Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by The Lanes Armoury (OWB195)

My Brother, David , and I run a family business in Brighton, and have done so all our working lives, I  Mark , for 46 years, my brother David for 35.

Our business trades under the name ‘The Lanes Armoury’, at 26 Meetinghouse Lane, Brighton, BN11HB, and we are considered to be one of the largest Antique Arms, Armour, Militaria and Specialist Book Dealers in Europe. Our family have been traders in the area since before WW2. Our shop receives over 2,000 visitors every Saturday alone. It has been regarding by no less a body than the New York Times as one of the recommended places to visit for those Americans while on holiday in the UK. We are now the very last Antique Shop based in Brighton Lanes. Brighton was once renown as the Antique Centre of Europe, in fact still is erroneously, to those who are unaware that the 300 or so Antique businesses premises have all closed in the past 10 years.

Our business has traded with numerous museums, thousands of private collectors, and historical institutions around the world during all of that time. Our clients vary from presidents to postmen, from national museums to the humblest of collectors, and in a small survey we undertook some few years ago, the average age of our collectors is over 35 years, with 25% over 50 years old.  Furthermore , to the best of our knowledge not a single one has committed a violent crime with any collectables they own. Young people certainly do visit us with their parents [though no one under 18 unaccompanied by an adult is permitted in our shop] they are hugely interested, educationally and  historically, but are not any part of our demographic of our actual clientele. The average price of our antique edged weaponry for example is over £800. Our swords climb to up to £15,000, each and some have been in excess of £50,000.

The current proposed most sweeping amendments to the Offensive Weapons Bill etc. could have a devastating effect, in fact potential closure of our business, and thus a direct and detrimental impact on at least twenty people in our case alone, plus the knock-on ramifications that will have.

We fully appreciate urgent steps need to be taken regarding the current situation, regarding edged weapon and corrosive substance youth crime etc., but some of the proposed changes to the act will have no effect on the aforementioned criminals , but will dramatically effect hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of collectors of historical, antique arms armour and edged weapons.

The proposed removal of the ability to deliver edged weapons to private homes, and the specific amendments proposed only last week to add the prohibition of the d isplay of edged weapons, would a ffect us dramatically, and also to a great extent, the retrospective further EU specification for the deactivation of previously deactivated ar ms. This amendment alone would a ffect 400,000 previously lawfully owned and deactivated arms owners, to be become, technically, criminals as soon as the amendment is enacted. In the following pages it shows that to further de-activate already lawfully fully de-activated 400,000 arms would take in excess of 30 years [no difficult calculation of course]. Plus, to create a gun ownership sales register [another proposed amendment] for buyers of antique flintlocks, from 200 years old to over 400 years old is, frankly ridiculous.

Young criminals have proved over the years to be extraordinarily resourceful, hence the fact their recent switch to acid crime being one example. If a young person can’t have a knife delivered to their home could a single rational mind think they couldn’t entertain an alternative source other than from a mail order source. They could quickly and simply come up with another, say, asking an adult to buy a Stanley knife for them from any hardware shop. However, this amendment means that hundreds of thousands of middle aged and serious collectors of antique and historical swords [even bronze age edged weapons] would no longer be allowed to do have home deliveries through no fault whatsoever of their own. Disabled collectors could find this a particular hardship .

I apologise for the length of this communication, as it continues below, but the issues certainly need clarifying, and I am including a response to the said amendments from the De- activated Weapons Association.

Late last week a new clause was added to the Offensive Weapons Bill which is currently working its way through Parliament. Clause NC29 was submitted by two Labour MPs and reads as follows:

Louise Haigh, MP
Vicky Foxcroft, MP

NC29

To move the following Clause-

"Controls on deactivated weapons
(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.""

Member’s explanatory statement
This new clause would make it a requirement for anyone possessing deactivated weapons to meet the technical specifications the Secretary of State is required to publish by section 8
A( 5) of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988, for it to be considered deactivated and therefore not require a certificate.

Section 8A of the Firearms Act is the section introduced by the Policing and Crime Act relating to defectively deactivated firearms. Whilst the amendment does not really seem to fit where indicated (after A(A)(1)(b)), the aim is clear from the Member’s statement; to require owners of legacy deactivated firearms (i.e. all firearms deactivated prior to June 2018 irrespective of their original deactivation date) to have them re-deactivated to the current EU specification (and then again to any future new specification) in order to continue owning them legally. You don’t need us to tell you how serious this would be for collectors and the industry as a whole .

In addition to the proposed prohibition of the delivery of edged weapons to a private home, there serious additional concerns to these late additions:-

 

1.    Prohibition of bladed product display: NC16 (Page 21)

2.    Offence of buying antique firearms for cash etc: NC26 (Page 26)

3.    Compulsory register of transaction in antique firearms: NC27 (Page 26-27), and

4.    Controls on deactivated weapons: NC29 (Page 28)

Points to consider:

The following points make reference to legacy deactivated firearms. These include any firearm deactivated to an official UK or EU standard from 1988 to June 2018. References to UK legacy deactivated firearms include any firearm deactivated to an official UK standard from 1988 to May 2016. If you mention ‘legacy’ items in your letter/email, please make sure that you explain this to the recipient.

Relating to Law;

NC29 is in direct contradiction of the EU Deactivation Regulations that we now must adhere to - (EU) 2015/2043 and its revision (EU) 2018/337.


Article 1 point 2 states; This Regulation shall not apply to firearms deactivated prior to the date of its application, unless those firearms are transferred to another Member State or placed on the market.


In other words, there should be no retrospective deactivation requirement for legacy deactivated firearms unless they are sold or otherwise permanently transferred

NC29 also contradicts Article 10b (7) of the EU Firearms Directive (EU) 2017/853 which introduces the concept of equivalency for legacy national deactivation standards. The UK Home Office has made a submission for such equivalency and this is currently being considered by the EU Firearms Working Group; NC29 completely undermines this submission and approach. If equivalency is granted, UK legacy deactivated firearms will
be considered to be deactivated firearms, equivalent to those deactivated under the EU Regulations, and will be fully transferrable.


All officially deactivated legacy firearms have been inspected by a Government appointed Proof House. For each deactivated firearm, they have confirmed that it meets a set of deactivation standards set by the Home Office; that it is no longer considered to be a firearm and that no firearms certificate is required to possess the item. Additionally, each legacy item has an official deactivation certificate to this effect. Should NC29 change the status of these official deactivations and their accompanying Proof House certificates, there will inevitably be legal challenges.

Relating to Historical and Cultural Loss;

UK legacy deactivated firearms are used extensively for;
Historical Research purposes – the study of firearms, their design, manufacture and the materials and mechanisms used within th
em. Educational purposes – often as part of living history presentations to school children to provide an immersive and historically accurate experience.

By re-enactment groups – regularly used in living history displays around the country to preserve and promote history in an engaging and interesting hands-on way.


By film, theatre and television – allowing actors to use firearms in a realistic and safe way but without the need and expense of hiring an on-set armourer.

Displays at museums and other historical sites.


For security training, e.g. airport security where it is essential that a deactivated firearm can be disassembled to allow different potential scenarios to be tested, e.g. firearm parts hidden in or disguised as everyday objects.


The development of extensive personal collections borne out of an interest in history, the military, mechanical engineering or indeed many other sub-fields.


Should there be a requirement for legacy deactivated firearms to be re-deactivated to the current technical specification,
the majority of the above uses would be destroyed or at the very least, severely impacted. Legacy items have more moving parts and, in some cases, can be cycled and stripped down, but all still with an inability to fire. These features are essential in all the activities described above and would be lost through re-deactivation to the current standard.

Criminality;

There are some 400,000 deactivated firearms in circulation; most of these are legacy items. None are registered and there are no records of where they currently are.
If enacted, NC29 would immediately criminalise tens of thousands of law-abiding collectors, re-enactors and companies who use legacy items. There would be no way of effectively communicating such a change in the law.


Any criminal use of legacy items would be unaffected by the legislation, as unsurprisingly criminals don’t obey the law; only the law-abiding would be punished.

Evidence Base;

It is important that any new legislation has a clear evidence base to justify the impact it may have. Where is the evidence that legacy deactivated firearms are causing a problem or pose such a risk that that this legislation is required?


NABIS have previously gone on record, stating that UK legacy deactivated guns pose no threat to the public in the UK.

Costs and Compensation;

Most collectors have thousands of pounds invested in their collections. Many have tens of thousands and some have hundreds of thousands.


The majority of this investment is in legacy items which have greater monetary value due to a combination of their historical value and their legacy deactivation standards.
NC29 would have a catastrophic impact on the value of legacy items and the collections in which they reside.


Additionally, re-deactivation costs between £100 and £150 per item depending on the complexities of the task (undoing a previous deactivation to re-deactivate can be very time consuming, destructive and expensive). How could it ever be reasonable for a collector (who has already paid for deactivation once) to have to foot the bill for re-deactivation of their entire collections? Some simply would not be able to afford it. What then?

As written, each time the technical specification was updated, collectors would have to re-deactivate their entire collection again with the same or even greater costs involved. This is completely unreasonable, especially as the technical specification has already been updated once in two years.


Should NC29 be enacted, compensation for loss of value and re-deactivation would seem entirely reasonable and would be expected.

Logistics;

As stated, there are some 400,000 deactivated firearms in circulation with the majority being legacy items deactivated over approximately 30 years of official UK deactivation standards
There are less than ten specialist gunsmiths in the UK who offer deactivation services with the majority of these being a
one person business. Obviously, statistics can be manipulated to show anything , but to put this into context; Assuming an average of 1.5 hours required to re-deactivate each legacy item, this would equate to 600,000 working hours to deactivate all legacy items. Assuming a working day of 8 hours, this would equate to 75,000 working days
Given 10 specialist deactivators in the UK, this would equate to 7,500 days per deactivator

Assuming a
5 day working week, this would equate to 1,500 working weeks per deactivator
Assuming two weeks holiday per year, this would then equate to 30 years of work per deactivator to
re-deactivate all legacy items. Even if the variables in the above model are adjusted (deactivation time, working day, working week, etc.) the resources required to complete re-deactivation of legacy items is simply not sufficient to meet the requirement.
In addition to the issues regarding physical re-deactivation, each re-deactivated item would then have to be re-inspected and re-certified at one of the two UK Proof Houses. They would be the first to admit that whilst as businesses they would benefit from the additional income this would generate, their current systems and capacity would not be able to cope with such a massive influx of extra work. This would tie them up for years, to the detriment of all other duties.

Quoting from the
DWA Administration

Deactivated Weapons Association

 

September 2018

 

Prepared 12th September 2018