Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by Lionel Nierop (OWB43)

RE: Reclassifying certain firearms as "prohibited weapons" under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968.

Executive Summary:

· The use of firearms classed as prohibited weapons under s5 Firearms Act 1968 in crime is substantially higher than the use of rifles, which can be legally possessed under s1. Such classification is not an effective way of reducing crime.

· Possession of .50cal rifles is heavily controlled and requires club membership, a further hurdle to criminal use.

· Such rifles are too large and heavy to be an effective weapon for roaming mass shootings.

· Introducing the requirement that a rifle and/or ammunition be stored at a licensed range or via a section 5 firearms dealer may be an effective way of ensuring they remain secure but consideration needs to be given to private reloading of ammunition.

1. I am a target rifle shooter and member of a small shooting club. I am concerned that the debate misses a number of relevant facts and fails to consider actions which could mitigate the concerns cited as justification for the reclassification.

2. Use of rifles in crime is very low in comparison to weapons prohibited under section 5 Firearms Act 1978.

3. According to ONS data on reported offences in England and Wales, during Y/E Mar 2017, 61 offences out of 9,578 involved the use of rifles - 1 fatal injury resulted.

4. 2,685 offences involved the use of handguns, classed as a section 5 firearm since the passing of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 – 17 fatal injuries resulted.

5. A further 443 offences involved other section 5 firearms (including CS gas, Pepper spray, Machine gun, Stun gun).

6. There are no records of a .50cal rifle being used in any offence in the UK, save for a theft, following which the rifle was recovered.

7. Ownership and possession of .50cal rifles is tightly controlled under existing firearms legislation. Potential owners must prove ‘good reason to possess’ before the grant of a firearms certificate – generally this will be hunting or target shooting via a club. In the case of .50cal rifles, they have no civilian use other than target shooting and their use is only permitted on a small number of MOD Ranges to which civilians can only gain access via membership of a relevant club. This puts an additional hurdle in the way of a potential acquirer who may be considering use of such a rifle for nefarious purposes.

8. .50cal rifles are extremely heavy (c13.5kg), as is the ammunition used (c120g per round). Their weight and large size (120-140cm) makes them cumbersome to transport and totally unsuited to use in an attack such as that seen in Paris.

9. If, despite the above, the committee is convinced of the need for further controls on the private ownership of these weapons storage of the weapon and/or ammunition at a licensed range or via a licensed section 5 firearms dealer would be an effective way of ensuring that they remain secure and out of the hands of criminals whilst allowing the legitimate sport of target shooting to continue. Consideration must however be given to how licensed users can be permitted to continue to load their own ammunition – reloading allows shooters to calibrate ammunition to their particular rifle which is an important element of competitive target shooting.

10 July 2018

 

Prepared 17th July 2018