Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by Charles Horner (OWB142)

· I am submitting evidence in response to the Offensive Weapons Bill HC Bill 232

· I support the areas of the Bill relating to corrosive substances although I feel that certain areas of the Bill regarding the sale of knives are deeply flawed.

· I do not support and strongly object to section 28-35 of the Bill which relates to the moving of rifles with kinetic energy of more than 13, 600 joules at the muzzle of the weapon to section 5 of the 1968 Firearms Act (an effective ban) as well as a ban on rifles in which the empty case is extracted using energy from the propellant gas or energy imparted to a spring or other energy storage device (excluding the banning of ‘Bump Stocks’ in subsection 3 which are simply not used in the UK).

I have been a keen t arget shooter for a number of years and am a member of a Home Office Approved Rifle and Pistol club. Following a lengthy probation period where I was scrutinised and assessed regularly (and following a Police interview, references taken and a physical inspection of the secure storage facilities I needed to put in place), was given full membership and was granted a Firearms Certificate (Section 1).

The proposed consultation will effectively ban firearms (.50 calibre rifles and so called 'rapid firing rifles' such as the MARS VZ58), which are used for target shooting.

I find it deeply concerning that as a practicing target shooter in England firearms may be banned when there is no evidence these types of firearms have ever been used (and no evidence that there has ever been a plan to use them) in any crime. This surely sets a dangerous precedent for other types of firearms to be banned with no evidence simply because certain government agencies do not like law abiding citizens owning them.

The cost of compensation would be considerable as these are not inexpensive firearms. These firearms also need extensive training to be used accurately and are already highly regulated under Section 1 of the Firearms Act. I would never consider the MARS and other similar rifles to be 'rapid fire' either. Certainly they are nowhere near as fast as semi-automatic firearms, which have already been banned.

The security in place required to own such firearms, both at their place of storage and during transport is extensive. The relative rarity of these firearms coupled with their specific complexities and high costs do not make these firearms a high risk. The Home Office should be far more concerned with ensuring illegal firearms are not brought into the country, which seems to be the main risk area. I support the NRA (UK) stance on the matter:

"There are three key points to the shooting community’s objections:-

· No legally owned rifle of the types to be prohibited has ever been used in criminal activity despite being used by target shooters for many decades.

· The Home Office have providing misleading references by linking the rifles to be prohibited to shooting events in the USA; they quote the Las Vegas shooting despite the fact that the semi-automatic firearms used there were prohibited in the UK in 1988.

· Current legislation (Section 27 Firearms Act 1968 as amended) requires Chief Officers of police who grant firearms certificates to ensure "the applicant can be permitted to have the firearm or ammunition in his possession without danger to the public safety …"

The Government has a duty to safeguard its citizens and I support the consultation on the further restrictions on knives (in part) and corrosive substances. However, I cannot support the consultation on the restrictions on the firearms discussed. The current laws regarding Section 1 firearms are more than robust enough and are fit for purpose. The Home Office should nurture it's relationships with the shooting community, not ignore it. 78% of the replies generated by the consultation were against the ban. The compensation required will be considerable (each firearm in these two categories being worth at least £1500 and with a upper limit of £10000) so will run into millions of pounds of taxpayers money (even more when other related accessories are added). Surely this money would be better spent on the NHS or the Police?

What reductions in firearms crime can be expected by this Bill and how much will it cost the tax payer in compensation?

In conclusion, I strongly believe that the sections 28-35 of the Bill should be removed. If the Home Office believes that some areas of security for all firearms could be enhanced then it should enter into constructive conversations with the shooting community who I am sure would be willing to enter into such a dialogue if it meant that proportionate, evidence based and workable enhancements to the many regulations that shooters very carefully abide by be introduced. UK shooters are de facto law abiding citizens passionate about their pastime and would welcome sensible legislation allowing them to continue shooting unimpeded.

Charles Horner

August 2018

 

Prepared 13th August 2018