Animal lover demands tighter restrictions on air rifles after two cats are shot in Milton Keynes

Currently no licence is needed to own and use an air gun

By Sally Murrer
Wednesday, 27th October 2021, 4:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th October 2021, 4:02 pm

An animal rights campaigner is calling for the laws around air rifles to be tightened following the shootings of two cats in MK.

Virginia Bell was horrified two much-loved pet cats were shot in two separate incidents locally during the summer. One cat died and the other, found in a children's play park, was left fighting for its life.

She put in a Freedom of Information request to Thames Valley Police, asking how many people in Milton Keynes were known to have an air rifle.

Airgun legislation should be tightened, says Virgina

She also asked how many incidents involving the use of air rifles have been reported to TVP in the past 12 months, and for details of any investigations officers carried out regarding the two cat shootings.

"Did the police check up on those locally owning an air rifle to see what they were doing at the times concerned?" she said.

This week Virginia received a reply from Chief Constable John Campbell - refusing her FO1 request.

It states: "This information is not held in an easily retrievable format and not all data will be held within one centrally based location or system. There is no specific classification for the use of air rifles on our crime recording system that can show an accurate enough representation for data relevant to your request.

This poor cat was shot and left for dead in an MK park during the summer

"This would require a manual review of all possible relevant incidents in this time frame, to determine if an air rifle was used, and in what capacity, as this will be detailed within the body of the report."

The request was refused under the Freedom of Information Act's section 12(1), which allows that public authorities do not have to comply with section 1(1) of the Act if the 'cost of complying would exceed the appropriate limit'.

This means to fulfill it would exceed the 18 hour time and £450 cost limit, Virginia was told.

She believes legislation around airguns should be changed to make them more difficult to own and use - and the owners more accountable. She has also written to the Police and Crime Commissioner and copied in MPs and local councillors.

She said: "Anyone over 18 can get an air rifle without a licence and without any accessible record being made. And they can fire at those animals that the government designates as pests. It is not right...The use of these guns in the streets is a matter of public concern."

In England and Wales, you do not need a licence to own a “legal limit” airgun - an air rifle producing a muzzle energy of no more than12ft/lb or an air pistol producing a muzzle energy of below 6ft/lb.

You must be 18 or over to buy or possess a legal limit airgun or ammunition for an airgun.