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New gun laws could have ‘unintended consequences’

Shooting groups are keeping a close eye on a new Government Bill that aims to combat violent crime, but could potentially lead to further firearms restrictions

deerstalking male deer

It is important that the new legislation does not impact on legitimate stalkers, said the CA

The Countryside Alliance (CA) and BASC have both warned of “unintended consequences” 
for shooters stemming from the Government’s proposed new Offensive Weapons Bill.

Announced by the Home Office earlier this month, the Bill forms part of the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy and had yet to be published at the time of print, leaving only the announcement as a guide to what it contains and sparking concerns from rural groups.

The announcement includes 
a proposal for a ban on the “possession of a knife on a further education premises”, which both organisations say would have clear implications for cookery classes and gamekeeping courses. It also mentioned a planned ban on “knives being sent to residential addresses after they are bought online”, which the CA said would “disproportionately affect the rural community, 
who have less access to proposed collection points and also have 
a diverse range of legitimate uses for specialist knives that can often only be readily sourced online”.

The Bill is set to introduce a ban on “rapid-firing rifles and certain powerful firearms and bump stocks” too, but the announcement offered no further detail on the specifics.

Complexity of firearms usage

The CA met with a Home Office minister to explain the complexity of firearms usage and the possible risks of “badly worded legislation” for legitimate users.

A spokesman for the CA said: “We highlighted the diverse range of .50 calibre firearms that exist and the need for any future legislation to be precise to avoid inadvertently affecting the hunting and stalking community.

“The minister accepted the need to ensure that lawful stalking and pest control were able to continue unaffected, which included the need to clearly define the proposals to ensure that there were no unintended consequences of any change in the law. To that end the minister gave an assurance that the Home Office would produce clear definitions and guidelines before any new restrictions of large or rapid-fire rifles were introduced.”

The CA said it was now waiting to see if those assurances were carried over into the legislation.

Bill Harriman, BASC’s director of firearms, assured shooters 
that the association would also 
be fighting their corner, stating: “We will be submitting the legislation to rigorous scrutiny and will robustly represent the shooting community to ensure that legitimate sporting interests are not damaged by measures that have little or no relevance 
to stopping violent crime.”