Q: I live in a city, close to a few parks, and the only wildlife I see in my garden is pest species such as grey squirrels, woodpigeon and so on. What are the rules, safety guidelines and legal issues around shooting pests in an inner-city garden? And what about shooting the pests in the parks?
A: Always be very circumspect about shooting pests in your own back garden. You do not want armed police attending because some nosy neighbour has called to report that there is someone firing a gun out of the window. In most gardens, it is only safe to use an air rifle. However, larger gardens may be suitable for a .22 rifle using reduced-power cartridges such as the CB cap. Always shoot with a safe backstop to catch the projectile in case you miss or it passes through the target animal.
It is an offence if using an air rifle to allow the pellet to cross the boundary of your property. It is always a good idea to shoot from an elevated position so that the ground acts as your backstop. Feed target species into a killing zone that you know to be safe.
Fit a sound moderator
I think it is common sense to fit a sound moderator, as this will eliminate most of the discharge noise. Quarry will be spooked less and ill-disposed neighbours are less likely to be alerted.
As for shooting pests in public parks, there is no legal means of doing this. It is an offence to shoot on land where you do not have permission to be. If you used a gun to shoot squirrels or wood pigeon in a public park, you would be in possession of a firearm in a public place without reasonable excuse contrary to Section 19 of the 1968 Firearms Act.
You would also be an armed trespasser for the purposes of Section 20, as the general permission that is afforded to the public to go into a park — normally subject to conditions such as opening times and so on — does not extend to it being used for shooting. On that basis you would be a trespasser — and an armed one at that. Both offences attract a prison sentence or a hefty fine or both on conviction. You would also run the risk of being shot dead by armed police.