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Law Commission recommends ‘overhaul’ of firearms law

BASC and the Countryside Alliance have welcomed the Law Commission's number of recommendations to solve the problems that undermine the effectiveness of the current firearms law.

The Law Commission report, published today, aims to make recommendations to solve the problems that undermine the effectiveness of the law governing the acquisition and possession of firearms.

The existing law is ‘confused, unclear and difficult to apply’, according to the Law Commission, who review laws and recommend reforms.

Currently there are over 30 pieces of overlapping legislation, some of the key terminology – such as ‘lethal’, ‘component part’ and ‘antique’ – is not clearly defined and the law has fallen out of step with developments in technology.

Professor David Ormerod QC, Law Commissioner for criminal law, said: “The failures in the existing law are causing considerable difficulties for investigators and prosecutors, as well as the licensed firearms community.”

He added: “We remain of the view that the entire legislative landscape requires fundamental reform and should be codified. There was overwhelming support for such an exercise and consultees have left us in no doubt that the current law is in need of an overhaul.”

BASC welcome report

The Law Commission has carried out extensive public consultations with police, prosecutors and groups representing the licensed firearms community.

BASC have welcomed the report and agree that the current law is in need of an “overhaul.”

BASC’s Director of firearms Bill Harriman said: “Clarity on firearms legislation has been lacking for many years. Anything that helps draw legislation together has to be applauded. This is a serious and considered report, this is not knee-jerk.”

The Law Commission has come up with three main recommendations.

  1. There should be a single, simple test to determine whether a weapon is lethal, based upon the kinetic energy at which it discharges a projectile.
  2. What constitutes as a ‘component part’ should be set out in a statutory list. To ensure the law keeps pace with technology the Secretary of State should be given the power to update the list.
  3. Whether a firearm is antique should be determined by whether it uses an obsolete cartridge type or firing mechanism. Only those old firearms that no longer pose a realistic danger to the public should be on the statutory list.

The report also recommends changes in the law to take account of technological developments, suggesting Home Office approved standards for deactivating firearms should be mandatory to reduce the risk of weapons being “reactivated”.

The Commission also proposes a new offence of being in possession of an item with intent to convert a replica into a working firearm.

The Countryside Alliance believe that further changes could be made.

Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: “We believe a number of other important legal changes could be made, which would benefit shooters without compromising public safety, such as the extension of the life of existing certificates to 10 years and amending the “borrowed shotgun” exemption.”

There will be further comment in the 23rd December issue of Shooting Times.