UK Shooting News has obtained a copy of the 1972 Report of the Working Party on the Control of Firearms under the Freedom of Information Act. This document has, to the best of our knowledge, never been made public before.
The estimable Colin Greenwood, former police constable and editor of the now-defunct Guns Review magazine, referred to it in his authoritative memorandum on the history of British firearms controls that he submitted to Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee:
38. In December 1970, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Sir John McKay, was formally asked to review the current law on firearms. He set up a working group consisting of chief officers of police, Scottish Office and Home Office officials. Though there were some meetings of sub groups with representatives of shooting organisations, there was no real consultation and the entire proceedings were confidential.
39. Although the study was formally authorised in December 1970, preparatory work must have been going on for at least a year prior to that because the Staff Officer to HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary visited Cambridge in the autumn of 1969 seeking information about research being conducted by a senior police officer and offering to share available information. He was briefed on the progress of the research and when it became clear that the study raised doubts about the effectiveness and efficiency of the system all contact was cut off and no liaison took place. The researcher concluded that the Working Party was not interested in information which did not conform to its pre-determined results.
40. The McKay report was produced in September 1972, but has never been made public. It is known, however, that the first of 70 conclusions reached in a summary of the report was that a reduction in the number of firearms in private hands was a desirable end in itself. The report contained no evidence to justify this conclusion.
As it only arrived in this morning’s post the full text is going to take a while to read, digest and blog about. My eventual hope is to get the full document online; however, as the original report was a typewritten manuscript that was evidently photocopied for my FoI request, and there’s a 2″ thick pile of paper on my desk next to me, this may take some time. (anyone got a multi-page-feed document scanner in the London area?!)
Mr Greenwood’s memo leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind that the McKay Report is the source document which set British firearms policy for the latter half of the 21st Century. The Report’s effects are still felt in legislation and practice today. Its release into the public domain will help immeasurably those fighting to preserve our sport.
To give a flavour of the Report, here is Conclusion No.1:
1. We are satisfied that the holding of firearms by private individuals does contribute to crime committed with firearms; and we concluded that a reduction in the number of firearms in private hands is therefore a desirable end in itself.