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November 2015 - The European Commission has proposed sweeping changes to the European Firearms Directive which among things would prohibit deactivated Category A firearms (such as machineguns) and also require deactivated Category B and C firearms to be: "declared" to the authorities, i.e. registered with the police.  A common EU-wide deactivation standard would also be introduced.  More information here.

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December 2010 - The Home Affairs Committee in the UK has released a report on firearms control as a result of the rampage in Cumbria earlier in the year.  Among a considerable number of recommendations the committee has made a recommendation that only registered firearm dealers be allowed to sell de-activated firearms commercially and all pre-95 specification de-activated firearms should be upgraded to the current specification.  It is clear from such a recommendation that the committee doesn't really understand the situation with pre-95 de-activated firearms (essentially only SMGs and automatic rifles were significantly affected by the 1995 changes).  The Home Office has promised to respond to the recommendations in two months.

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March 2009 - The British Government has announced a consultation concerning controls on de-activated firearms, which you can download from this website.

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January 2008 - The Home Secretary, Jaqui Smith MP, recently stated in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph that the British Government is planning to introduce legislation that would place pre-October 1995 de-activated firearms (i.e. inspected and approved by a Proof House prior to that date, under the provisions of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988) within the definition of a "realistic imitation firearm" as defined in the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006.  As the manufacture and import of guns that pre-date the 1995 cut-off is no longer possible under current regulations, this would have the sole effect of banning the sale of these guns, but would not prohibit the transfer of them.  Thus these guns would become worthless.  However, these are merely the comments of the Home Secretary in a newspaper article, and it is not clear at this point exactly what the legislation will say.

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December 2007 - On November 29th, the European Parliament adopted changes to the European Firearms Directive. 

These include changes that require the European Commission to come up with a common de-activation standard to be applied across the EU.  Also the definition of a de-activated firearm has been toughened in the Directive to say that it must be made “irreversibly” inoperable (in line with Article 9 of the UN firearms protocol).

This should not have a tremendous impact in the UK, however it will have an impact in many other EU states.  The Commission will likely use a standard similar to the UK standard, as the UK has been pushing strongly for changes to be made in this area (as well as for imitations).

For collectors in the UK though it does mean that it is not only now illegal to import or sell a firearm de-activated in another EU state (as per the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006), it will likely be illegal to possess one that is not de-activated to a specification as tough as the UK specification (which in fact may be the case already, but that comes from court decisions based on forensic investigation, not statute). 

On a positive note, there is a possibility that if every country in the EU uses the same specification, it may be possible to convince the UK Govt. to finally recognise foreign deactivation standards, however this will require an amendment to the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 and the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006. 

On the downside, a lot of collectors in EU States other than the UK will find themselves facing much tougher de-activation standards for guns they buy. 

Also the Directive requires member States to adopt tougher standards for imitation firearms to stop them from being converted, by bringing easy-to-convert imitations within the definition of a “firearm”, i.e. subject to control.  It also toughens the definition of a firearm to include many types of component, including ones that years ago were not considered subject to control in the UK, so bear that in mind if you have spare parts. 

These changes will come into force early next year, after Governments amend domestic legislation.  In the UK this will likely be done via a statutory instrument, probably called the Firearms Acts (Amendment) Regulations 2008, although it is possible no legislative changes will be necessary as regards de-activated firearms.

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September 2007 - The remaining firearm-related provisions of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 come into force on 1st October.  This Act applies to the whole of the UK including Northern Ireland. 

Among many other provisions, the Act prohibits the manufacture, import and sale of: "realistic imitation firearms".  The Act includes a specific exemption for de-activated firearms that have been inspected and bear a proof mark in compliance with section 8 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988, which means the majority of de-activated firearms in the UK are not affected by this Act.  (Note that the law in Northern Ireland currently only recognises the 1988 inspection standard for guns de-activated after 1st October, 1995.) 

How the Act applies to de-activated firearms that are in the UK that have been inspected and marked in another country or which pre-date the 1988 Act is a subject of some debate which will probably have to be resolved in court.  My personal view is that a de-activated firearm cannot be an "imitation" because it is a real firearm that has been de-activated, however the Home Office view is either that: (a) depending on the specific method of de-activation, the gun may already be illegally held anyway; or (b) it would be covered by the Act, in which case it would be unlawful to sell it or import it. 

The simplest solution is to make sure all of your de-activated firearms are de-activated and inspected in accordance with the current standard under the 1988 Act when you come to sell them.

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November 2005 - The UK Government have amended the Violent Crime Control Bill, and as it stands it will not  now ban the manufacture, import or sale of de-activated firearms provided that they have been inspected under the provisions of section 8 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988.  (I.e. they have an inspection proofmark and Proof House certificate).  We will continue to monitor this situation as the Bill proceeds through Parliament.

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June 2005 - The UK Government has introduced a Bill that would ban the manufacture, import and sale of "realistic imitation firearms" in Great Britain!  According to the Government, this definition includes de-activated firearms.

It is important to contact your MP immediately, preferably by seeing them at a surgery to express your outrage at this proposal.  You can write to your MP at the House of Commons, Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA.  If you don't know who your MP is, you can look them up here.

Points to discuss with your MP about this Bill can be read here.

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May 2004 - Firearms de-activated to the post-October 1995 specification are now legal to possess without a firearm certificate in Northern Ireland under the provisions of the Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 2004.  The legal status of other de-activated firearms in the Province is still vague.

The Government has announced a consultation on firearms controls in Great Britain, this consultation includes the subject of de-activated firearms, and will run through to the end of August.  The consultation document is available by clicking here.

The DGCA submission is available by clicking here.

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January 2003 - The Government has announced provisions relating to imitation firearms in the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill.  These will affect dea-ctivated firearms to the extent that it will require a person to have a "reasonable excuse" for having a de-activated firearm in a public place.

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June 2001 - UN General Assembly approves Firearms Protocol; will have serious repercussions for de-activated firearm collectors.

Article 9 of the Protocol states:

"De-activation of firearms

A State Party that does not recognize a de-activated firearm as a firearm in accordance with its domestic law shall take the necessary measures, including the establishment of specific offences if appropriate, to prevent the illicit reactivation of de-activated firearms, consistent with the following general principles of deactivation:


(a) All essential parts of a de-activated firearm are to be rendered permanently inoperable and incapable of removal, replacement or modification in a manner that would permit the firearm to be reactivated in any way;


(b) Arrangements are to be made for de-activation measures to be verified, where appropriate, by a competent authority to ensure that the modifications made to a firearm render it permanently inoperable;


(c) Verification by a competent authority is to include a certificate or record attesting to the de-activation of the firearm or a clearly visible mark to that effect stamped on the firearm."


This language was thought up by the Home Office.  Note the language in subsection (a) which says that parts must be "incapable of removal" and that the firearm cannot be "reactivated in any way".  At a minimum this would appear to require all de-activated firearms to be welded solid, a far tougher standard than at present.  This protocol must be ratified by at least forty countries before coming into effect; there is no date set for that ratification to be completed but it must be done by 12 December 2002 for it to come into effect.  All EU states have publicly stated their support for ratification.  To read the entire Protocol, click here.


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October 2000 - Government confirms there will be a tighter de-activation specification.

In it's response to the Home Affairs Committee report, Control over Firearms, the Government confirmed that there will be tighter standards applied to the de-activation of firearms, although it is not clear on when these tighter standards will be introduced.  However, in terms of what those specifications might be the Government makes reference to the recommendations in the tenth annual report of the Firearms Consultative Committee.

The main recommendations of the FCC in respect of de-activated firearms were that handguns should be de-activated to a much tighter standard comparable with submachineguns, and that a more complex spec. "B" should be developed that allows for some moving parts but prevents the guns from being disassembled.  Also the FCC recommended that de-activated firearms should be required to be proved, although this seems unworkable as there are so many in circulation already that are not.

The DGCA has already responded in detail to the FCC proposals, and the Home Office tells us our views will be considered seriously when deciding on any new standards.

The main thrust of our proposal is that only semi-automatic and fully-automatic firearms that use unlocked blowback as the method of operation should be held to a tighter standard as these are by far the most commonly reactivated firearms.  Assault rifles on the other hand, are far more complex, and there is no recorded instance we can find of one having been recovered reactivated after being de-activated to the pre-1995 standard.  In addition, the design of delayed blowback pistols is complex enough that we believe the current de-activation standard is sufficient to prevent criminal reactivation.

You can read the Government's response by clicking here.

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