HC Deb 05 November 1959 vol 612 cc1185-7
13. Sir L. Heald

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware of the existence of widespread public concern at the number of serious accidents arising out of the possession and use of firearms by juveniles; and whether he will take steps, as a matter of urgency, to remedy the present situation, in which a person of any age is entitled as of right, to obtain a 10s. licence authorising him or her to carry and use a shotgun of any bore, and to purchase and retain an unlimited supply of ammunition for use therein.

22. Mr. Janner

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that many accidents, including a recent fatal accident in Leicester, have occurred owing to the uncontrolled sale of shotguns and similar weapons, even to young persons; and what he proposes to do to control the indiscriminate sale of these weapons.

Mr. Renton

My right hon. Friend is aware that there is some public concern about accidents arising out of the misuse of shotguns and air weapons by young persons, and he is considering whether any change in the law is needed. My right hon. Friend has no evidence that there is any widespread failure to observe the existing law prohibiting the sale or hire of a firearm of any kind, including a shotgun or air weapon, to a person under the age of 17.

Sir L. Heald

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that Answer. May I ask two supplementary questions? First, is he aware that I hold in my hand a 10s. gun licence which was issued yesterday in the ordinary course of business by the post office to my granddaughter aged three? Secondly, is he aware that I also have here a collection of Press cuttings which show that during the last five months there have been fourteen fatal accidents arising out of the possession or use of shotguns by juveniles? Does he not think that his Department is too complacent about this matter?

Mr. Renton

In answer to the first part of my right hon. and learned Friend's supplementary question, I understand from a letter which he sent me that he himself bought this firearm certificate for his grandchild aged three. I must remind him that the child's parents are responsible for seeing that the child uses the gun with due regard to safety and that it is not misused. In answer to the other matter which my right hon. and learned Friend raised, we are grateful for his close personal interest in the general question, and when considering the matter further we shall bear in mind what he has said.

Mr. Janner

Is the hon. and learned Member aware that in Leicester recently a boy of fourteen bought one of these guns and accidently killed another boy of fourteen? Is he also aware that for a very considerable time many of us in this House have been anxious to ensure that there is control of these weapons? Is it not obviously clear that some kind of restriction should be imposed? Will he consider introducing a short amendment to the Bill which I myself introduced in the House with regard to another dangerous weapon? This would very easily deal with the situation.

Mr. Renton

There is already a measure of control under the Firearms Act, and that is control over the sale or hire of these weapons. Parents who place these weapons in the hands of their children are responsible for any mishaps which may occur.

As to the question of amendment of the law, I think it is inappropriate at Question Time to consider comments of the kind which the hon. Gentleman has made, but we will certainly consider most carefully what he has said.

Mr. Janner

In view of the unsatisfactory reply and the urgency of the matter, I beg to give notice that I shall endeavour to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.