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Shooting groups warn of airgun legislation overspill

Shooting groups warning.
As the Scotland Bill continues to progress through Parliament, shooting groups are warning that any restrictions placed on airguns north of the Border could have a knock-on effect for the rest of the United Kingdom.

Clause 11 of the bill, which is currently being debated in the House of Commons, would enable the Scottish Parliament to legislate to create a separate regulatory regime for airguns in Scotland.

The clause still remains in the bill despite the efforts of Conservative MP and chairman of the all-party group on shooting and conservation, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.

As Shooting Times reported last week, Mr Clifton-Brown recently tabled an amendment in the Commons to have the clause removed.

Christopher Graffius, BASC?s director of communications, who advised Mr Clifton-Brown on his speech, said he was worried about the way the debate was heading.

He said: ?Airgun shooting is the way into our sport and it?s critical to its health that it is well-regulated and available for people to take up. If they do impose restrictive laws in Scotland, how long will it be before those same laws are being agitated for south of the Border??

?What I want to know is why the current Government, which supports shooting, appears hell-bent on devolving power over firearms law to Scotland, given everything it has said about avoiding knee-jerk reaction and piecemeal legislation.?

Mr Graffius?s thoughts were echoed by other interested groups.

A spokesman for the National Gamekeepers? Organisation said: ?Devolution of such matters makes little sense to us. The law is either right or it is wrong. If it?s right, it should be the same everywhere, so people have some chance of avoiding confusion and knowing what the law actually says.?

?We always watch what is going on in Scotland with great care, as an indicator of how things may develop in England and Wales in due course.?

David Taylor, shooting campaigns manager at the Countryside Alliance, said: ?The transfer of powers could easily lead to misguided licensing of airguns in Scotland, which then would set an entirely wrong precedent for the rest of the UK.?

?If licensing of airguns is ever introduced in Scotland, there would be a very real chance of costly border controls and restrictions on trade. This self-imposed differential could be used as an argument in itself to harmonise legislation across England and Wales. Devolution must not be used as a back door route to restricting firearms licensing across the UK.?

Despite, or perhaps because of, the Commons setback, BASC says it is now working with peers to make sure the same arguments suggested by Mr Clifton-Brown are put forward in the House of Lords.