Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by Stuart Fingland (OWB47)

I write urgently in regard to the above mentioned Bill and the request for further evidence to aid discussion.

Within this Bill is stated intent to ban the civilian possession of "any rifle from which a shot, bullet or other missile, with kinetic energy of more than 13,600 joules at the muzzle of the weapon, can be discharged". This proposed prohibition will bring to an end the long established sport of .50 calibre rifle target shooting in the UK, a sport in which the UK participates and excels in annually in the World Championships held in the USA.

Additionally the Bill seeks to ban MARS rifles, an action which would unfairly discriminate against disabled shooters who rely on such weapons being available in order to continue the sport they love.

This part of the proposed legislation is deeply flawed for the following reason:

· The UK already has amongst the most robust firearms laws in the world.

· The proposed prohibition has been put forward without any evidence that the current civilian ownership of such target rifles presents any enhanced risk to the public, nor has there been any evidence produced which shows a link between ownership of such firearms and the current increase in gang related stabbings and shootings in London.

· No evidence is presented that the prohibition of such target rifles will enhance public safety, a fact now openly acknowledged by the Home Office and recently questioned by MP’s including Ian Duncan-Smith in the Commons during this Bills second reading.

· Such legally held target rifles have never been used in criminal activity and are completely unsuited given their size, cumbersome nature and difficulty of use.

o The one incident cited by my MP (Mr Damian Hinds) around Mohinder Surdhar being convicted of firearms offences is not relevant due to the fact that his .50 rifle was never used in a crime and Mr Surdhar was successfully arrested AND prosecuted under existing laws already in place.

o Furthermore their unsuitable nature is supported by the fact that the sole one stolen in the UK was found to have been abandoned by the criminal element that had stolen it rather than used for a criminal activity. To use such rifles requires considerable experience, training and skill.

· To use such rifles in an "anti-material" role requires the use of specialist ammunition (EG; Armour piercing) which is already prohibited for civilian ownership by current Section 5 legislation already. The only ammunition that civilian users can hold is regular ball ammo.

· Furthermore, current legislation already requires Chief Officers of police who grant firearms certificates to ensure "the applicant can be permitted to have the firearm or ammunition in his possession without danger to the public safety …" This precludes those from legitimately acquiring such rifle who would be unsuitable to do so.

· The data and evidence collected during the recent consultation on Offensive weapons has been ignored by the Government, with a huge majority of 78% of respondents opposed to the prohibition yet the Government seems intent on pressing ahead.

It is evident that the Government is seeking to promote a perception of a hard stance on violent crime by unnecessarily limiting the legitimate activities of law abiding sports men and women whilst failing to address the proliferation of handguns (already illegal under Section 5 since 1998) and fully automatic firearms (illegal since the 1930’s) being used by the criminal fraternity. Handguns and sub machine guns remain the firearms of choice for gangs at present, with knives and acid also being used to horrendous effect.

Whilst I am in no way opposed to further restrictions around the sale and possession of corrosive substances (clearly an area where further legislation IS required), I fail to see how banning .50 cal rifles which are used legitimately on a handful of military ranges by licensed civilians will address the worrying increase in violent crime in urban city centres which is committed primarily with knives and, where firearms are used at all, with pistols which are already banned.

July 2018

 

Prepared 17th July 2018