HC Deb 27 March 2001 vol 365 cc593-4W
Mr. Laurence Robertson

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about the availability of replica guns, with special reference to those which fire ballbearings. [155635]

Mr. Charles Clarke

There is a range of different types of replica firearms available in this country, some of which are capable of discharging projectiles and some of which are not.

As regards the first category, controls will depend on whether any projectile which is expelled is capable of inflicting a lethal injury. For example, fully functioning replicas of historic guns, whether breech loading or muzzle loading, are subject to the full control of the firearms legislation. Replica breech loading cartridge firing pistols are prohibited weapons which may only be held with the express authority of the Secretary of State. The possession of replica air weapons capable of lethal performance is governed by the wider provisions of the Firearms Act 1968 as amended and such weapons cannot be sold to a person under 17 or give n to a person under 14. They are also subject to the provisions of the Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) Rules 1969.

Replicas which fire small plastic pellets or, in some cases, steel ball bearings with insufficient energy to penetrate the skin are not regarded as lethal barrelled weapons. Nor are blank firing replicas which cannot readily be converted to fire a live round, and realistic non-firing replicas. Such guns do not fall under the controls of the Firearms Act 1968 as amended and may freely be bought by anyone.

Under the Toys (Safety) Regulations 1989 any toy gun which discharges a hard projectile must not have an energy level in excess of 0.08 joule.

The Government recognise the concerns which have been expressed in relation to the misuse and ready availability of realistic replica guns and are looking carefully at the possibility of introducing additional controls. This is a difficult and complex matter, not least because of difficulties of definition, and the Firearms Consultative Committee have been asked to consider the detailed implications of any changes and to report back.