Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by Carl Wiles (OWB31)

My name is Carl Wiles and I live in North Wales, Conwy council. This is the first time I have written to the government other than this same letter to my local MP. However I feel as though not enough people talk to their MPs who are supposed to represent them. I understand it is very hard to represent people if you do not know what they want, unless they talk to you. From this I hope to get across to you my views and concerns enabling you to see things from my perspective.

I would like to talk about an issue I have that involves the "Offensive Weapons Bill" primarily about the proposed ban on .50 calibre rifles and MARS (Manually Actuated Release System) or leaver release rifles. The real (but often overlooked) solution to these problems is the more difficult option of making it harder for criminals to get hold of any type of firearm rather than punishing people who cause no problems. I am not sure I understand what the government is trying to achieve with this ban as the overwhelming majority of gun crime in the UK is:

1. Committed by people who do not have a Firearms Certificate (FAC) and are not legally allowed to own a firearm. They would most likely not be allowed a FAC, failing the rigorous process of obtaining one.

2. The firearms used in crime are banned anyway. The best example of this would be pistols, most types are banned in this country however in most cases pistols or other banned and illegal to own firearms are what criminals use.

With the points above I would argue that criminals do not care about the law. Therefore, banning certain types of firearms makes no difference to the type of people we don’t want owning them as they already own them. It is far too easy to obtain illegal firearms in the UK. This is shown by the ever rising statistics of gun crime that appears to be kept quiet. In my eyes this is kept quiet in a fruitless attempt to prove that the government is doing something about the gun problem. However this is a false way of controlling firearms by punishing law abiding Certificate holders and has no effect on criminals therefore making nobody any safer than before.

I would also like to point out why criminals use these types of firearms such as pistols. It is because they are small and can easily be hidden. This is what criminal’s want, something that can be easily hidden on themselves or away in the car, house or wherever they chose to hide it. Any firearms they own are illegal and the easier they are to hide the better for them, as getting caught has huge consequences.

I do not know how familiar you are with firearms but I would like to ask if you have seen or held a .50 calibre rifle before? If not I would recommend going to have a look at one if it could be arranged. They are extremely heavy, large and take an incredible amount of skill to use properly after lots and lots of practice. Playing an online shooting game or watching films on TV is not enough to understand how they work let alone how to properly use and adjust the sight for different ranges and hit what you are aiming at. It is a skill that takes lots of practice and understanding to get right. That is why people find it fun. It is challenging and then very rewarding to work out the range of something, what way the wind is blowing and then adjust everything. When you actually hit what you were aiming at and all the effort you put in has paid off you get a great sense of achievement like a person would after climbing a mountain or by completing a marathon they train for, it is their hobby and they enjoy it.

I find it quiet disgusting that firearm owners are viewed as potential murderers and demonised for owning a tool. I feel as though we are seen as a risk to society because someone may want to steal a firearm we own and use it illegally. When a van or lorry is used to rob a shop or involved in a murder, van drivers across the country are not punished so why should we be? People who buy kitchen equipment are not seen as potential murderers when most knife crime is committed with simple kitchen knives. Should there be a kitchen knife licence whereby they are serialised to stop people stealing other's knives and using them in crimes? Why are vehicle drivers not seen as potential murderers when more people use vehicles as weapons (including terrorists) than anyone legally owning a firearm? It seems as though a lot of people assume firearm owners are some kind of weirdos or want to go around killing people because we have an interest in firearms even though this interest has been around for thousands of years.

That's right, thousands of years. Shooting has been a past time since the ancient Greeks and Celts who held archery competitions. The first known shooting clubs were formed in the 13th and 14th centuries and shooting has been an Olympic sport since 1896. Shooting is a sport and hobby for everyone, being inclusive of all groups of people and most types of disability. I have seen blind shooters who use sound to hit the target and a shooter with Down Syndrome who enjoyed clay pigeon shooting. Throughout its history it has mainly been dominated by men but now more women are getting involved and putting their male counterparts to shame with their shooting abilities.

Above I recommended that you view a .50 calibre rifle or possibly other rifles that would be on the ban list. I however do not own any of these so cannot offer, but know people who do. It could be a good idea to ask at local firearm clubs to yourself and see if they are willing to show you. I am also in the Army Reserve and another possibility could be asking your local Army or Army Reserve units if they would show you around our armouries. This would allow you to see similar rifles and even pistols that would otherwise be banned so you could compare.

So why am I concerned about this ban? It wouldn’t affect me, well it would and here is how. Things are repeatedly getting banned because one person uses a firearm irresponsibly and normal law abiding Firearms Certificate holders are collectively punished. Also with the "just in case scenario" eventually everything would be banned. Where would the banning stop? Should we ban cars? Then knifes? Then pens? They are sharp. The point I’m trying to make is banning things makes no sense. Why do we not prevent or take away things from people who use them illegally rather than everyone who uses them correctly? My fear is that would the next calibre down on the list be banned year after year because "just in case"? Some firearms have been passed down generations and have been used in the World Wars. These firearms are a part of British history and cherished by family members as their grandad’s rifle. Eventually will every shooter have to hand in their grandad’s rifle to be destroyed and left with only a bow and arrow? Although archery is also very fun and rewarding what is there to stop that being banned when that is the most dangerous thing left for a person to "legally" own.

I really would like to emphasise the use of the word "legally" here. Criminals do not and will not care about the law. They are already breaking it by owning prohibited firearms so banning a different type makes no difference they would still if they wanted to, find ways to obtain the firearms they want. For example if tomorrow all firearms were banned and FAC holders handed in all the legally owned firearms in the country the crime rate would stay the same, who knows it may even rise. Illegally owning a firearm and shooting someone is illegal but people still do it. Carrying knifes in the street is illegal but people still do it. Driving without passing a test or insurance is illegal but people still do it. It makes sense to stop and punish people breaking the law, not the people following it because the people breaking the law will continue to do so no matter how much the innocent are punished.

I hope this has been very informative to you and look forward to the outcome. Below I have written up how the process of applying for a Firearms Certificate was for me in case you do not know or are interested.

Thank you for your time.

Carl Wiles.

10 July 2018

 I think the UK has one of the best methods when determining who is allowed to own firearms. It is a very long, rigorous process to obtaining a Firearms Certificate. This process actually works and makes it very difficult for anyone other than the right people to be able to use firearms in this country. This is a break down, so you can understand what happens:

 

1. First you have to find a shooting club to join or have a suitable reason to own a firearm. You can’t just join a club. The members will first get to know you and do a very basic assessment of your personality. This is usually done with a probationary membership lasting any set number of months differing from club to club. (Mine was around 6 months).

 

2. You now join the club and pay fees (if they accept you). The club will be contacted by the police when you fill out the application form to confirm you are a member and to find out the clubs opinion of you.

 

3. Fill in application form and send off with fee (around £90 at the moment). This form needs to know absolutely everything about you including what and how many firearms you wish to own. Also the type and amount of ammunition you would like to own.

 

4. There is now usually a 4 to 6 months wait while the police contact your doctor for your medical history and ask for any reason why they think you should not own a firearm. The police also contact your two referees for a personal statement about you. During this period they look at any contact you have had with the police and also watch and dig into all of your social media to build up a picture of you and work out any reason why you might not be allowed to own a firearm.

 

5. Once this is done the police will contact you to arrange a home visit, questioning you on your choices of fire arm. If they believe you do not have enough experience or good enough reason they will not grant you that calibre or type until a later date and more experience.

 

6. The police come round to inspect your house and question you. They want to know where the firearms will be kept. It is good at this point to already have a safe, otherwise the police will have to come back to make sure it is correctly installed and that your firearms and ammunition are stored in separate safes. During this questioning they will ask any family members in the house how they feel about you owning firearms while also digging into your past. In my case the policeman asked me if I still had contact with my sister’s ex-boyfriend who she dated when she was 15 because he is now a criminal. This was 13 years ago. This just shows the lengths the police go to make sure you are safe and not going to break the law. In fact having speeding offences is a good enough reason to be refused ownership because this shows you willingly break the law how do they know you won’t when it comes to firearms.

 

7. Certificate is issued and you can now only buy the firearms you have listed and only buy the amount and type of ammunition you are allowed. Once you buy any firearms you have 7 days to notify the police of where you bought it, who from, the make model and serial number of the firearm. Failure to notify can result in a £2000 fine or prison sentence.

 

 

From this process I hope you can see the amount of time, effort and money that a shooter puts into owning their firearms. On top of all this the certificate is fully reviewed every 5 years. Breaking the law at any point no matter how minor could result in losing your certificate and also your collection that could easily cost well into the thousands. Surely this means that people with firearms certificates are probably the most well behaved citizens in this country not willing to risk what that have worked for in some cases for most of their life.

 

Thank you for your time once again.

 

Carl.

I understand that this evidence will be published after being reviewed. I think other members of the public would be interested to see the point of view from someone with a FAC. However, not many people know I own firearms and I would like it to remain this way. For this reason I would kindly ask that before any information is published on the evidence I have provided, personal details and information about me be anonymised or deleted first.

 

Prepared 17th July 2018