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Is legal gun ownership being suppressed?

Some senior police officers seem to have no qualms about playing politics by targeting law-abiding members of the shooting community, says Alasdair Mitchell

Rural policeman

Handing over information to the police is the best way to deal with poachers and other rural criminals

Merseyside Police have come up with a neat answer to the matter of crime prevention: if nobody is allowed to possess anything worth stealing, then there can be no property-related crime.

Yes, I am extrapolating. But surely this is the logic behind the force’s recent boast to a newspaper about its alleged policy of suppressing legal gun ownership to lessen the opportunity for criminals to arm themselves with stolen firearms? It seems in tune with what some see as today’s trend towards risk-averse, work-shy, victim-blaming policing.


Criminals are, by definition, lawless. They can be difficult and dangerous to deal with. So, it must be a comparative doddle for the police to crack down on law-abiding people who might become victims of burglary, as opposed to trying to deter or catch burglars. In one sense, there is nothing surprising about the tone of the Merseyside force’s recent pronouncements. I suspect it chimes with what certain senior officers have long been saying behind closed doors.

In the aftermath of the 1996 Dunblane tragedy, one senior police officer told the BBC that draconian restrictions on legal gun ownership were justified because criminals tended to obtain their firearms by breaking and entering. To me, his stance seemed morally reprehensible and at variance with the facts. Unfortunately, simple arguments tend to overwhelm more complex but factual ones. I rang and spoke to him at the time. I found him to be media savvy and unrepentant about targeting decent gun owners. I gained the impression that he was highly political. Shortly after, he was appointed a special adviser to the Home Office under Labour. A year later, he was elevated to the House of Lords.

It is interesting to note that in 2006, the noble lord’s BMW was caught by a speed camera doing 45mph in a 30mph zone. It subsequently emerged that he had been out of the country at the time the offence was committed, but the photo of the driver was unclear. His detective skills seemed to have failed him in this particular instance, because he was unable to establish who had been driving his car on the date in question. As a result, the CPS had no option but to drop the speeding charge, sparking a flurry of headlines. This particular legal loophole has since been closed.

In 2010, in the wake of the murderous rampage by Derrick Bird in Cumbria, the same life peer spoke out about a need for tighter checks on gun owners. In 2013, he was suspended from the House of Lords for a period after allegedly engaging in inappropriate lobbying. It was about this time that he parted company with the Labour Party. His political career has been peppered with repeated bouts of controversy. He’s still there on the red benches today, helping to shape legislation.

Many scrupulously law-abiding members of the shooting community feel that the attitude shown towards them by the more political parts of the police blob is just the tip of an iceberg.