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Firearms And Ammunition (Amnesty)

Volume 648: debated on Thursday 9 November 1961

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21.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the total quantity of firearms and ammunition handed in at police stations throughout Great Britain as a result of the amnesty announced by him on 3rd August and terminating on 31st October.

27.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the result has been of the recent amnesty for the surrender of firearms in London and the provinces, respectively; and whether the penalties for the unlawful possession of firearms will now be increased.

11,518 firearms and 280,026 rounds of ammunition were surrendered in the Metropolitan Police District and the City of London. Provisional figures show that approximately 54,000 firearms and 1,800,000 rounds of ammunition were surrendered in the rest of Great Britain. As to the penalties for the unlawful possession of firearms, my right hon. Friend is not satisfied that any increase is called for.

Despite the apparent success of the amnesty, is it not clear that there are still very many firearms illegally possessed by members of the public in this country? Although the courts are independent of my hon. and learned Friend and he cannot seek to dictate to them, would it not be reasonable for him now to ask the courts to treat the offence much more severely and impose far more severe penalties?

As to the success of the appeal, I am glad to say that this has been very satisfactory and is a tribute to the public spirit of all those who responded to it. The present maximum penalty is three months' imprisonment or a fine of £50, or both. It is, of course, for the courts to decide what to do in any case brought before them. Those people who, now that the so-called amnesty has come to an end, retain firearms without certificates are acting in breach of the law.

Were they not in breach of the law before the amnesty as well as after it, and does not the amnesty and the collection of this massive armoury of weapons and ammunition show that it is quite impossible for the hon. and learned Gentleman to say that the result has been satisfactory, since he does not know how much in the way of firearms and ammunition is still being illegally held by the public? In the circumstances, does he not feel justified in saying that, after the collection of all this quantity of weapons, those who still retain weapons and ammunition should be subject to a much more severe penalty than three months' imprisonment or a fine?

No, Sir. We feel that the present maximum penalty is adequate to the circumstances.