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Firearms (Young Persons)

Volume 652: debated on Thursday 1 February 1962

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation to ban the sale of firearms to young persons by mail order firms.

It is already an offence to sell a firearm to a person whom the vendor knows or has reasonable grounds for believing to be under 17. It is also an offence for a person under 17 to purchase a firearm. These provisions apply whether the transaction takes place by post or otherwise.

Does not my hon. and learned Friend agree that this is a pernicious habit which undoubtedly leads to firearms getting into the wrong hands, especially of youths? Will he look into this matter again to try to stop this practice?

If a person under the age of 17 made some misrepresentation for the purpose of buying a firearm the law could deal with him. It would not be reasonable to make the vendor liable in respect of such a misrepresentation.

Cannot the hon. and learned Gentleman do something to ensure that when firearms are offered for sale by mail order firms it is brought prominently to the attention of both the vendors and advertisers—and also the potential purchasers—that the purchase of them by young persons is an offence and fraught with great danger?

I think that the provisions of the law are fairly well known, and I have no doubt that the publicity which may be given to these questions and answers will help to enable people to understand them still better.

Is the Minister aware that one of the difficulties is that a person over the age of 17 can purchase a firearm and hand it over to a younger person without a licence? Many of these cases come into the courts and difficulties are created because a certificate is not issued, and there is no need for one legally, because the original purchaser is over the age of 17.

I wonder if the hon. Lady appreciates that this matter really is significant only in relation to air guns and shot guns? A firearms certificate is issued—and this is rarely done—by a chief officer of police and would be necessary for the purchase of a more dangerous weapon.