Good letter, BM. Logical, well-argued points.
Here's my effort, sent just now, with a grateful nod to Tightchoke earlier:
I wish to bring to your attention my serious concerns with regard to proposed new legislation regarding offensive and dangerous weapons, on which a public consultation is currently being undertaken by the Home Office.
Whilst I would welcome new laws that will actually increase public safety, I believe this legislation is in part merely a publicity exercise, intended to show that “something is being done”, and also a thinly veiled excuse to effectively ban certain classes of firearm on fairly dubious grounds.
Certain parts of the legislation also appear to be deliberately vague, to create ‘catch-all’ rules with application far beyond the immediate professed aim of the legislation.
Proposed Amendments to Firearms Legislation
To quote Lord Swansea (HL Deb 23 October 1973 vol 345 cc528-616 )
“To-day we are faced with proposals for yet further restrictions on the legitimate possession of firearms and shot guns, and yet further administrative work for the police, with little or no prospect of making life any more difficult for the criminal.”
The proposed moving of “certain rapid firing rifles” and 0.50” calibre rifles to Section 5 of the Firearms Act – effectively banning them – is not supported by any crime figures: there appear to be no instances of crimes committed in the UK or Europe using either type. If there were, they would certainly have been referenced in the consultation as supporting evidence – their absence from the consultation paper leads one to the inescapable conclusion that there is, in fact, no such evidence, and furthermore, that the proposal is an opportunistic attempt to further restrict firearms ownership in the UK, in line with the views expressed in the 1973 Green Paper (Control of Firearms in Great Britain), that, and I quote, “a reduction in the number of firearms in private hands is a desirable end in itself.” I would note that the proposals were rejected by Parliament at that time as unreasonable.
The biggest problem in relation to firearms is the number of illegally held weapons, not those held by the most law abiding members of society who, by the very fact of holding a firearm or shotgun certificate, are considered to be suitable to possess firearms without hazard to public safety.
I would assert that current Firearms Legislation is more than sufficient to control the risk to the public from the legal ownership of firearms, and further, that time and assets would be better employed to remove the illegally held weapons, and to restrict or stop the flow of illegal weapons into the country from elsewhere.
Proposed Amendments to Knife Legislation
Firstly, the proposed amendment to the definition of flick knife: merely removing the reference to a mechanism within the handle from the definition, makes the definition so vague as to be applicable to almost any type of folding knife. I accept that the intent is to tighten the definition to negate attempts to circumvent the letter of the legislation, but the published attempt is woefully inadequate, and lays the proposers open to accusations of creating a catch-all definition to enable the banning and seizure of almost any type of folding knife.
Secondly, the proposal to restrict on-line sales of knives appears to be another example of poor targeting – the biggest problem area appears to be sales by major retailers, who are not applying the current law correctly. The vast majority of small knife-makers, of which the UK has an internationally famous community arising from a long history of craftsmanship, rely to a very large extent on on-line sales, due to the relatively small market for hand-made knives. The average gang member will not order a handmade knife online costing several hundred pounds, when taking a kitchen knife from home or buying one from a supermarket is much easier and cheaper – the legislation again, will punish the law-abiding, while having little or no effect on the law-breaker. Furthermore, I cannot accept that “anecdotal evidence” (i.e. unverifiable ) is a valid basis on which Parliament should be enacting legislation.
Finally, the proposal to ban the private ownership of items on the “Offensive Weapons” list would merely create a new class of criminal – those who currently possess these items legally, and suddenly find themselves in breach of the law. The very idea that the items on the list, such as flick-knives, belt-buckle knives, butterfly knives and so on, are any more dangerous than the common or garden kitchen knife, is laughable, and brings the legislation into disrepute. The bald, unsupported assertion that “Ensuring that the prohibition on the possession of offensive weapons extends to private addresses will support public safety” is similarly ridiculous – no evidence is adduced to support this statement, no reasoning is given – and is unworthy of inclusion in a document presented for serious consideration.
I would hope you would take the above reasoned argument into consideration should this matter come to the vote within the House.