An island of 8,000 guns – and a bazooka

(38540704)

A FREEDOM-OF-INFORMATION request has laid bare the extent of gun ownership in Jersey, revealing that more than 8,300 firearms – including an anti-tank gun, a bazooka, two walking-stick guns and nearly 1,500 semi-automatic pistols – are privately owned under 1,162 licences.

And recent public interest in the Island’s relationship with guns has prompted Home Affairs Minister Mary Le Hegarat to meet States police to discuss making small amendments to the decades-old legislation which allows weapons and unlimited ammunition to be stored at home and does not require social-media background checks.

These small amendments are in place of a “complete overhaul” of the law – something that Deputy Le Hegarat has shelved because resources are being put towards improving youth justice, hate crime legislation and implementing recommendations from the Violence Against Women and Girls taskforce report.

Home Affairs Minister Mary Le Hegarat (38540707)

Calls for a weapons amnesty also remain – with ex-Centenier and ex-firearms officer Jim Rigby, who helped to conduct the Island’s previous amnesty more than a decade ago, saying there could be more firearms than those declared on certificates.

An amnesty provides the opportunity for anyone to safely hand over unwanted weapons without being referred for prosecution for unlawful possession of illegal items.

However, Constables have said they remain “satisfied” with the “stringent application and interview process” that Islanders have to go through to get a firearms licence from their parish halls.

The States police provide administrative support to parish authorities and believe the existing legislation “seeks to ensure that those who choose to own or possess firearms are subject of relevant checks and reviews to ensure ownership and possession of the items is managed effectively, efficiently, and safely”.

The conversation around updating the Island’s Firearms Law, enacted in 2000, came onto the agenda in this government term when former Home Affairs Minister Helen Miles committed to a thorough review and update.

The Constable of St Martin, Karen Shenton-Stone, last February said that the legislation was “not fit for purpose” and needed ministerial attention and tightening.

St Martin Constable Karen Shenton Stone Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (38540723)

She added that while the number of registered guns in Jersey had decreased in recent years, from 9,288 in 2018 to 8,982 in 2022, “the days of nipping to the parish hall and getting a gun to shoot pests in your fields are gone”.

As of 11 June, the number of active licences was 1,162, with the number of firearms and component parts totalling 8,378.

These include 1,454 semi-automatic pistols, 1,371 bolt action rifles, 858 over and under shotguns, and 782 revolvers – as well as a pen-gun, two walking-stick guns, an anti-tank gun and an anti-tank rifle, and a bazooka.

The police confirmed that deactivated firearms do not need to be licensed, so these are all presumed to be live firearms.

This figure comes weeks after Deputy Le Hegarat made the announcement that she was shelving Deputy Miles’s work to review the Firearms Law in favour of other policy areas.

In a statement provided to the JEP following the FoI request, she said: “I remain of the view that it would be desirable to undertake work to revise or replace the current Firearms Law, given that it has now been in force for over 20 years.

“I know this is an issue which is of interest to many people and I have recently met with the States of Jersey Police to discuss it and will meet with the Comité des Connétables in September to discuss the issue fully.

“I want to understand if there are any small amendments that could be made to the law, rather than a complete overhaul, to try to bring it up to date.

“However, the legislation on the Firearms Law is not currently under development, as policy development capacity is currently fully committed to a range of activity, including improvements to youth justice, hate crime legislation, a new civil contingencies/resilience law and the implementation of the recommendations of the taskforce on violence against women and girls.

“At this stage, I am not able to advise when this work might commence.”

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