3 Oct 2017 – The Home Office is using the most recent American mass murder in Las Vegas to try and rush through new bans on .50″ rifles and “rapid fire” rifles. Both are legal for certified owners in the UK.
A government press release about the latest batch of bans in Britain (mostly headline-grabbing but minor changes to stop U18s buying sulphuric acid and knives) had this tacked onto the end:
“…moving two firearms (.50 calibre and certain rapid firing rifles) from the general licensing arrangements to the stricter provisions of section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968.”
As British shooters know, section 5 is the “prohibited weapons” section of the Act. Firearms and other weapons so classified are banned, meaning people holding ordinary firearm certificates cannot acquire or keep them. This is a gun ban plan.
It is not clear what “certain rapid firing rifles” means from the press release and no further information is available at the moment. This is British government department SOP: throw the plan out first with no detail, ride the wave of “getting tough/positive action” headlines, and then drip-feed out the gory details once public attention has moved on. The term could mean anything from .22″ semi-autos to section 1 shotguns, though UKSN believes it probably refers to the innovative self-unloading rifles developed in recent years. This may include lever-release and MARS action rifles.
With Home Secretary Amber Rudd becoming increasingly erratic in her Violet Elizabeth Bott-style rants at American social media companies for daring to use encryption in response to public demand, it seems that a police employee somewhere in the Home Office chain decided now was a good time to exploit the power vacuum above. The Home Office firearms unit was merged with its drugs unit in the last year and a key post on the firearms side was left gapped for months, though it was recently filled.
Doubtless we will see explicit links drawn by government PRs in the coming days and weeks between the Las Vegas murderer and British target shooters, and the shooting sports.
No legally held .50″ rifle has ever been implicated in any criminal offence in the UK. This is in contrast to Rudd’s plan to ban sulphuric acid after a spate of acid-throwing attacks, in spite of that substance’s many domestic and industrial uses.
.50″ rifles are typically used for very long range shooting (distances greater than 1,200yds) on military-certified field firing areas. At least two large clubs serve .50″ shooters in the UK: the Fifty Cal Shooting Association (FCSA) and Offa’s Dyke Rifle Club.
Thanks to Charles Marston on Twitter for the headsup.