Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by Matthew Forde (OWB 118)

I have a great interest in these proposals as I am a collector of antique weaponry with several military and civilian swords and other items from the Georgian and Victorian eras, and I feel that am well-placed to offer you my experience and opinions on the new legislative changes.

With knife crime and acid attacks reported so often in the media recently I understand that the government needs to be seen to be doing something to protect us citizens. However, I must write to inform you that much of your proposals regarding edged weaponry are incorrect, will have no effect upon crime and are guaranteed to only hurt law-abiding citizens . Research proves that criminals simply do not purchase expensive antique swords to commit crimes (for a many, many reasons) and so a distinction MUST be made between these historically significant items and the cheap, modern knives that are PROVEN to be commonly used illegally.

The reasons why antiques are not used in crime are many. They almost always cost a lot of money, with examples under £100 being rare. Being centuries old, their condition does not always lend itself to usage. They are mostly impractical as they are long (with the 'normal' blade-length being over 30 inches), very hard to conceal and awkward to handle in houses, cars and so on. They are also not readily available in the kind of channels that those likely to commit knife-crime frequent, and the antique dealers I regularly purchase swords from are professional and responsible enough to vet their customers for age and suitability. Also, and perhaps this is surprising for non-collectors, most real swords are completely blunt as the Army would only allow them to be sharpened directly before action (also consider that the amount of officers and men who actually saw action was tiny in comparison to those that did not). I have owned perhaps 100 antique swords, with few being sharp. When I say blunt, I mean more blunt than a table knife, for instance.

Furthermore, these are historically significant articles that should be preserved for future generations. The collecting community really is an admirable one, filled with intelligent and thoughtful people who have genuine passions for the preservation and study of these items and the historical contexts into which they fit-to punish these law-abiding collectors by not taking into account their peaceful activities would be an unnecessary travesty and cause much resentment towards the government. Indeed, I am an author who is currently writing an academic book about the Italian swords used during the Risorgimento Period and there are many aspects of the proposal that would affect that negatively to the point that I would probably have to resign the project. Further, a large percentage of the collecting community is of retirement age and have no place of work to which a sword could be sent to or from!

The main problem with the proposal is that antique weapons are entirely eclipsed in all aspects by that unbannable item: the household kitchen knife . These are a thousand times more dangerous than your average antique sword, cost virtually nothing to buy, are easily concealable and commonly available. It is telling that I cannot find a single case reported online where an antique sword was used in a modern crime yet kitchen knives are virtually ubiquitous.

In closing, I must implore you to fully consider the huge impact that your proposals will have on antique weaponry, the honest dealers and the law-abiding, considerate collectors that act as custodians for these items. I urge you not to change the current legislation in regards to antique swords as they are clearly working very well indeed and instead allow free postage of them as is now the situation (or even make antiques dealers responsible for vetting their customers through proper distance-based identification). Please don't hesitate to get in touch should you have any questions regarding my email.

Yours faithfully,

Matthew Forde

July 2018

 

Prepared 13th August 2018