22 Feb 2016 – Police-sponsored lobby agency the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) has gone on a fresh PR drive demanding antique guns are licensed – demanding the introduction of a raft of expensive measures that will eat into police budgets.
West Midlands Police is acting in lockstep with NABIS in order to promote the idea that antique guns should be brought completely within the firearms licensing system.
While the publicly available police submissions to the Law Commission review of 2015 did not explicitly call for full licensing of antiques, it seems plausible that in private police were keen to push this view – and have since gone public after not getting their way.
This was the same approach police adopted with their partly successful drive to hike firearms licensing fees in late 2014 in order to turn shooters into profit-driving cash cows. The then policing minister, Damian Green, rejected that backroom approach and ordered the police to show their workings publicly, which resulted in the police’s proposed quadrupling of fees being reduced to high but not unreasonable levels.
Proposals published in the draft Policing and Crime Bill a fortnight ago will give a solid definition of what an antique firearm is, for the first time, in law. At present antique firearms are not strictly defined, though several non-legally binding documents have been produced to help police and the public understand what counts as a non-licensable antique.
Antique firearms are obsolete firearms owned as curiosities or ornaments. The exemption in law for antiques was drafted to cover items such as blunderbusses hung over fireplaces and the like. Police have, in recent years, been keen to publicly air the idea that criminal gangs are using antique firearms (not held as curios or ornaments) to commit crimes, calling for further restrictions.
Detective Chief Superintendent Jo Chilton and ‘chief scientist’ of NABIS, Martin Parker, gave an interview to the BBC today in which they admitted there are just 100 antiques being misused by criminals across the country.
Chilton appeared on BBC Radio West Midlands this morning to call for licensing of antiques, while NABIS itself has secured an entire episode of BBC regional current affairs programme Inside Out, due to be broadcast at 7.30pm tonight, to repeat its call for licensing.
West Midlands Police has also launched another firearms surrender campaign, which was advertised across the whole front page of today’s Birmingham Mail.
It appears that NABIS, whose track record on political lobbying is well known to regular UK Shooting News readers, is pushing hard to score another success for itself.
While the problem of misuse of antique firearms is a legitimate area of concern, the law at present is not difficult to enforce. If you have an antique firearm and you do not have it as a curiosity or ornament (i.e. you’re carrying it on the streets and/or you have viable ammunition for it in your possession), then grounds for arrest and prosecution are clear.
Like many ‘something must be done, change the law!’ campaigns, there is no evidence to suggest that licensing or banning antique firearms will stop criminals from misusing them or acquiring them outside the law, as they do with weapons such as MAC-10s and self-loading pistols.
It’s also notable to see BBC West Midlands wholeheartedly getting behind this push, giving NABIS’ lobbyists free access to the airwaves. The token opponent on the web report linked above was an antique firearms dealer from Hereford, and the desultory two sentence quote the BBC reporter gave him made the poor man seem blockheaded rather than someone whose livelihood is at risk from the police lobbyists.
UKSN awaits any kind of organised public response to this by the licensed firearms community’s representative bodies.