I certainly recognise that the majority of firearms are used responsibly. It is important that this Bill considers the ‘shooting community’, these law abiding people should not be caught up in the legal detail of this Bill – something I do not believe is the intention. The focus should be on illegally held firearms and dangerous weapons.
However, certain high energy rifles have been rightfully targeted in attempts to reduce serious crime in the UK.
It is important to ensure more work is done to break the deadly cycle of violence that devastates the lives of individuals, families and communities. I know the Government shares this position and is taking action to ensure the sale and possession of dangerous weapons is prevented.
I welcome the Serious Violence Strategy to help tackle recent increases in serious violence. This Government action supports a multi-strand approach including robust law enforcement, early intervention and prevention.
A key element of the strategy is the Offensive Weapons Bill. The Bill contains a range of measures to update and strengthen the law on the sale of corrosive substances, ban the delivery of knives and corrosives bought online to residential addresses and ban the possession of weapons including zombie knives, knuckle dusters and death stars both in public and private. The Bill will also make it harder for young people to buy knives and acid online.
In regards to high power rifles, Home Secretary Sajid Javid has stated that: ‘The Bill includes a measure to prohibit civilian possession of high energy rifles (with a kinetic energy of more than 13,600 joules) under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968. I thought it might be helpful to set out the Government’s case for prohibiting these rifles. They are six times more powerful than the weapons used in the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks and are much more powerful than standard British Army rifles. These guns have a range of several miles. Their penetrative powers mean that with the right ammunition they can penetrate body armour worn by soldiers. Concerns have been raised by UK law enforcement about the civilian ownership of high muzzle energy rifles and rapid firing rifles and the risk they may pose to public safety. These rifles have already posed a potential risk to public safety. A .50 calibre rifle was stolen from the home of a licensed firearms holder alongside other weapons in July 2016. Given these concerns and the potential risk to public safety from these types of rifles the Government is taking action to prohibit their ownership, manufacture, sale and importation.’
The Government has a duty to safeguard the public and to take action in this area. I believe that a balance must be struck between lower power rifles used predominately, responsibly and legally by shooting sports groups and the potentially devastating high power fire arms in the wrong hands. I trust that this balance will be found as the Bill progresses.