HC Deb 27 October 1997 vol 299 cc576-7
14. Mr. Hinchliffe

If he will review the licensing arrangements for the use of air rifles. [11670]

Mr. Michael

No firearms certificate is required at present to possess or use an air weapon unless it exceeds the statutory maximum power levels. There are, however, restrictions on purchase, possession and use, particularly by young people. Hon. Members will understand that we have concentrated on the Firearms (Amendment) Bill in order to ban private ownership of .22 pistols and to fulfil an election commitment with that measure. When that legislation has been dealt with, we shall consider carefully whether further restrictions are necessary, as part of a wider look at what other firearm controls may be needed to safeguard the public.

Mr. Hinchliffe

Does my hon. Friend accept that air weapons are increasingly responsible for injury to, and destruction of, wildlife to an alarming degree? Is it not a fact that children and young persons are increasingly responsible for the problems caused by the misuse of air weapons? I urge my hon. Friend to consider, as a matter of urgency, increasing the restrictions on ownership and use of air weapons. Will he consider banning them completely?

Mr. Michael

As I have said, we shall consider what is needed—particularly for the protection of the public—after the present legislation has been dealt with. On my hon. Friend's specific question, killing or injuring any bird or protected animal carries a fine of up to £5,000. Especially powerful air weapons—that is, rifles with a muzzle energy of more than 12 ft per pound and air pistols with a muzzle energy of more than 6 ft per pound—must be kept on a firearms certificate. Persons under 14 years of age may not be in possession of an air weapon unless as a member of an approved club, in a shooting gallery or under the supervision of a person over the age of 21. Purchase by persons under 17 is not permitted, nor is possession in a public place. There are laws in place regulating matters relevant to my hon. Friend's point, but I shall be happy to look at any evidence that he or others bring forward when we consider those issues further, in due course.