Written evidence submitted by Mr Bruce McPherson (FLR0001)
Firearms Licensing Regulations – call for evidence
I have intentionally omitted the word Scotland from my submission since it is irrelevant,
Firearms licensing is reserved to Westminster and the system operates effectively throughout England Wales and Scotland with, for historical reasons, somewhat different regulations applying in Northern Ireland
Firearms licensing is continually under review with a new Statutory Guidance for chief officers of police on firearms licensing issued in November 2021 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/statutory-guidance-for-police-on-firearms-licensing/statutory-guidance-for-chief-officers-of-police-on-firearms-licensing-accessible-version-from-1-november-2021
And a new version of the Home Office Guidance on Firearms law issued in December 2021 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/firearms-law-guidance-to-the-police-2012/guide-on-firearms-licensing-law-accessible-version
There is nothing special about Scotland with regard to firearms licensing, and statistically there is little difference in the rate of firearm deaths in Scotland compared to GB as a whole
The responsibilities of gun owners are the same throughout Great Britain and I would argue that the risks to the public associated with gun ownership are somewhat less in Scotland due to lower population density
As has been correctly stated by Peter Wishart MSP, “The UK has probably about the most stringent and best operated gun control regulations in the World”
It should be noted that the term “gun” applies to shotguns and rifles
Separate certificates are issued for shotguns and rifles and the licensing conditions which apply to each type of weapon are slightly different with rifles being more difficult to acquire
I have been a licensed shotgun and rifle owner for almost 50 years and have seen, and been affected by the many changes in the firearms licensing system over that period, all of which have resulted in a tightening of the licensing system
Applicants for the grant or renewal of a shotgun or firearms certificate have to clear a very high bar before being granted such certificate(s), including a report from a GP affirming that the applicant does not and has never suffered from a wide range of medical conditions, a full criminal records check, a home visit to assess the applicants security arrangements and to assess the home environment for evidence of domestic abuse. In addition, the two referees listed on the application are contacted and asked detailed questions about the applicant
In the case of an application for a firearms certificate, the applicant must, in addition to the above, provide written evidence of permission to shoot over one or more specified areas of land. Such areas of land may be subject to a site visit by the police to assess and then approve or reject the suitability of the land for shooting using the calibres requested by the applicant
Having gone through the lengthy process of obtaining or renewing a certificate, the vast majority of certificate holders are well aware of the responsibilities that come with firearms and shotgun ownership and use, and are also aware that any actions that may bring them to the notice of the police will usually result in the removal of their guns and certificates and only have them returned after the police have carried out an often lengthy “suitability enquiry” and found that public safety will not be adversely affected by their return.
In fact, gun owners are one of the most law abiding groups in UK society
This “call for evidence” is a direct result of the recent tragic events on Skye which resulted in one death and three injuries due to discharge of a weapon (probably a shotgun). Whilst the results of the investigation have yet to be made public, it may well be that the crime was not committed by a certificate holder.
Whilst this is indeed a tragic event, there are many other events where more people die but which do not appear to interest the Scottish parliament – the number of road deaths in Scotland would be a prime example
The bottom line is that the current UK firearms licensing system is robust and in general well operated and results in very, very few tragic incidents like that which occurred on Skye.
Having a separate licensing system for Scotland would be a waste of valuable resources for no improvement in public safety – as has been proven by the ill advised Air Weapons Licensing system
My strong impression is that the purpose of this committee is, as with, so much of the Scottish Governments activities, merely another opportunity to drive a wedge between Scotland and the rest of the UK.
Scotland has many, many more pressing problems than firearms licensing – the state of our education system and NHS to name but two – and both devolved to the Scottish Government