Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by Andy Beal (OWB187)

Ever since I can remember I have had an interest in military history and the collection of military artifacts, and have one of the foremost collections of WW1 Militaria in the Country.

Around 14 years ago I set up my own business dealing in Military Antiques building up a specialist antique business through hard-work, dedication, reinvestment of funds etc.  

I only sell to legitimate collectors over the age of eighteen any my clients includes surgeons, GPs, police officers, solicitors, Justices of the Peace, architects, accountants, school teachers and yes MP’s. 

I am sure I speak for the vast majority of our society, who are increasingly alarmed by the escalating amount of violence that we are currently witnessing on our streets.  This seems to be in the form of terrorists mowing down pedestrians in cars and vans, members of gangs using kitchen knives that are cheap and readily available throughout most kitchens in the country, the throwing of caustic liquids and acids and the escalating use of hand-guns although these were banned some time ago. 

However, it is with some dismay that I have accidentally become aware of all the tabled amendments to the Offensive Weapons Bill, some of which in their present form could have a catastrophic effect on the fine antique/ collector’s grade arms, armour, medals and militaria that I have nurtured and created and that provides my living and that of many other businesses and dealerships the length and breadth of the country.  This is not to mention the adverse effect to the collectors and investors who have spent considerable time and money creating private collections as investments.  Such collections now being extremely valuable, but also containing rare and unique historic items, that could now be under threat. 

I am fully aware that this is an emotive subject, but notice from the witness’s to the committee that there is a rather biased leaning towards enforcement, victims and the "live" firearms fraternities.   Not a single expert witness from law abiding Antique, Fine Arms and Armour retailers/ dealers or collectors societies have had a look in, giving a rather skewed un-balanced prospective, which seems rather undemocratic.

The first element of concern to me is NC17 "Prohibition of bladed product displays" which states (1) A person who in the course of a business displays a bladed product in a place in England and Wales or Northern Ireland is guilty of an offence".  

Most of the population is aware that the vast majority of knife crime is committed by young men armed with readily available kitchen knives, either for a few pounds from hardware shops or the domestic kitchen.  The potential knife carrier is NOT going to Arms and armour dealer shops, fairs etc and buying antique swords, bayonets etc from fifty pounds to many thousands of pounds to use in knife crime.  The vast majority of my antique arms and armour dealer colleagues are extremely responsible, do NOT sell to anyone under the age of eighteen in any event and will not sell to anyone who is NOT a bone fide collector/ dealer/ re-enactor. Similar to the licensed trade, where a landlord can refuse to serve someone and has no obligation to sell to anyone, this purely at his/ her discretion.

 

Does this mean I can no longer sell fine antique swords, halberds rare bayonets at the fairs I attend or via my website?

How will I be able to sell antique English Civil War swords, Georgian Officers  swords, etc.  How will collectors know what stock I have available and be able to make purchases and augment/ improve their private collections?

However the main element of concern to me is NC29 "Controls on deactivated weapons stating:- 

(1)  The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 is amended as follows.

(2)  After section 8(A)(1)(b) insert:-

"(1A)  Deactivated firearms must meet the technical specifications set out under Section 8(A) of this Act to be considered deactivated."" 

(The Firearms Amendment Act- Section 8A states:- De-activated weapons.

For the purposes of the principal Act and this Act it shall be presumed, unless the contrary is shown, that a firearm has been rendered incapable of discharging any shot, bullet or other missile, and has consequently ceased to be a firearm within the meaning of those Acts, if- 

(a)        it bears a mark which has been approved by the Secretary of State for denoting that fact and which has been made either by one of the two companies mentioned in section 58(1) of the principal Act or by such other person as may be approved by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this section; and

(b)       that company or person has certified in writing that work has been carried out on the firearm in a manner approved by the Secretary of State for rendering it incapable of discharging any shot, bullet or other missile.)

This is rather ambiguous/ confusing as to what it is saying and thus open to various interpretations.

Is it saying any deactivated firearm pre 1988 is now illegal, is it saying that any deactivated firearm that was deactivated prior to the latest EU deactivation regulations is now illegal or are currently held post 1988 but pre EU spec deactivation weapons still legal to possess but not to sell?

There are literally hundreds of thousands of deactivated firearms held throughout the length and breadth of this country by law-abiding collectors, re-enactors, military vehicle enthusiasts etc that are pre EU deactivations (although in most cases of superior deactivation).  Their prized and once precious collection of deactivated guns adversely affected by well intentioned but poorly thought out/ enacted legislation.  

Much of this legislation has come from abroad where poorly enforced gun-law made it easy to reactivate guns. Britain probably has the toughest gun laws in the world and it has been impossible to reactivate butchered deactivated guns for many years. Guns sold off by the British government for-instance being thoroughly decommissioned and made impossible to fire, and this work inspected/ approved by Home Office approved proof houses. The deactivated guns stamped once inspected that they were incapable of ever firing again and a Home Office approved to that effect issued with the deactivated weapon.

If it is, that this amendment is seeking to make deactivated guns that have been legally held in their hundreds of thousands, by thousands of collectors for decades illegal it will break quite a number of civil rights laws itself.  It will be impossible to enforce without knowing who has what and where, even if such enforcement resources were available for our over burdened Police, which they are not.  Furthermore, the Government will need to make provision for compensation that would run into billions and dwarf the compensation fiasco that followed the handgun ban, which of course I must add had no beneficial effect on the escalating gun crime problem.

This is the crux of the problem, that society is losing the war against drugs with drugs and gangs part and parcel of that problem, that these proposed amendments will have a negligible impact against.

As my MP I really would like a face to face to be able to discuss this in more detail.

September 2018

 

Prepared 12th September 2018