Scottish govt pushes Smith on firearms

Home secretary Jacqui Smith is among those invited to a summit on gun control proposed by Scottish justice minister Kenny MacAskill today.

Mr MacAskill is raising the issue at Holyrood and is calling for reform of existing legislation on firearms, including air weapons.

He suggests gun control campaigners, law enforcers, rural and shooting groups and politicians should all be included but a confrontation with Ms Smith appears to be his main aim – because she is from London and therefore very important.

The Home Office rejected requests by Edinburgh to allow the devolution of responsibility for firearm-related legislation in December, leading Mr MacAskill to express frustration with the UK government.

“If Westminster fails to act on our communities’ concerns, I do not accept the idea that an approach based on the ‘lowest common denominator’ does anything other than harm the interests of public safety,” he said.

“Indeed, a UK-wide approach can only have merit if the law underpinning it is fit for purpose. But, as the former home secretary indicated in 2004, the law is both difficult to understand and to enforce.”

He described the Firearms Act 1968 as a piece of “piecemeal, complex and convoluted legislation” which should be replaced by a law with greater emphasis on public safety.

Firearms casualties rose by 25 per cent in 2007 in Scotland while attempted murder cases involving firearms rose nearly threefold in the last decade.

Although rejecting requests for more devolution Ms Smith said she was interested in exchanging best practice and experience to improve the effectiveness of safeguards in place, Mr MacAskill said.

“I welcome the home secretary’s suggestion that we work together. So I have invited her to join us in hosting a national firearms summit in Scotland,” he added.

“We have a shared interest in bringing together all of the interests, to ensure the summit acts as a springboard for practical action to tackle the insidious weapons culture that we must not allow to get a grip on our communities.”