Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by John S. Parris (OWB66)

The purpose of this email is to register strongly-held views regarding aspects of the proposed new legislation on Dangerous Weapons where it relates to the licensed holding of certain "high muzzle energy" firearms for legal sporting purposes by carefully vetted and approved individuals, all of whom are subject to a wide range of scrutiny both before and after they become licensed and who are required by law to maintain approved stringent security arrangements and to use their weapons only in approved and properly supervised locations, with careful attention to safe and secure handling, transport and storage of weapons and ammunition.

In short, the legislation which blindly proposes to ban the licensed holding of firearms which can perform at "high muzzle energy" is ill-conceived and poorly thought out.

Beyond the simple fact that the few licensed UK shooters who hold and use these weapons are among the most trustworthy, careful and law-abiding of UK citizens, it must be considered that only in the rarest of circumstances could such a rifle as this be of any use to a criminal (and, specifically, only a terrorist or someone intent on killing from a long range).  Even then, a high muzzle-energy rifle  would only be a viable "weapon of choice" if its user had appropriate skills (almost impossible to achieve illegally) , a supply of ammunition (which in civilian hands is heavily regulated and very well-guarded) and was in a position to use such a large, awkward and cumbersome weapon for illegal purposes (logically long-range sniping).  In such a rare and improbable case, it remains virtually impossible for such a weapon to be acquired by terrorists from a licensed UK user.  It would be infinitely easier for a terrorist or other criminal to buy such a rifle on the black market (abroad) and attempt to smuggle it into the UK.  None of those actions would be in any way constrained by the proposed legislation.

Apart from the extreme impracticality of using a high muzzle velocity rifle as a tool for crime, no consideration appears to have been given in this proposed legislation to the simple practicality that muzzle velocity relates to the bullet itself and the specifics of the charge which drives it.  These can be varied, and thus it is a complex matter to define any one rifle as having "high muzzle energy" when, in fact, muzzle energy is determined by the characteristics of the particular ammunition used and the barrel through which it is fired.

With every MP speaking on the firearms aspect of the bill pointing out how inappropriate that aspect was, the second reading clearly demonstrated how essential it is that our legislation should be properly considered, proportionate and not based on the simplistic "knee-jerk" reaction of officials to circumstances which they do not fully comprehend.  It is such careful scrutiny which prevents bad law reaching the statute books and thus properly serves and protects the people of the United Kingdom without unfairly impacting upon the reasonable rights of law-abiding citizens.

I am a committed believer in the good sense of placing heavy new restrictions upon dangerous weapons such as knives and corrosive substances.  I am not however at all supportive of a proposed change in the law which will do nothing to restrict the availability of high muzzle energy weapons to the rarest of criminals who might feel a need to use them.  As proposed, the bill would  achieve nothing to fight crime or terrorism, but would instead bring to an end the legitimate sporting use of these specialised rifles by highly committed, skilled and licensed shooters, who put so much into their sport and some of whom compete successfully on the international stage.

I hope the Committee Stage will remove the inappropriate proposal to ban high muzzle energy rifles and concentrate where it really matters, on ensuring that the illegal carrying and use of knives and corrosive substances is properly dealt with.

John S. Parris

12 July 2018

 

Prepared 17th July 2018