HL Deb 29 April 1920 vol 40 cc41-4

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Onslow.)


My Lords, I did not detain the House on the Second Reading, as it was anxious at that time to proceed with other business. I am very glad, however, to see this Bill brought in. Your Lordships may have observed that it entirely abandons the whole of the existing legislation as regards the smaller firearms which are known by the name of pistols. Thereby we lose the benefit of that provision in the Pistols Act, 1911, under which it was illegal to sell a pistol to a boy under eighteen. I quite recognise that you do not want to deny the use of a gun to a youth under eighteen, because it is teaching his young idea how to shoot. But none the less a pistol is a very dangerous weapon. It is very difficult to conceive what good reason anybody has for buying a pistol except for a military or some analogous purpose.

I should be glad if the noble Earl could see his way by some amendment in Committee or by circularising the police authorities to secure that in the administration of this Act it shall be made as difficult as possible for youths under eighteen to acquire these dangerous and mischievous weapons. The essence of the dangerousness of a pistol is that it is a weapon that can be concealed about the person without being taken to pieces or otherwise put out of action, but I should like the House to consider whether by definition or otherwise it is possible to draw a distinction, and if it is not possible to draw a distinction I hope that by administrative action the same securities will be given as were secured by the provision of the Act of 1911.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising this question, and I hope I shall be able to satisfy him on the points he has mentioned. I should draw attention to the fact that the police officer before he grants a firearm certificate will have to inquire whether there is good reason for the applicant to receive one. I may tell your Lordships, that, besides the two obvious conditions that the person must be of good character and not likely to use his weapon for unlawful purposes, it is the opinion of the Government that the applicant must make out a good prima facie case for acquiring firearms. It is difficult to see how a boy of under 18 years of age is likely to establish such a case for carrying a pistol. Speaking generally, it must be assumed that the ground on which a revolver will be applied for and on which the application will be granted is for the protection of the applicant's house. By Clause 13 it will be seen that power is given to the Secretary of State to make rules for regulating the manner in which chief officers of Police are to carry out their duties under the Act. This provision will enable the Secretary of State to prohibit the issue of a licence to a boy under the age of 18 except in the most exceptional circumstances. I think I may say that this is the action which it is contemplated will be followed. I believe this will meet the case raised by the noble Lord where he suggested that administrative action should be taken to secure that the safety provided under the Pistols Act should not be contravened.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clauses 1 to 8 agreed to.

Clause 9:

Production of firearms certificates.

9.—(1) Any constable may demand from any person whom he has reason to believe to be in possession of, or to be using or carrying, a firearm or ammunition (except in circumstances where the possession, using, or carrying a firearm or ammunition without a firearm certificate does not constitute an offence) the production of his firearm certificate.

(2) If any person upon whom a demand is so made fails to produce the certificate, or to permit the constable to read the certificate, the constable may seize and detain the firearm or ammunition, and may require that person to declare to him immediately his name and address.

(3) If any person refuses so to declare his name and address, or fails to give his true name and address, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds, and the constable may apprehend without warrant any person who refuses so to declare his name or address, or whom he suspects of giving a false name or address or of intending to abscond.

THE EARL OF ONSLOW moved, in subsection (2), after "certificate" where that word secondly occurs, to insert "or to show that he is a person who is exempted under section one, subsection (8), from the necessity of having a certificate." The noble Earl said: This Amendment is, I think, obvious. It is to give to the constable full powers to control firearms, whether they are certificated or not.

Amendment moved— Clause 9, page 8, line 38, after ("certificate") insert ("or to show that he is a person who is exempted under section one, subsection (8), from the necessity of having a certificate").—(The Earl of Onslow.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 10 and 11 agreed to.

Clause 12:


12.—(1) Nothing in this Act relating to firearms shall apply to an antique firearm which is sold, bought, carried, or possessed as a curiosity or ornament.

(2) The provisions of this Act as to the possession of firearms without a firearms certificate shall not apply to firearms which are possessed as trophies of the present or any former war, if the owner thereof has given notice of the fact in the prescribed form to the chief officer of police of the district, in which he resides, and the chief officer has signified that a certificate in respect thereof can be dispensed with, which dispensation shall be granted unless the chief officer is of opinion that the owner is not a person to whom a firearms certificate would be granted.

(3) The provisions of this Act relating to ammunition shall be in addition to and not in derogation of any enactment relating to the keeping and sale of explosives.

THE EARL OF ONSLOW moved, at the end of subsection (2), to insert "Provided that such firearms possessed as trophies shall not be used or carried, and that no ammunition therefor may be purchased." The noble Earl said: This Amendment is to ensure that trophies shall be real trophies and not used as firearms.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 12, to insert the said proviso.—(The Earl of Onslow.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 12, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Schedules agreed to.