and 2006 (Statistics Canada
2008) suggesting, though not proving, a causal link. Other countries
to have harmonised their gun control and domestic violence laws
are South Africa, Australia and Trinidad and Tobago; and
good intelligence is the key to public
5. Why should we be more open about gun ownership?
secrecy is not justified in the public
certain people have good reason to want
to know if there is a gun in the house viz potential partners,
neighbours, medics and paramedics, care workers, parents of visiting
criminals already know where the guns
are and there has been, for example, a significant recent rise
in theft of shotguns. If gun owners were more exposed to scrutiny
they might take more care to keep their guns secure.
6. Why and how do we need to connect information
about domestic violence and gun ownership?
there is evidence that guns are frequently
used to threaten women in domestic violence scenarios;
in 2009-10 there were 44 gun murders
in Great Britain of which 12 appear to be domestic with 10 female
in 2010 there were 55 domestic gun incidents
logged by GCN (ranging from affray and possession of a firearm
with intent to cause fear of violence, to murder and unlawful
killing); in 65% of these the gun was probably held legally;
in Canada partners and ex partners (two
yrs) must sign the application; failure to do so is not a veto
but will trigger a review; there is a toll free spousal hotline;
in New Zealand a partner must sign the
application, and the police manual requires "partner to be
interviewed in a separate room with the door closed".
7. Why and how should GP's records be tagged?
mental illhealth should be a contraindication
for gun ownership;
GPs may have relevant information about
a gun owner's mental health;
a clear protocol is necessary to protect
GPs from pressure and allegations of breaking confidence; and
the removal of discretion would be helpful
to the GP.
8. Why and how should airguns be registered?
airguns are not "boys toys"
but as they are not registered the wrong message is given and
they proliferate and fall into the wrong hands;
around 20% of serious gun injuries involve
around 50% of all gun injuries involve
airguns; GCN's list of airgun incidents in 2010 is attached;
offenders banned from ownership of firearms
are able to purchase an airgun (including a realistic imitation)
without any checks being made;
although realistic imitation guns now
cannot be bought or sold, no such restrictions are placed on realistic
airguns which are frequently advertised online as looking like
the "real thing";
Scotland is about to take control of
licensing its airguns; and
Australia treats airguns in the same
way as any other firearm and licenses them.
8 November 2010