UK gun laws 'a mess', MPs told
Children as young as 10 are being granted shotgun certificates partly because British gun laws are "a mess" and few people can fully understand them, MPs examining the legislation in the wake of Derrick Bird's killing spree have been told.
Bill Harriman, of the British Association of Shooting and Conservation (Basc), said the law was unclear over who may lend a shotgun to somebody else and a simpler, consolidated act "may remove the necessity for young people to apply for licences".
About 1,000 youngsters under the age of 18, including children as young as 10, have a licence, but are not allowed to use the guns unsupervised until they are 15, the MPs heard.
Three leading shooting organisations said firearms legislation was formed from more than 30 Acts of Parliament and needed to be simplified in one easy-to-understand document.
They showed MPs, sitting in a committee room within the House of Commons, examples of some of the most popular of the 1.8 million guns licensed in the UK, including a 12-bore double barrel shotgun and other firearms with telescopic sights.
Basc, the British Shooting Sports Council (BSSC), and the National Rifle Association (NRA) were giving evidence to the Commons' Home Affairs Select Committee as part of its review of the laws after Bird killed 12 people in Whitehaven, west Cumbria, on June 2.
Asked about the state of the law, Mr Harriman said: "It's very complicated and it's a mess."
The law was so badly written as to how anyone under 15 may borrow a shotgun and use it that youngsters were choosing to get their own licence to ensure they stayed on the right side of the law, he said.
Mr Harriman, Basc director of firearms, said that "nearly all" British gun laws were introduced as reactive measures to an incident that had occurred. "In our view that does not make good legislation," he said.
Geoff Doe, NRA firearms liaison officer, added the laws were "very difficult to interpret".