All UK-spec deactivated firearms will be rebranded “defectively deactivated” and it will be a crime to sell or give them away, if a UK law change to implement an EU diktat passes in its current form.
Clause 105 of the Policing and Crime Bill 2016 will implement the latest EU diktat on deactivated firearms, which came into force from 8th April 2016.
edit at 1645, 26 April, to add: It will implement the diktat by effectively saying “go and read this EU document, this is all now law”. Clause 105 will make a token effort to prevent the EU from making everyone into an overnight criminal. You do not commit any criminal offence by being in possession of UK-spec deactivated firearms, under the EU diktat, because it only applies to de-acs which have been “placed on the market” after 8th April 2016, as it says in its paragraph (1).
That diktat, formally known as “COMMISSION IMPLEMENTING REGULATION (EU) 2015/2403” (catchy name, eh?) is what sets out the new EU-wide deactivation specifications for all firearms. Crucially, the new EU specifications require more damaging of the deactivated firearm than the comprehensive UK laws required.
In particular, magazines of deactivated pistols, repeating rifles (i.e. single shot rifles with a magazine), semi-auto rifles and automatic firearms must be pinned and welded in place, or empty magazine housings permanently blocked through spots of weld being added to prevent the insertion of any magazine. Striker holes must also be welded shut.
UK specifications did not require any of this because magazines are not controlled in this country and chopping the bolt face at 45 degrees is enough to ensure any chambered round would simply blow the case head out backwards if fired.
As the new EU deactivation specifications are an EU Regulation (capital emphasis and all), they are directly enforceable as law in the UK, as the GOV.UK website explains in its glossary of EU legal terms. The Home Office firearms licensing webpage currently says: “All firearms submitted to the Proof Houses from 8 April must comply with this [EU] regulation.”
What does clause 105 mean for my deactivated firearms?
If – or rather, when – clause 105 in its current state becomes law (the Policing and Crime Bill is at its report stage in Parliament, meaning MPs are still discussing it before its final vote and Royal assent), all UK-spec deactivated firearms will be rebranded as ‘defectively deactivated firearms’.
The clause will make it a criminal offence to sell, exchange, barter or give away any ‘defectively deactivated’ firearm. Penalties include a 12 month prison term or a fine “not exceeding the statutory maximum”. The sole exception, however, is if you are selling it (or giving it away) to someone outside the EU, and that includes advertising it online so people abroad can buy it from you.
Clause 105 does not, however, appear to make it a crime to own, possess or acquire one.
The Deactivated Weapons Association has published a statement by their honorary solicitor. The full statement can be read on their website (PDF), but part of it says:
Strictly, the EU Regulation becomes legally binding without the need for further domestic legislation to introduce it into UK law. However, the question arises what sanction could be imposed for failing to comply. On 24th March 2016 a new clause was introduced into the Policing and Crime Bill currently going through Parliament which, if enacted, will give formal effect to this EU Regulation by making it a criminal offence to make available for sale or to sell or gift a ‘defectively deactivated weapon’ i.e. one not deactivated to the EU standard. This offence will be punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment.
However, until such time as this Bill is actually passed as an Act of Parliament and entered on the UK Statute Book, there is in my opinion currently no criminal offence in UK law for which a person could properly be arrested or successfully prosecuted by the Police or other UK law enforcement agencies if they sell or place on the market for sale a deactivated firearm which meets the present UK deactivation standard but fails to comply with the new EU deactivation standards.
Parliament has no authority to pass a new law or amend existing law to protect owners of UK-spec deactivated firearms from the consequences of this EU diktat. EU law is supreme.
Owners of post-2010 deactivated firearms can refer to the original UK specifications here, for interest.