The text of the Offensive Weapons Bill has been agreed by both Houses of Parliament, following final consideration of amendments on 10 April. The Bill now waits for the final stage of Royal Assent when it will become an Act of Parliament, but no date for this has been agreed. An overview of our work on the Bill is set out below.
The Bill was published in June 2018 with three main sections; acid, knives and firearms. The sections on acid and knives were a result of increasing public pressure to deal with the rising number of crimes using such weapons. The firearms section was added with little prior consultation or warning.
Following a meeting with Home Office Ministers and a letter to the then Home Secretary, Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP, the Countryside Alliance were able to find a satisfactory middle ground to ensure the restrictions on knives were not overly problematic for our members who legally use knives daily.
Unsatisfied with the evidence to back up the proposals to restrict high powered and fast firing firearms, the Countryside Alliance worked with the British Shooting Sports Council, an umbrella shooting organisation, to table an amendment in the name of Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP to take out the restrictions. An unprecedented 74 MPs put their name to the amendment following pressure from the shooting groups. Such was the pressure, the Government agreed to withdraw the ban on high energy rifles (pending a public consultation), however they remained unwavering on fast firing rifles including MARS and Lever Release mechanisms.
Alongside the British Shooting Sports Council we briefed peers at every stage of the Bill through the House of Lords. Our aims were to keep the opposition from reinserting high energy rifles into the Bill and to see fast firing rifles withdrawn. We were victorious in the former, unfortunately not in the latter.
Seeing an opportunity to not just defend shooting but to put our agenda on the front foot, the Countryside Alliance helped draft amendments that were aimed at pushing the Government into finding a satisfactory solution to the failing firearms licensing medical procedure. Thanks to the work of Lord Shrewsbury and several other peers from all parties we successfully lobbied the Home Office into announcing their consultation on firearms licensing will be launched in July. A huge step forward to seeing our licensing system improved.
We welcome all moves by the Home Office to make our country a safer place, but the Countryside Alliance will not stand by whilst legislation is introduced that unfairly impacts rural communities, whilst providing no evidence to back up their proposals. Whilst there is plenty more work to be done, we are extremely grateful to all the parliamentarians that have helped us promote and protect the future of shooting.