Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by Mike Dunstan (OWB74)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

· I am objecting to the proposals contained in this Bill that would reclassify certain firearms as "prohibited weapons" under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968

· I am concerned about the lack of any credible evidence in the Impact Assessment that would justify the above proposals

· I am concerned that the Government has ignored the overwhelming objections to these proposals that were made through the public consultation

INTRODUCTION

My sport is target shooting. It is something I am very passionate about and, despite my advancing years, reasonably successful. As such I belong to a group of people whose members are among the most law abiding citizens in the country. Despite having an excellent safety record, we are constantly living in fear of being deprived of the freedom to enjoy our lawful possessions on the pretext of protecting the public from criminal or terrorist acts. While I do not own the types of firearm affected by these proposals I fully support their lawful ownership by holders of a Firearms Certificate (FAC). I am concerned that if ownership of these firearms is prohibited simply because someone in the police or Home Office doesn’t like them it will lead to further unjustified restrictions in future that will affect even greater numbers of the shooting community.

IMPACT ASSESSMENT

This document makes a number of grossly misleading and untrue statements.

1. High muzzle energy rifles would allow for the penetration of police body armour (page 6). This is only true if used in conjunction with types of ammunition which are not available to civilians.

2. It will protect public safety by limiting the availability of these firearms to be used in violent offences (page 6). This assumes that criminals and terrorists acquire their firearms from FAC holders. Where is the evidence to support this? A .50 cal rifle is very large and heavy, difficult to conceal and transport and slow to operate. It would not be a weapon of choice for a criminal or terrorist.

3. The rate of fire of MARS rifles means they are capable of large amounts of casualties or damage … (page 6). In the hands of a law abiding citizen who owns one for sporting purposes, this is irrelevant. Again, where is the evidence that these pose a risk to the public in the UK?

4. The estimated upper cost to the Government of compensating individuals and businesses for the loss of their legally held firearms is £6m (page 22). This is a colossal sum to be spending for no demonstrable improvement to public safety. Terrorists in the UK commit their atrocities with vehicles and knives. Criminals acquire firearms through their underworld connections who undoubtedly smuggle them in to the country from Eastern Europe. This money would be far better spent on improving border security.

5. These benefits cannot be quantified due to the uncertainty of how many such incidents may be prevented by the legislation (page 23). To base legislation on unquantifiable benefits is unacceptable and would set a very dangerous precedent in many other areas.

6. There were 45 firearm-related homicides per year between 2004/2005 and 2014/20015 (page 23). How many of these were by legally owned rifles (as opposed to criminally owned handguns)?

In order to assist you in assessing the conflicting views on the above issues I would urge you to seek answers from the Home Office to the following questions:

(a) What are the specific details of the NCA / police Risk Assessments that have apparently identified .50" calibre / MARS rifles as particular risks to public safety?

(b) What reductions in firearms crime are expected as a result of the prohibitions?

(c) What is the incidence of legally held rifles being used in crime?

(d) Why are the strict rules on the granting of FACs deemed insufficient in the case of .50" calibre, MARS and lever release rifles?

Finally, I would ask that you take the following points into consideration when making your decision on this matter.

1. It is widely recognised that target shooting is one of the most inclusive sports as it can be enjoyed by people of all ages and physical abilities. It has one of the best safety records of any sport and is an area where the UK excels at an international level. For these reasons the government should be encouraging participation rather than seeking to impose ever more restrictions.

2. When faced with the need to be seen to be doing something to reduce criminal activity it is always easier to restrict the freedoms of law abiding citizens than it is to target the activities of criminals. While this may be politically expedient in the short term, experience shows that it is ineffective in achieving its stated aims. A prime example is the 1997 ban on the civilian ownership of handguns which has done nothing to reduce their use by criminals.

Thank you for taking the time to read this submission.

Mike Dunstan BA(Hons) CEng MIET

13 July 2018

 

Prepared 23rd July 2018