Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by The Sealed Knot


  The current inquiry of the Home Affairs Committee into Controls over Firearms is particularly relevant to Historical Re-enactment Societies in regard to the intention to look at:

    —  the extent of the problems caused, in both urban and rural areas, by misuse of shotguns;

    —  any inadequacies in the existing controls designed to prevent their misuse;

    —  what improvements to the present licensing system or to existing controls on their use might usefully be introduced;

    —  in respect of other firearms requiring a firearms certificate, whether any further changes are needed to the licensing system or to the existing controls on such weapons.

  Re-enactment is a well established hobby with a membership of about 20,000, many of whom use reproduction weapons, including muskets, pistols and cannons. Whilst these are single shot, muzzle loading, black powder weapons of antique design, such as in the case of the Sealed Knot Society, 17th century matchlocks and flintlocks, all are classified as firearms, being held on either shotgun or Part 1 firearms certificates.

  In regard to the Sealed Knot Society, which is the largest re-enactment society in Great Britain, whilst many of its activities take place in rural areas, the vast majority of members live in large towns and cities all over the country. There is therefore a concern that an even approach in regard to legislation covering the legal use, storage, licensing of weapons classified as shotguns or firearms and its implementation should be ensured across the United Kingdom.

  In its deliberations we would ask the Home Affairs Committee to consider the following:

    (a)  historical re-enactors do not fire live ammunition. The very nature of the hobby dictates that all firing is of blank charges only;

    (b)  in the majority of cases, but not all, black powder, which is used in these weapons to produce the blank charge, is not stored in the same location as the individuals shotgun or firearm, it being collected under licence and supervision only at events. Therefore should these weapons be stolen it would not be possible to fire them;

    (c)  that these weapons do not lend themselves to being used for criminal purposes or in any situation in which time is of the essence, given the time consuming and intricate loading and ignition procedures involved, to say nothing of the size and weight of most of these weapons which certainly could not be easily concealed or used by anyone who had not been trained;

    (d)  we are not aware of any incidents of a criminal nature having involved muzzle loading weapons in modern times;

    (e)  matchlock and flintlock muskets are currently classified as shotguns because they are smooth bored and have a barrel length of 24 inches or more. We are deeply concerned about certain proposals being promulgated by some people who are suggesting that shotguns should be banned in urban areas. If this were to become law it would effectively destroy our historical re-enactments unless there was some form of exemption for our period weapons;

    (f)  when the last review took place in regard to the Firearms Bill it was very sensibly agreed to treat muzzle loading pistols differently to modern semi-automatic handguns and we would hope that the provisions for licensing, storing and using these guns will remain as currently laid out under that Bill;

    (g)  cannons of 17th century design with a bore over 2 inches currently have to be held on a Part 1 firearms certificate. However it is impossible to use or store them in the same way as a modern hand held firearm and we ask that they be treated separately;

    (h)  historical re-enactment societies are not shooting or rifle clubs. Re-enactment displays take place all over the country, on sites specifically licensed for the purpose and, as previously stated, membership is nationwide. We would not wish to be considered or treated in the same way as gun clubs as our aims and structure are very different.

  Finally, we would urge the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee when considering controls over firearms, specifically in regard to the purchase, use, storage and licensing of shotguns and firearms to give special consideration for the type of weapons being used by historical re-enactment societies.

  If this is not done it is possible that our whole hobby, which brings much pleasure to tens of thousands of people in the UK every year and contributes significantly to educating and bringing history alive for ordinary people, may well be jeopardised.

  If the Home Affairs Committee requires further or more detailed information on any point please do not hesitate to contact me. The Sealed Knot would be pleased to make an oral statement to the Committee or help in any other way that might be of use.

Christina Brewer

Chairman—Sealed Knot Society

12 October 1999

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