Internal police documents seen by UK Shooting News have revealed that police firearms licensing employees want to ban: .22 semi-autos; magazine-fed shotguns; all 50-cals; section 2 certificates; free 1-for-1 variations; old spec deactivated firearms; antique firearms; and appeals to courts against police decisions.
UK Shooting News’ author assures readers that this is all real, and not some feverish nightmare.
The gun ban shopping list came to light thanks to a Freedom of Information request made by campaign group Firearms UK.
In what is best summed up as a 26-point rant against virtually every aspect of private firearms ownership in the UK, an unidentified police employee – who UKSN suspects is a very senior figure from the
National Police Chiefs’ Council Continuity ACPO’s firearms licensing group – listed all the shooting-related objects that senior police figures want to see banned from private enjoyment in the UK.
Included in the list were:
Section 2 certificates. The police want to abolish the section 2 shotgun licensing system and move everything into a section 1 style system. They justify this by saying it would make the system “cheaper to administer”, which seems to UKSN to be a perverse statement that does not take into account the huge amount of bureaucracy generated by the section 1 system, vis a vis the section 2 system.
Semi-auto firearms and shotguns. The police rhetoric from a year ago, demonising the licensed firearms community and repeatedly stating that we as a whole were ignoring the law by not keeping our firearms securely stored, has continued. “Domestic extremism” is a good enough reason for police figures to demand all semi-autos, firearms and shotguns alike be banned. Realising this may not get through, the police employee writes: “Consideration should be given to amending S5(21)(ab) to read “other than one which is chambered for rimfire cartridges not exceeding .22”.
Magazine capacity restrictions. Hitherto, Britain has not fallen for the American virus of arbitrarily restricting magazine capacities or targeting firearms for bans based on their form rather than function. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. “Consider further limits on the magazine capacity of multi shot shotguns”, writes the police author, “and the introduction of a magazine capacity on semi-automatic rifles.”
“Classification” of LBRs and LBPs. Long-barrelled pistol shooting is a growing sport in the UK, following the kneejerk ban of real pistols in 1997, an election year. The police author writes repeatedly about “classifying” these firearms, which in the context of the rest of the document’s proposals probably means taking the first step to banning them. The actual meaning is not made clear.
Miniature rifle ranges. Section 11(4) of the Firearms Act should be repealed as it allows .22 firearms to be bought without an FAC, say the police.
Free 1-for-1 variations. In one breath, the police suggest it should be considered “if a variation is required where one firearm is being exchanged for another of the same calibre and action” – before stating that if this proposal to remove the variation requirement for a 1-for-1 transaction altogether fails, they should be allowed to charge for 1-for-1s instead.
In a recurring theme, the police author goes on to suggest that virtually everything done by firearms licensing departments, including reprinting certificates with new addresses, should become a chargeable activity. Once again we see that the licensed firearms community are little more than cash cows to the police.
Banning .50 calibre rifles. In a worrying development the police appear to have started a new campaign to ban .50 calibre rifles for no readily apparent reason. Under the heading “material destruction rifles”, the police employee writes: “If someone were to use such a firearm in a firearm related major incident scenario, the results could be devastating. Consideration should be given to making these firearms prohibited weapons.”
Airguns. Despite the police officially rejecting the Scottish Nationalist proposal to make airguns licensable – which since passed – the author of this document appears to have lost touch with his comrades, blandly stating that “further restrictions should be placed on such weapons.”
Old-spec de-acts. The police want to make all pre-1995 de-activated firearms illegal by making the 1995 standard mandatory. This would be hugely costly and criminalise tens of thousands of people across the country for absolutely no good reason – although it would produce a rich seam of arrestable people, who otherwise did no wrong, that could be mined for years to come.
Antiques. As previously discussed on UKSN, the police want to bring in licensing of antiques through the back door by forcing antiques dealers to keep records of customers and making them sign declarations.
Shotgun cartridges, currently not licensed, should be licensed, say the police.
Mandatory training and testing should be made a legal requirement prior to granting a certificate. This raises the spectre of the NRA competency card scheme becoming law, with the police doubtless finding a way of raising revenue through the card scheme while making it harder and harder to take up the peaceful sport of shooting.
New powers of entry without warrant. Chief constables, says the police author, should be able to suspend a certificate pending investigation. This, if you knew nothing about how the licensing system operates, appears reasonable. “Such a suspension should carry a power of entry without warrant in order to seize the certificates and any firearms held by virtue of them,” writes the police employee, who brazenly goes on to state that the suspension should be for a fixed term of six months renewable for another six months through an internal police self-authorisation process. In effect this would be a revocation by another name, evading the statutory controls placed on police to ensure they only exercise the power of revocation in a lawful and accountable manner.
Abolishing court appeals is one of the more offensive suggestions on the list. While both police and public know that the cost of a court appeal starts from five figures and increases exponentially, it looks as if they are not only fishing for hugely intrusive and disruptive powers to target the licensed firearms community but they also want to pull the ladder up to ensure that courts which make binding decisions on the law which the police are forced to obey no longer play a part in firearms licensing.
In effect, a move to a non-binding tribunal-based dispute resolution system, whether or not headed up by a judge, would allow the police carte blanche to make it up as they go along, secure in the knowledge that the worst punishment for ignoring a previous tribunal decision would be a slap on the wrist. When police firearms licensing employees are doing egregiously unlawful things, such as insisting on good reason being provided for a shotgun certificate grant or deciding to simply ignore a club’s application to transfer an FAC from one member to another – both cases that have come to UKSN’s attention recently – the importance of having a binding power to check police ambitions cannot be overstated.
The Home Office Guidance should become an Approved Code of Practice “in order to give police decisions greater weight with the courts,” writes the ACPO employee. While making the HO guidance binding is initially a tempting prospect, one must bear in mind that the guidance has been rewritten half a dozen times in the last 12 months. Each rewrite introduced new restrictions on behalf of the police (removal of rifle bolts for storage is now a “requirement”, for example).
The police have recently convinced the Home Office to “legislate” for them at will: prior to the last 12 months, the guidance had been left intact for about a decade. Putting the guidance on a statutory footing within the current system, whereby no consultation or cooling-off period is needed before the “law” is rewritten, would be akin to telling the police they and they alone would have the power to rewrite firearms law precisely as they want it. This would result in innumerable new restrictions, hurdles and pitfalls designed explicitly to reduce the number of firearms in circulation and people taking part in the sport of shooting, judging by the number of new restrictions that FELWG want to introduce to the Law Commission.
Family members should be consulted if a person applies for a certificate to determine their “suitability”, according to the police. UKSN believes this idea is drawn directly from Canada, where the idea has met with mixed success at best. Continuity ACPO’s employee does not elaborate on why this idea would be a good one, clearly inferring he doesn’t take it seriously.
A list of disclosed documents can be found here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/request_for_information_under_th_5?nocache=incoming-702432#incoming-702432
The gun ban shopping list is here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/284961/response/702432/attach/html/32/Law%20Commission%20paper.pdf.html
UKSN’s author finds that writing about the police’s insatiable desire to ban everything about the possession and enjoyment of firearms and shooting is getting depressing, not to mention imbuing him with a sense that no police employee can, or should, ever be trusted with formulating public policy on firearms. Yet, reading documents like these, even the weariest cynic must sit up and take direct action to stop these people from winning. Truly, the price of freedom is constant vigilance against those who would destroy it.
It is worth reiterating that none of this has made it into the Law Commission’s current review. It appears that Continuity ACPO were, mercifully, too slow responding to the LC for this to be included. For the moment, we are safe within the sensible confines of the current licensing system.