HC Deb 28 March 1928 vol 215 cc1178-81

I beg to move, That leave he given to bring in a Bill to amend Section 12 of the Firearms Act, 1920, with respect to the definition of firearm. The reasons for carrying into law such a Bill as this have been made known to hon. Members to some extent by questions and answers in this House, and Iam hopeful that the Home Secretary will be able to see his way to accept this Measure. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman has full sympathy with the object of the Bill. The existing law provides for the registration of those who deal in the sale of firearms, and it also makes it necessary for those who desire to become possessed of firearms to obtain a certificate from the police of the district. The definition of a firearm is laid down in Section 12 of the Firearms Act, 1920, and in effect means a weapon capable of discharging a bullet or other missile. In recent years, there has been produced abroad and in this country a firearm known as the toy pistol or the toy revolver. So far as the toy purpose is concerned, there is no desire to make it subject to the Firearms Act of 1920, but since that time the toy weapons to which I have referred have been found capable of easy conversion into lethal weapons. Not only this, but these toy weapons have been discovered by certain undesirable members of the community to be capable of supporting threats or menaces in an endeavour to commit some crime. In addition to this, there have been numerous accidents resulting from the free use and trade in this particular weapon. I shall content myself by giving to the House one or two cases which could not have occurred if this Bill had been the law of the land, and which have occurred owing to the looseness of the law as it stands at the present time.

In North London quite recently, an individual who was sentenced to a long period of penal servitude, was discovered on arrest to be in possession of a life preserver and one of these toy weapons. These toy weapons may be obtained for a few shillings from anyone engaged in the trade without having to obtain a certificate from the police. The particular toy weapon to which I have referred was capable of conversion into a lethal weapon. This conversion can be accomplished by the simple mechanical process, occupying but a few minutes, of having the barrel and the chamber bored. This process makes the toy revolver capable of discharging bullets. The tests which have been carried out by the police with one of these toy pistols, so converted, show that it is capable of causing a bullet to enter and pass through a ¾inch plank at a distance of 90 feet, and at a little less distance than that the bullet became embedded in the wall immediately behind the plank. There is a general feeling that the toy weapon is not quite so dangerous as this Bill seeks to make out. The hon. and learned Member for Norwood (Sir W. Greaves-Lord), as the Recorder of Manchester, had a case before him in which some motor car thieves were prosecuted. One of these weapons was found on one of the prisoners arrested and the hon. and learned Member for Norwood commented upon the dangerous character of it. I propose to show to the House the type of weapon which we seek to exclude by this Bill.


I think there is an ancient Rule against the carrying of arms of any sort in the House.


According to the law, the weapon which I hold in my hand is not an arm. According to the Home Secretary's replies to questions, this pistol is not a firearm within the meaning of the Act, at any rate in London. It is merely a toy weapon, and I think that your alarm, Mr. Speaker, at the sight of this weapon is sufficient justification for asking the House to pass a Bill of this kind. The legislation I am asking the House to pass seeks to make the sale of this weapon possible only through a registered firearms dealer, and it also seeks to make it purchaseable only by persons who have received a certificate from the police showing that they are fit and proper persons to be in possession of firearms.

Seeing that this particular kind of weapon has been used within the last few weeks to hold up a post office in which the only person in charge was a postmistress, who was held up successfully from the criminal's point of view; knowing something of the mental agony people go through when a weapon of this kind is pointed at them; and, in face of the fact that this proposal is supported by Judges, Magistrates, Coroners and the police service and all those who have a knowledge of the extent to which these weapons are being used, I am sure that hon. Members, in giving a First Reading to this Bill, will feel that they are helping the Home Secretary to meet a situation with which I know he is only too anxious to deal.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Hayes, Mr. Grace, Mr. Hore-Belisha, Mr. Dalton, Mr. Burman, Captain GarroJones, Mr. Dennison, Mr. Hannon, Mr. Crawfurd, Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy, Mr. Dixey, and Mr. George Hall.