Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by Leighton Colegrave for the Offensive Weapons Bill (OWB172)

Dear House of Commons Public Bill Committee

Please find my written submission concerning some of the proposals relating to changes to firearms legislation detailed in the Offensive Weapons Bill. I understand the deadline for submission is 13 September 2018.

I am an experienced recreational shooter and I have been involved in shooting since the 1960’s. I regularly use shotguns and air rifles for target shooting, vermin control and game shooting. In the past I have used .22 rimfire rifles, as well as higher calibre military weapons such as .303 and 7.62mm rifles in the RAF cadets and as a Volunteer Reserve. I am making this submission in a personal capacity and I am only considering the changes to firearms legislation contained in the bill, although I also have serious concerns about some of the other parts of the bill.

I am fully supportive of effective, proportionate and considered measures against the threat of terrorist attacks and other criminal activities involving firearms, explosives, as well as anything else used to kill or injure innocent people. However, I would argue that these concerns are being unfairly used to impose further, unnecessary restrictions on law-abiding firearms users in the UK, with no tangible benefits to public safety.

I wish to make the following additional points for your consideration please:

1. New Clause 7 Air Guns - This amendment to the bill will amend the Firearms Act 1968 to prevent a person under the age of 18 from having an air gun on private land, other than as part of a sporting club. I personally used air rifles on private land from the age of 11 and it was critical in teaching me gun safety, marksmanship, fieldcraft and humane dispatch using a less powerful firearm. It was also a very enjoyable hobby and experience. The current legislation allows 14 - 17-year-olds to do so unsupervised, and under 14’s to do so if supervised by a person over 21. Removing the ability for young people to continue to do this will take away these very important benefits. It is also very unfair to restrict their access to what is currently a completely lawful and constructive hobby. Please also consider that any person shooting on private land must have permission from the landowner. Any young person doing so will therefore have been vetted and approved by the owner, and if they do so without permission, then existing legislation is sufficient to address this. Furthermore, if this amendment becomes law, we will have a situation where young people under 18 can legally use shotguns on private land, but not air rifles (unless in a sporting club), which is highly inconsistent.

Based on these facts, I would like to request that this amendment is removed please.

2. New Clause 22 Home Loading - This clause appears to ban the home loading of all ammunition, unless there is an appropriate defence, because it will mean owning components with the intent to manufacture ammunition will be illegal. I strongly object to this because it bans what is currently a perfectly legitimate and safe activity. Home loading benefits many shooters with costs savings and the ability to tailor loads to their own requirements, as well as providing added enjoyment. This ban will not deliver any noticeable benefits to public safety, nor prevent the illegal manufacture of ammunition. Instead it will only penalise legitimate, law abiding shooters. In addition, it will render home loading equipment redundant, so will compensation be offered by the government for this?

Based on these facts, I would like to request that this amendment is removed please.

3. New Clause 28 Shotgun Ammunition - This amendment would make it an offence to purchase or acquire shotgun ammunition without a valid firearm certificate. However, a shotgun certificate is not usually referred to as a firearm certificate, so I believe that the wording here requires changing to ensure there is absolutely no ambiguity. Many people have already read this amendment as moving shotgun ammunition under section 1 firearms control, which I am sure is not the intention, otherwise most shotgun owners would not be able purchase appropriate ammunition because they do not have a section 1 firearm certificate.

I would like to request that this amendment is reworded appropriately please.

4. Proposed ban of High Muzzle Energy (HME) rifles and MARS action and some other rifles
As far as I am aware, legally owned HME and MARS type rifles have rarely, if ever, been used in any crimes, nor have they been stolen from legal owners and then used in a crime. Furthermore, it has been consistently shown that legal firearms owners are among the most law-abiding people in society and are held to higher behavioural standards than average members of the public. I really feel that this proposed legislation to ban more firearms is more of a PR exercise to make the public think they are being made safer. All it will actually do is further restrict the legitimate activities of people that are already no threat to public safety, and who have gone through extensive checks to prove this, as well as incur compensation costs if these weapons are banned.

I should further point out that handgun crime doubled after the ban on ownership in the UK, and gun crime has increased in London by ~42%. In the past, as another example, the IRA obtained HME rifles illegally. It is evident that legal firearms owners are not the cause of these problems and more recently it has been shown that the firearms used in terrorist attacks in Europe were illegally obtained.

Based on these facts, I would like to request that these proposed bans for certain types of rifles are removed please.

5. Scope of the bill -  I feel that this bill has many parts and it tries to cover too many different things at once. In addition, some parts are not precisely worded enough. This makes it difficult to comment coherently on the varied content, which all requires careful scrutiny and consideration. I would also argue that including changes to firearms legislation in a bill entitled ‘offensive weapons’ is disingenuous. Legally held firearms are used in legitimate sporting activities, and some shooting disciplines are classed as international and Olympic sports. It is very wrong to suggest that these firearms are ‘offensive weapons’, even if they have the potential to be if used illegally.

I am also very concerned to see that several of the late amendments to this bill have very significant and far reaching consequences. I do not feel this is a fair and effective way to implement considered, appropriate, proportionate, targeted and well-composed legislation. 

September 2018

 

Prepared 10th September 2018