The Offensive Weapons Bill 2017-2019; the governments latest attempt to tackle violent crime in the UK. Laudable though the governments aims might be, firearms owners are quite rightly not happy! Why? How about…
- Banning any rifle with a muzzle energy exceeding 13,600 joules – e.g. .50 calibre rifles.
- Banning lever release rifles.(1)
- Banning MARS (Manually Activated Release System) rifles.(2)
Rather bizarrely they are also proposing to ban bump stocks too. Yes, those things that were primarily designed to be used with semi-auto centre fire rifles. The same semi-auto centre fire rifles that were banned in the UK back in 1988. Now admittedly, banning bump stocks is neither here nor there, however, it clearly highlights the issue of knee-jerk, sensationalist and emotionally charged politics taking priority over facts, evidence and rational thinking.
The entire bill can be read here.
Why are they banning them?
Well, here is an excerpt from a frequently seen cut and paste response…
“Government has noted concerns around the potential for .50 calibre rifles and rapid firing rifles to be seriously misused and for loss of life to occur if they were to fall into the wrong hands”
Let that sink in for a moment. The potential for misuse.
So, the main reason they want to pursue a ban on legally owned sporting equipment is because something bad might happen. The government want to restrict the rights of law abiding shooters because bad people might do something bad.
The governments own data on gun crime(3) shows that it is on the rise, yet have so far failed to respond when questioned about criminal activity involving legally held firearms of the types they wish to ban.
In the governments own words on rates of firearms offences, rifles have remained the least common non-air firearm type, accounting for 1% annually. It should be noted that this 1% applies to all types of rifle, both UK legal and prohibited, all offence types and both legally owned and illegally obtained or possessed rifles.
So, could it be that the reason the statistics on the affected firearm types haven’t been published is because no crime has been committed with them and therefore no crime was recorded? Why would a problem need tackling if the problem didn’t exist in the first place?
Why should airsofters care?
To put it simply, because not caring is giving the government a free pass to do whatever they want, whenever they want. Airsoft, like shooting, isn’t safe from further legislation. They are both under constant threat from anti-shooting organisations and politicians wanting to make a name for themselves or grab a few easy votes.
As far as anyone knows, publicly at least, no crimes have been committed with legally held .50 calibre, lever release or MARS action rifles. So if you think they won’t go after airsoft again then it would do you well to remind yourself that in this case they are going after certain firearms types on the basis of ifs, buts and maybes.
It should never be forgotten that shooting sports and airsoft have common enemies that don’t and won’t differentiate. They won’t stop until they have achieved their goals and they won’t care if it destroys livelihoods and makes criminals out of law abiding shooters and airsofters enjoying their chosen pursuits!
The firearms community had our backs during the last crisis to affect airsoft, namely the PCA 2017, and neither group has the numbers to stand alone, nor should we stand alone!
What can you do about it?
1. Sign the petition calling for the removal of sections 28-35
The more signatures the better, so sign and share.
2. Write directly to the House of Common Public Bill Committee
If you have personal experience with the articles affected in this bill, such as certain types of knives & bladed items, firearms with a muzzle energy over 13.6kJ or MARS & lever release rifles and you feel your submission will be of benefit to the committee, this is your opportunity to write in.
3. Write to your MP
This is REALLY important. Many MP’s will vote the bill through on the basis of the proposals for tackling acid attacks and knife/offensive weapon crime and to vote against it would potentially be political suicide! We need to get MP’s to challenge the sections of the bill that affect shooting sports, especially when they involve such extreme measures to tackle crime that doesn’t exist!
4. Share your responses
Let the community know if your MP has been supportive. Similarly, if you receive a cut and paste response or if they haven’t even considered the points you have raised, then also let the firearms community know. A good way to do this is to email or message your responses to the guys over at Firearms UK through their website or Facebook page. You can also join the Firearms UK facebook community page and post responses there.
5. Follow the progress of the bill
Other than via the community you can follow the progression of this bill on its own page on the Parliament website.
(1) The mechanism of the lever-release rifle means it unloads itself automatically but stops short of reloading – that is, chambering a new cartridge. In the popular Southern Gun Company design a lever by the operator’s thumb allows the bolt to be released, manually chambering a fresh round.
(2) The MARS (Manually Activated Release System) action achieves much the same thing as a lever release but is released by repeated trigger pressures. One press of the trigger fires a shot; the second releases the working parts ready for the next round.