Airgun law review welcomed by RSPCA

An airgun pellet. Picture: STEVE ADAMS

An airgun pellet. Picture: STEVE ADAMS

An animal charity has welcomed a review into air weapon licensing laws in the light of a Suffolk teenager's death.

Policing and fire service minister Nick Hurd confirmed he would be reviewing the regulations after Ben Wragge (full name Benjamin), 13, suffered the wound to the neck while the airgun was being passed around between friends in Old Post Office Lane, Thurston.

MORE: Hundreds pay tribute to Thurston teenager killed when shot with air rifleThe move came after Coroner Dr Peter Dean wrote to the Home Office to request a review of legislation covering the use and manufacture of air weapons, with a view to preventing similar tragedies occurring in the future.

MORE: Mother of Thurston air rifle shooting victim Ben Wragge, 13, tried to revive her son, inquest hearsBut it has also been welcomed by the RSPCA, which highlighted how many animals have died or been seriously injured when shot with airgun pellets.

David Bowles, RSPCA assistant director of external affairs, said: 'The RSPCA welcomes this announcement and any review around the regulation of air weapons licensing.

'It is heartbreaking that such a tragic incident has sparked this review and our thoughts go out to Benjamin's family and friends, but we hope that any future regulations around the licensing of these weapons in England and Wales will better protect people, children and animals.

'The RSPCA has long been calling for stricter regulations around owning airguns as well as better education and explanation of the law for those buying an airgun. Our 24-hour cruelty hotline receives hundreds of calls every year reporting airgun attacks on animals.

'Last year, we received 890 calls and this year looks set to top that and, worryingly, reach a five-year high.

'Animals can suffer horrendous injuries and often die as a result of airgun attacks and these weapons are potentially extremely dangerous for people as well.'

Speaking in an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on Monday, October 9, Mr Hurd said: 'I think that this is an appropriate time to take stock of the regulatory position and assess whether the current controls, which are already strong, continue to be appropriate and effective.

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'I intend to look carefully at the existing controls on air weapons, including how best to ensure that these weapons are stored safely and securely.

'I think that a review of air weapon regulation is important and timely, we will do so against a backdrop of existing controls that are, by all international comparisons, very robust.'

The debate was secured by Bristol South MP Karin Smyth after the serious injury in her constituency of 18-month-old Harry Studley in July last year, who was shot with an air rifle by a neighbour.

The Home Office will determine the detail and scope of the review and has now published a revised edition of the Home Office guidance leaflet for air weapons users.

The leaflet will be available online and will also be distributed to readers of Airgun World and Airgunner. It advises on the laws and safety procedures to which all air weapon owners must adhere.