November 26, 2020

A firearms consultation has been launched this week to look at views on greater security for powerful rifles. This will in turn introduce licensing controls on miniature rifle ranges, and tougher controls on ammunition. 

Why is a consultation taking place?

There have already been new offences added to legislation about firearms in recent years to prevent the conversion of fake firearms and the sale of deactivated firearms. The government has also said that they will be further strengthening the controls through more effective use of medical information in licensing decisions. 

However, when the legislation for the ‘Offensive Weapons Act 2019’ has been looked at, a range of firearms safety issues were raised with the government. This proposal looks at reducing the risks raised by these issues.

What changes are being proposed?

High muzzle energy rifles 

The consultation seeks views on what level of enhanced security would reduce the risk of the weapons being stolen and/or misused. The question being asked is whether the level 3 security in the Firearms Security Handbook (the current highest level of security) are good enough or whether even greater security is required.

Further conditions being suggested are:

  1.  fitting shutters and grills on all doors and windows;
  2.  installing CCTV;
  3. panic alarms where the rifle is stored;
  4. panic alarms when the rifle is in use on a range;
  5. the bolt or other critical component kept separately;
  6. other members of the holder’s shooting club looking after critical components on behalf of each other;
  7. ammunition to be kept separate from the gun in a separate cabinet.

Air weapons – these are weapons that expel projectiles with compressed gas or air. Most are not licensed, but firearms regulations regulate them to prevent misuse. The proposals relate to the possession of air weapons by those under the age of 18, secure storage and safe-keeping.

Possession by the under 18s is a targeted key risk area, therefore some proposals are suggested:

  1.  to remove the exception that allows young persons who are at least 14 to have unsupervised possession of air weapons in private premises;
  2. to clarify the offence of failing to take “reasonable precautions”. This would include locking the weapon out of sight when not in use and storing ammunition separately whenever under 18s are on the premises;
  3. to ensure home security devices are supplied with all new air weapons, and for dealers to explain the importance of secure handling and storage to purchasers.

Miniature rifle ranges – a firearms licence is not required to run a rifle range where only small rifles or air weapons are used, members of the public using the range do not need a licence to use it either.

The proposal is for anyone wishing to operate a miniature rifle range to obtain a firearms certificate and undergo necessary police checks. Legislation will specify that only .22 rimfire guns may be regarded as miniature rifles.

Ammunition – concerns have been raised that the component parts of ammunition are too easy to obtain, allowing the unlawful manufacture of complete rounds. Views are invited on whether the controls on component parts are sufficient or whether there should be a separate offence in the law of ‘possession of component parts with intent to manufacture unauthorised quantities of complete rounds of ammunition’.

What do you think? 

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