Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by Mrs Helen Whicher (OWB75)

Executive Summary:

· To remove articles 28-35 inclusive in chapter 6 of the offensive weapons bill.

· The target shooting community are being unfairly treated by prohibitions proposed in the Bill.

· The Home Office has failed to provide any evidence that these high muzzle energy and "rapid firing" rifles pose any risk to public safety.

· Disabled shooters are being penalised as they use these rifles for their recreational

activities.

· Including these articles within the Bill is unconstitutional and an abuse of process.

Personal Introduction:

I am a member of the Weybridge Rifle & Pistol Club, a Firearms Certificate Holder and a target shooter since 1978. I have concerns over the proposed Offensive Weapons Bill with particular reference to banning rapid firing rifles, and certain powerful firearms.

Submission:

1. I agree that the serious matter of illegal firearms, acid & knife crimes should be addressed but the inclusion of firearms legislation seems to be irrelevant and not thought through properly and should be dealt with separately.

2. Shooting is a major sporting activity in the UK with some 2.25 million rifles and shotguns legally held on certificate. Certificate holders are rigorously assessed by the police and are subjected to medical assessments, references, background checks and ongoing continuous monitoring.

3. The Bill seeks to prohibit two specific groups (high muzzle energy and "rapid firing") of rifles; this affects some 1,000 or so firearms out of the 2.25 million held on certificate.

4. The shooting community views these prohibitions as a gross breach of natural justice as the Home Office has failed to provide any evidence that these rifles pose any risk to public safety. They referred to vague concerns raised by the police and the National Crime Agency (NCA) but have never published details.

5. To link civilian target shooters to gun crime is grossly misleading; pistols, illegal in the UK since 1997, remain the weapons of choice for the criminal fraternity.

6. There is some concern among Conservative Members about the proposal in the Bill to ban .5 calibre weapons because it would criminalise otherwise law-abiding users of a weapon which, as far as is known, has never been used in serious crime.

7. There are three key points to the shooting community’s objections:-

a. No legally owned rifle of the types to be prohibited has ever been used in criminal activity despite being used by target shooters for many decades.

b. The Home Office have providing misleading references by linking the rifles to be prohibited to shooting events in the USA; they quote the Las Vegas shooting despite the fact that the semi-automatic firearms used there were prohibited in the UK in 1988.

c. Current legislation (Section 27 Firearms Act 1968 as amended) 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 …"

8. Several MP’s make sound representation regarding the removal of articles 28-35 when the bill had its second reading on 27th June 2018 (including Mr Iain Duncan-Smith, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Mr Jonathan Djanogly, Mr Robert Courts, Dr David Drew, Dr Caroline Johnson, Mr Bill Wiggin, Mr Kwasi Kwarteng , Mr Simon Hart , Mr Ben Lake, Mr Mark Garnier, Mr Will Quince , Mr Tim Loughton, Mr Eddie Hughes , Dr Matthew Offord , Mr Craig Mackinlay , Mr Jim Shannon , Ms Vicky Ford , Mr Gavin Robinson)

9. Where is the evidence spoken of by Sajid Javid?: "The Bill does make some changes in relation to high-energy rifles and other such weapons. We based those measures on evidence that we received from intelligence sources, police and other security experts"

10. To ban certain firearms on the basis of unsubstantiated claims of threats to public safety is unconstitutional and an abuse of process.

11. It is misleading to group section 28-35 within this Bill as the general purpose of the Bill is to mitigate the effect and opportunity of knife and chemical crime. The prohibition of certain firearms should be dealt with elsewhere if necessary.

12. Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con) stated "I want to give the House a sense of the sort of people who are disadvantaged by the Bill by quoting paragraph 7 of the British Shooting Sports Council brief: (Page 4 of the UK FCSA Para 1d)

‘In fact, the Fifty Calibre Shooters Association…which is dedicated to target shooting with this calibre has its origins in the early 1980s in the USA and has over 2,500 members internationally. It is affiliated with .50 calibre target rifle shooting groups in Australia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom and, in addition to regular competitions, hosts the annual World Championship in which UK FCSA target shooters compete. The UK FCSA is a Home Office Approved Club, has existed as a well-respected target shooting club since 1991 and has grown to a membership of over 400.’

These are the sorts of people whom we are disadvantaging. As I have already said, and as I stress again to the Minister, these are some of the most law-abiding people in the country."

13. The banning of these weapons will cause problems for the disabled shooting community in an age where inclusivity is paramount. Disabled shooters use these rifles as part of their recreational activity.

14. It is reasonable to ask the Government what reduction in firearms crimes are expected as a result of the prohibitions in the Bill. It is difficult to see what problem is trying to be solved.

15. I urge careful scrutiny of the proposals to prohibit these firearms, interrogating the claimed enhancements to public safety and challenging the risk assessments produced but not published by the NCA.

16. I ask for the removal of articles 28-35 inclusive in chapter 6 of the offensive weapons bill.

July 2018

 

Prepared 23rd July 2018