15 July 2018 – The Offensive Weapons Bill currently before Parliament will ban all self-unloading rifles and rifles with a muzzle energy greater than 10,000ft-lbs. We must unite to tell our MPs to vote this down.
What is the bill?
The bill was introduced to Parliament a few weeks ago. Among other things, which are outside the scope of UK Shooting News’ focus, if the bill is passed in its current form, Clauses 28-33 will ban:
- self-unloading rifles that use either gas from a fired round or a spring arrangement to store energy from gas to extract fired cases
- rifles with a muzzle energy greater than 13,600 joules
In plain English this means a ban on all self-unloading rifles except .22″ and a blanket ban on all rifles with a muzzle energy greater than 10,000ft-lbs. This not only means .50-cal rifles but a whole host of historical rifles of huge value and cultural importance, such as the big-bore African game cartridges of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
It does not cover shotguns; the bill’s wording refers to “rifles” only, which should mean a rifled barrel. Punt guns and cannon are safe. Believe it or not, preserved tanks and artillery pieces with rifled barrels and that were designed for autoloader mechanisms are at risk as well.
The bill will also ban bump stocks. UKSN’s author can’t see the point of this as they have no practical use in the UK whatsoever, but a worthless pound of flesh tossed at the antis is better in political terms than leaving them with nothing at all. Humiliating your enemies merely breeds hatred and a determination to do more harm next time.
What is this 13,600J limit?
The 10,000ft-lbs muzzle energy limit (13,600J in metric) is the same one used for Home Office Approved rifle clubs. Briefly, an approved club’s members can share any rifle and ammunition provided its muzzle energy is below 10,000ft-lbs. Anything above that cannot be shared, which is why most 50-cal rifles can’t be used even by your fellow club members unless you have that rifle on your FAC.
There are exceptions, of course (this is British firearms law!) but these are the broad principles. Section 15(1), Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 refers.
UKSN’s author believes the ‘limit’ was plucked out of thin air decades ago and that there is probably no real reason for its existence other than some government official demanding an arbitrary dividing line. If anything, an amendment ought to be tabled to have the limit deleted as serving no useful public policy purpose.
Who is responsible for these ban plans?
Enquiries by UKSN and others within the licensed firearms community have revealed that the two minds driving this ban are Graham Widdecombe of the Home Office’s Drugs and Firearms Licensing Unit and Mark Groothuis, a long-serving Hampshire Police FEO turned lobbyist at the infamous gun-ban police agency NABIS.
Widdecombe has been fielding Freedom of Information requests sent to the Home Office about crimes committed with lawfully-held firearms and then, according to one source, sitting on them instead of responding in a timely fashion as the law requires. The Home Office has a dedicated FOI team, so for one civil servant outside that team to immediately take over the handling of these requests as they are received is very suspicious and suggests a degree of personal involvement well above the norm.
NABIS, as UKSN’s readership know all too well, presents itself to the public as a police-owned ballistics laboratory. In fact it acts as a lobby agency targeting politicians and civil servants behind closed doors, urging them impose more and more bans on firearms-themed items. NABIS suggested a backdoor scheme for bringing antique firearms onto FAC to the Law Commission a few years ago; that was rejected once sensible members of the public told the government about the cost and damage that would cause. Sources familiar with Groothuis’ approach describe him to UKSN as someone who is no friend of the licensed firearms community in any way.
How do we stop this?
There is only one way to stop these bans: write to your MP.
WRITE TO YOUR MP!
Do not waste your time signing petitions. They don’t work and they give the false impression that someone in the government who gives a damn will have to take it seriously. They are worse than useless. If you have created a petition about these bans, please delete it immediately and urge people signing it to write to their MPs instead. Write to your MP.
You can also write to the Public Bill Committee considering these bans. Details on how and why to do that are on the Parliament website.
The members of the committee for the Offensive Weapons Bill are (with thanks to Scrounger):
- Minister: Victoria Atkins MP (Con, Louth)
- Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability
- Whip: Paul Maynard MP (Con, Blackpool North) Government Whip
- Rachael Maclean MP (Con, Redditch) Home Office PPS.
- James Morris MP (Con, Halesowen & Rowley Regis)
- Paul Scully MP (Con, Sutton & Cheam) Trade Envoy to Brunei, Thailand and Burma
- Mary Robinson MP (Con, Cheadle)
- Nigel Huddleston MP (Con, mid Worcestershire_
- Kevin Foster MP (Con, Torbay)
- Tom Pursglove MP (Con, Corby) PPS to Robert Goodwill at the Home Office.
What should I tell my MP?
Pre-written letters get ignored. Letters to MPs are only read by their researchers (snotty-nosed 20-somethings normally working for peanuts in the hope of starting a political career). Most letters never get in front of the MP himself and replies are normally copy-and-pasted templates unless you make a genuinely original suggestion or something that chimes with the MP himself.
Readers may wish to reword and expand on a couple of the paragraphs below:
You should say that there is no evidence whatsoever that banning these firearms will lead to a reduction in crime. The Home Office has consistently refused to provide figures for crimes committed with legally-held firearms, suggesting that the figure is in fact zero.
The cost of the ban will run to tens of millions when it comes to paying compensation for rifles, spare parts and single-use ancillaries such as reloading equipment or specialised attachments. This is a silly use of public money at a time when frontline public sector budget holders are begging for every penny.
These firearms are held by people who have been vetted in depth by a range of State agencies and who are subject to constant police monitoring. The risk to public safety is already as low as reasonably practicable. A ban will spend millions of pounds of public money for no measurable increase in safety.
A ban will also occupy considerable Parliamentary time and effort at a time when that effort ought to be being put towards Brexit and negotiating the best possible deal from the EU, not fiddling about with transient fixations of individual civil servants that will not even produce positive headlines for the government at the end of the exercise.
What is the likely outcome at the moment?
It appears likely at the time of writing that 50-calibre rifles will survive largely unscathed, thanks to the exceptional efforts of the Fifty Calibre Shooters’ Association (FCSA) at getting relevant MPs engaged and briefed. While that situation could change, at the moment there is cause for cautious optimism.
MARS and lever-release actions appear likely to be banned at the moment because no MPs seem to understand why it would be a bad idea to ban them. Far more needs to be done by the licensed firearms community to come up with reasons to reject a ban. We need a strong and compelling argument in addition to the point that banning these will disproportionately harm disabled shooters.
Suggestions for strong arguments in favour of MARS and lever-release firearms in the comments would be most helpful to our cause as a whole.