Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by Mr B Britton (OWB107)

1. Summary

· The bill will adversely affect many law abiding citizens.

· Criminals will still have ready access to stabbing weapons.

2. Introduction

Thank you for taking time to consider this bill in detail.

My submission relates to the following proposed amendment:

new restrictions on online sales of bladed articles [...], including restrictions on deliveries to residential premises

As an interested member of the public I have regularly purchased specialist bladed articles by mail order, as they are unavailable locally. This includes:

1. As a hobbyist purchasing specialist hand tools that are unavailable in local stores, such as specialist woodworking tools, craft knives etc.

2. As a traveller purchasing utility knives and tools for use in other parts of the world.

3. As a home cook purchasing specialist kitchen knives.

I believe this legislation is trying to address a valid problem from the wrong angle. The legislation will not prevent criminals from obtaining stabbing weapons and will adversely impact law abiding citizens.

3. Classification and Use of Bladed Articles

Both the original proposal and the recently published amendments have not fully considered the classification and use of bladed articles.

The original classification of bladed article is very broad and would lead to large numbers of interest groups being significantly inconvenienced or denied access to specialist tools that are unavailable in local stores outside of major cities.

The proposed amendments seek to tackle some, but not all, of the concerns. It however creates significant loopholes which would, for example, allow criminals to access military re-enactment weapons or custom made weapons, but prevent law abiding citizens from ordering a new kitchen knife, woodworking or garden tool online.

This conflict illustrates the fact that bladed articles are a fundamental tool of society and are of interest to many groups. Although they can be misused in acts of violence, they are necessary for day to day use.

4. Distinction Between Bladed Article and Stabbing Weapon

The legislation does not acknowledge or address the fact that a stabbing weapon may not be a bladed article. Screwdrivers, ice picks, awls and similar readily available, non-bladed items make very effective stabbing weapons.

5. Impact of the Legislation

The broad definition of the proposed legislation will impact many groups of law abiding citizens who are likely to rely on mail ordering specialist bladed articles that are not readily available in local physical stores. Examples of the groups that are likely to be impacted include

1. Hobbyist cooks, engineers, craftsmen, woodworkers, needleworkers and dressmakers.

2. Labourers and agricultural workers

3. The day to day pubic who have a legitimate requirement to purchase utility knives, including; DIY tools, hobbyist tools, kitchen tools, and general use tools such as small pocket knives and scissors.

4. Elderly, housebound and disabled people who are unable to travel to a physical store.

6. Legitimate Requirement to Access Specialist Equipment

The enthusiast cook, woodworker, gardener or hobbyist has a legitimate right to purchase specialist equipment to enhance the enjoyment of their interest. High quality specialist equipment is not available in many parts of the country and can only be mail ordered.

Many people in rural areas enjoy such hobbies and may be significantly inconvenienced as the ‘collection point’ is likely to be some distance away.

Many elderly or disabled people enjoy such hobbies, and may be denied access to legitimate tools if they are unable to travel to a local store or ‘collection point’. Additionally these interest groups may require delivery of standard day to day items as they may be unable to travel to a store to purchase even a kitchen knife.

7. Effectiveness of the change

I believe the proposed legislation will not have the desired effect, for the following reasons:

· Impact of previous legislation

The UK has some of the strongest knife control legislation in the world. Despite this, knife crime continues to rise.

· Necessary availability of kitchen knifes etc

Kitchen knives are readily available in most homes and commercial kitchens. Someone intent on causing serious harm with a knife can likely easily take or steal a knife.

Common theft is unlikely to be a consideration for someone willing to arm themselves to commit serious harm.

· Use of alternative stabbing weapons, as illustrated in controlled environments such as prisons.

Screwdrivers, wood chisels, awls, ice picks and improvised weapons can easily be obtained and substituted for a knife.

Many such items have no sharp edge and would not be covered by the proposals.

· Simplicity of the knife as an object

An effective knife can quickly and easily be made from commonly found materials.

People intent on carrying knifes may easily make their own if they can’t buy them.

· Previous experience of ineffective bans on other items which can be used as offensive weapons

In the 1990s handguns were comprehensively banned in the UK. Despite this we have seen a significant rise in gun related incidents across the country.

Considering that also handguns are less readily available, significantly more difficult to manufacture, and their possession carries significantly harsher penalties than knives.

· Importation of knives from abroad

Knives can be shipped in unmarked containers

Knives which aren’t specifically illegal may be purchased abroad and transported in luggage.

· Misuse of articles permitted by recent proposed changes in the legislation

The proposed legislation allows for sporting and military re-enactment products which may easily be misused.

This will further reduce the intended impact of the proposed legislation

8. Conclusion

The country faces an increase in violent crime but focussing on the implements rather than the cause of the crime is bound to fail, and also bound to adversely impact law abiding citizens.

The causes of violent crime are complex. Control of directly offensive items can have some effect, but controlling day to day items that can be misused will lead to inconveniencing the day to day public, while criminals will easily find a work around. Stabbing weapons are some of the most primitive weapons available. They are easily manufactured, and many day to day items that are not controlled by the proposals can be misused as such.

The recently proposed amendments to the original bill only address a small number of legitimate concerns, yet allow for the delivery of military grade bladed articles for the purposes of re-enactment, illustrating both the poorly thought out legislation and the irreconcilable conflicts inevitable in trying to control access to bladed articles, which have been a fundamental part of human society for millennia, more often as day to day tools than weapons.

The UK has for some time had some of the strongest offensive weapons controls in the world, yet still sees an increase in violent crime. This shows that further seeking to control access to items that can be misused as weapons is unlikely to be effective. Instead tackle the root causes; gang culture, glorification of violence in the media, social and cultural integration, respect for authority and discipline.

July 2018

 

Prepared 13th August 2018