A Mother's plea for Stanley's Law – The licensing of airguns

by Gun Control Network on 02-12-2020

Over 50,000 people, and many organisations, responded to the Government’s public consultation about the licensing of airguns, launched in September 2017 after the death of 13-year-old Ben Wragge. Ben was killed by another child as they played around with an airgun belonging to the father of a friend..

The Government has never released the results of that consultation but GCN understands that the overwhelming number of responses, including those of the British Transport Police, several police and crime commissioners and the major animal charities, were in favour of some sort of licence for airguns. This would bring England and Wales in line with Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In July 2018, five months after that consultation closed, another child was killed with an airgun – Stanley Metcalf, aged six. This time the killer was his great grandfather, who is currently serving a prison sentence for the crime of manslaughter by gross negligence.  Stanley was the 21st airgun fatality in Great Britain since 2007.

Bereaved families and all major bird and animal charities have campaigned for the licensing of these lethal weapons, which are responsible for just under half of all gun crime.  Children are being killed and injured, birds and animals are being killed and maimed, yet the Government still maintains airguns are just useful tools on family farms. There are around 200,000 family farms yet there are an estimated 7 million airguns in circulation.

The shooting organisations have lobbied hard against the licensing of airguns because they oppose any further controls on guns of any sort, and because they view airguns as ‘entry level’ weapons that start young people off on the road to more serious shooting ‘sports’, e.g. of grouse, deer etc. The shooting organisations have obviously found the ear of the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, because her response to the first, and unpublished, airgun consultation has been to set up a second. The Firearms Safety Consultation she has just launched is a catch-all document that states, already, “We have decided not to introduce a licensing regime for air weapons in England and Wales…” but includes some proposals that simply tinker with the rules about airgun use and storage.

Jenni Dees, mother of Stanley Metcalf, says:

“I want Stanley’s death to matter. At my meeting with the Home Secretary she assured me she was sympathetic to my request, but now this new consultation is launched, I see she has no intention of licensing airguns. I welcome raising the age limit, and the safe storage regulations, but those minor adjustments aren’t enough, they won’t change the culture.  Airguns aren’t ‘boys’ toys’, they are lethal guns. I want a new law, ‘Stanley’s Law’, which would do what Scotland and Northern Ireland have done. Licence the owners of airguns.  It’s what the public wants.”