Opinion - Offensive Weapons Bill and .50 Calibre Rifles

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.

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. This is something I welcome.

However, I grew concerned that the Government was proposing to proceed with a ban on rifles with a muzzle energy of more than 10,000 ft lbs (13,600J).  This would effectively ban .50 calibre target rifles.

Unfortunately, there have been a number of factual inaccuracies floating around regarding the amendment proposed by Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown to the Offensive Weapons Bill that I supported.

The rifles that the Bill proposes to ban are very different from the military-style rifles that have been referred to in emails that I have been receiving. The military rifles are often configured to fire in a semi-automatic way by using a magazine and armour-piercing or incendiary bullets.

The civilian rifles that many have been concerned about have no magazine, must be loaded by a bolt using a single bullet at a time and they are only legal for entirely peaceful reason in a target range. Furthermore, the armour-piercing and incendiary bullets are illegal for use in civilian rifles.

The shooting community would be severely affected by this Bill and shooting is a sport that brings significant benefits to the economy of Scotland. Shooting organisations have suggested that more stringent storage requirements for these rifles would be a better option than banning them.

No legally held civilian rifle of this kind has ever been used to commit a crime in the UK. No one has ever been charged with illegally importing one. Only one legally held rifle has ever been stolen, and it was rapidly abandoned by the criminals. The rifle used in Northern Ireland during the troubles was not legally held but illegally imported. The real problem with gun crime is the estimated 500,000 illegal guns on our streets which demands increased policing.

Finally, contrary to what certain elements of the press have asserted, this issue has nothing whatsoever to do with Brexit. Indeed, there are some perfectly honest Remain supporters who have signed my amendments.

I supported this amendment to the Offensive Weapons Bill in order to support the shooting community.