Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by Simon Fowler (OWB176)

Please may I make the following observations on the proposed changes to the Bill:

NC7 - Prohibition of air weapons on private land for those under the age of 18

This proposed change would disproportionately discriminate against law abiding shooters. Currently, as the law stands, it is illegal to be in possession of an air gun on land without permission. This would be armed trespass, a crime punishable by up to 3 months in prison and a fine of £2,500. This penalty is proportional.

People under the age of 18 are able to shoot on land with an air gun for target practice or pest control. This is legal, and allows under 18’s to perform a valuable service as well as learnt to shoot safely. This is often conducted safely in back gardens as well as on agricultural land. The proposal to only allow under 18’s to shoot in a club is disproportionally restrictive. There are only a few clubs in the uk, and in rural areas there a few if any. Under 18s from rural areas would be forced to travel for hours to their nearest club, whilst others who are over 18 can continue to shoot lawfully in land where they have permission, including their back garden.

My own son has held a shotgun certificate since he was 11 years old, and is able to shoot lawfully on private land with permission. This amendment would create a perverse situation where he could legally fire a 12 bore shotgun in our garden (provided it was done safely), but not a sub 12ft/lb air rifle.

The existing law on armed trespass is sufficient to cover under 18’s and adults who take guns onto land where they do not have permission, including public land. Placing further restrictions will not prevent those who wish to break the law from doing so- the law is already clear and the penalty is harsh. The proposed change will only effect law abiding shooters.

NC13 - Offensive Weapons and online videos

The proposal to make it an offence for a website to host online or distribute a video in which a person displays an offensive weapon in a threatening manner, is flawed as it would prevent news websites such as the BBC, Sky News etc from showing reports on conflicts abroad, such as the situation in Syria, as most of these involve weapons that are currently banned in the uk even before this Bill is finalised. It could also prevent fictional dramas which involve such weapons from being distributed on online platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prim etc. This would include most war films, where "offensive" weapons are actually used to kill people, and eve factual documentaries.

If someone is threatened online by video, then this should be dealt with as a malicious communication, rather than trying to ban anything that has the image of a gun in it.

September 2018


Prepared 10th September 2018