Firearms Consultation − another useless public consultation?

by on 11-01-2021


In 2017, following the tragic deaths of several children shot by airguns and a coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths Notice, the Government set up the Airgun Regulation Consultation to elicit the public’s view on the licensing of airguns. 

Responses in support of licensing were received from families bereaved by airgun shootings. In addition, over 200,000 people signed a petition relating to swans killed in airgun attacks and 52,000 responses were received in relation to the findings of Cats Protection. All of these advocated licensing. There were, of course, also responses from shooting organisations; however, the details of how many members of the public were in favour of licensing have not been released. GCN believes it would have been the overwhelming majority of responders.

Despite this public support, the Home Office has apparently summarily dismissed the idea of licensing airguns and is cynically offering a new consultation on Firearms Safety that covers several different elements of firearms control, including some minor measures to restrict underage use of airguns in certain circumstances. These measures seem to be intended to address the false assumption that airguns are mostly misused by young people on ‘family farms’.  This is not the case. GCN’s research suggests that the majority of major airgun incidents are perpetrated by adults in urban areas.

The Government’s high-handed approach to consultations is clearly in breach of its own rules, which require that they should have a purpose, facilitate scrutiny, and be published in timely fashion. The 2017 Consultation breaks at least two of these rules. It is also incumbent on government to invite responses from all relevant organisations. The shooting organisations were obviously invited but not organisations relating, for example, to: 

§  Domestic violence airguns are frequently used to threaten, control or injure

§  Ophthalmologists airguns cause many eye injuries

§  Veterinarians airguns cause numerous animal and bird injuries, including many fatalities

§  RoSPA most child airgun fatalities are recorded as ‘Accidents’

§  Firefighters, ambulance personnel, train and bus drivers, all of whom regularly suffer airgun attack.

GCN asks: “What is the point of consultations if the responders are unrepresentative and the results are ignored or never published?”

Nevertheless, we urge all who want to see airguns licensed to say so via the new consultation on Firearms Safety, which can be found at

Gill Marshall-Andrews, Chair of Gun Control Network, says:

“The Government is clearly more interested in keeping the shooting organisations on side than in reducing gun crime. Over 30% of gun crime is committed with an airgun and if they really want to make a difference to gun crime, they need look no further than Scotland where airguns have been licensed since 2017 and the rate of airgun offences per capita is now less than half that in England and Wales.

We urge all those with an interest in reducing airgun crime to respond to the new consultation, registering their view that airguns should be licensed and that the process should be funded by the applicants themselves. This means that there is no cost to the police – rather an opportunity for income generation”.