Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by Firearms UK (OWB04)

I am writing to you on behalf of Firearms UK and our supporters to oppose several sections within the Offensive Weapons Bill.

Since the Bills initial inception it has proposed new legislation that will disproportionately and without good reason disproportionately target many innocent members of society. Now whether this is intentional or was simply through ignorance is unclear. However many organisations and individuals have contacted their Members of Parliament opposing any further restrictions in these areas and request that resources are better used to enforce current laws and target the root causes of violence.

The sections to which we are opposed to are the sections affecting online knife sales, MARS/Lever Release("rapid firing rifles") and .50 calibre rifles(rifles with an energy higher than approx. 10,000 Ft lbs). There is also a section regarding bump stocks that we would oppose simply because these items are unable to be adapted for use on any current UK legal firearms.

The grounds on which we are objecting are the lack of evidence to support any bans, there have been no reported cases of misuse, terrorists and criminals have shown themselves to be quite capable of obtaining firearms illegally. Even obtaining firearms that have never been legal in the UK.  The UK has banned Self Loading Rifles since 1988 and Handguns since 1997 as knee jerk responses to tragic but very rare incidents where a legal owner has went on a spree killing. Incidents which may have been prevented if the laws of the land were followed at the time. Neither of these acts of legislation appear to have had any effect on reducing gun crime as shown by official figures from the Office of National Statistics. It seems these acts were simply to make political gain out of very horrific events.

What is concerning is that the latest proposals are not knee jerk reactions to incidents like those mentioned above but are based on "what if" scenarios. This is an incredibly dangerous precedent that is being set, that comes into conflict with traditional British values of liberty, presumption of innocent and personal responsibility. There also seems to be an over-reliance on using scare tactics by referring to these rifles as "rapid firing" or "high powered". They are in fact fairly complicated pieces of equipment and require a much greater degree of skill and training to use than many other types of firearms. References have been made to self-loading rifles being banned in the UK as if it has made the UK safer from crime or terrorism yet it is worth noting that in many European nations such firearms as well as handguns can be owned legally yet criminals and terrorists still do not steal from law abiding gun owners or try to go through the licencing process, they instead continue to rely on black market firearms.

During the Second Reading of the bill the Home Secretary made reference to .50 calibre rifles being used during the troubles. Once again these firearms and others used by paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland were smuggled in from overseas, it was recognised that legal gun owners were not a source of firearms for terrorist groups, something reflected by the fact handguns are still legally available in Northern Ireland with no issues.

MARS/Lever release type rifles conform to current UK legislation, they allow many disabled shooters to continue enjoying their sport with a degree of accessibility and comfort that would be unavailable to them with bolt action rifles. Indeed for many if they didn’t have the use of these types of firearms they may well have to give up their interests which could have very negative effects on their social circle and mental health. Firearms UK can put ministers in contact with such shooters if you require further evidence or testimonials. These rifles are very expensive and as already mentioned are more complicated to operate than traditional firearms. They present no increased risk to public safety.

These firearms came about because of the knee jerk and poorly thought out legislation of 1988. There was a free market demand and private business innovation delivered. The initial ban of Self Loading Rifles and the current desire to restrict the legal firearms that were developed seems to go against Conservative principles of free market economies and individual responsibility. In all honesty it would simply be much more prudent to repeal the 1988 act which would bring UK legislation into line with many other modern European nations.

There seems to be a common misconception in the UK that draconian firearms legislation for the sake of it is something to be proud of or something that makes us safer. The UK has for many years had low rates of gun violence even during periods of very liberal firearms legislation. Yet we have seem gun crime increase despite stricter gun control on legal owners.

I would implore that the current Government engages with the shooting community, a community which is losing confidence in our apparent representatives. Work with us, target the root causes of crime and violence and stop using us as an opportunity to be seen to be doing something about a very real problem. We all want to see an eradication of crime and violence, but ineffectual legislation at our expense does not help anyone.

I have attached a link for further consideration, the evidence within was compiled by a former senior police officer and expert of UK firearms legislation and its history. [1]

Dave Ewing,
Publicity Manager
Firearms UK

2 July 2018


Prepared 4th July 2018