4 June, 2006 – The Violent Crime Reduction Bill continues through Parliament, and will likely be enacted before the summer recess.
Some of the sillier provisions in this Bill that would have affected shooters have actually been removed, such as the ban on deactivated firearms and the requirement to show a firearm certificate before acquiring a reloading press. However, it still contains various nasty provisions, such as the very broad prohibition of: “realistic imitation firearms”. This will largely outlaw airsoft guns, although ones currently in circulation will be legal to possess and transfer by gift.
The problem of course, as I’ve previously described, is that due to the widespread ownership of these guns, hardly anyone will be aware of the prohibition, and if those people then attempt to sell their airsoft guns, they will be liable to prosecution. The Government has made a small concession to airsoft enthusiasts, that being that dealers will be allowed to import them for the purpose of making them not look realistic (presumably by changing their colour) prior to sale.
One hopes the Home Office will make a more serious effort to explain this prohibition to the public at large than they have with previous prohibitions, such as the prohibition of self-contained air cartridge guns, which was met with 10% compliance – at best.
The Bill also contains a provision requiring the age limit for the legal purchase of airguns to be raised to 18 and also imitation guns (which presumably includes water pistols and many toys) will have an age limit of 18 imposed for their acquisition. How raising the age limit for airguns from 17 to 18 will make any difference is unclear, and the Government are more than happy to say that, contradicting their own consultation document which suggested that age limits be made more consistent. So when this Bill is enacted, a person will be able to buy a shotgun or a rifle at a younger age than they can an air pistol or air rifle. Yes, very logical, I don’t think. Dealers in airguns will also need to be registered with the police, as it the current case with other types of firearm. The main upshot of this is that mail order sales will be prohibited. At one fell swoop, this will wipe out a large chunk of the gun trade.
And just to illustrate how stupid this legislation is, there is nothing in it that prohibits people convicted of serious offences from possessing a realistic imitation firearm.
A recent racially-motivated killing in Belgium by a self-confessed fascist teenager has led the Belgian legislature to vote nearly unanimously to enact the pending gun licensing bill that has been languishing for some years now. The teenager in question had purchased a rifle from a dealer, and under current Belgian law, the dealer issues the licenses for Category C and D firearms (most sporting long guns) rather than the police, who are simply notified of the sale. The passage of this law predictably led to a rush of people buying guns before the new licensing provisions come into effect, so I’m sure that will make everyone a lot safer.
The new licensing law is very invasive, and allows the police to interview the neighbours of the applicant, requires frequent license renewals, limits the number of firearms a person can own, etc. It’s based on Dutch law, and we all know how intolerant and illiberal the Netherlands are. When it comes to guns, anyway. I should note that it’s entirely possible the teenager in question would still have been able to get a license.
The real problem with the law however is that it has now been rushed through without proper consideration, and this leads me onto my next point…
The South African Government rammed a heavy-handed piece of legislation down the throats of South African gun owners in 2000. It was doomed to failure due to the hugely bureaucratic nature of the law, which the already stretched South African Police Service couldn’t hope to cope with. This was made worse by the very short periods that licenses were valid under the Firearms Control Act.
Since the law came into effect, very few licenses have been issued as SAPS is swamped with paperwork, and the situation has rapidly descended from a state of chaos into a frank admission that they can’t meet the requirements of the Act.
After consulting with gun owners, the Government decided to scrap the relicensing requirements of the Act and simply proceed with an audit of guns owned by licensees. However, they then decided that they could face civil action by people issued new licenses who had been forced to dispose of some of their guns without compensation because they were unable to obtain new licenses for them (the new Act imposes numerical limits on the number of guns licensees can own).
So, the Government is going to proceed with the relicensing provisions of the 2000 Act, but the new Amendment Bill introduced into Parliament will extend the validity of most categories of license, and create a much longer transitional period that will end in 2009 for the new licensing provisions to be brought in.
Hands up everyone who thinks that SAPS will be able to complete this massive bureaucratic undertaking by 2009?
As I suspect the Belgians will shortly find out, it’s easy to vote for “gun control” – but putting it into practice without wasting huge amounts of police resources that could actually be used to catch criminals is something else. Hmm… which leads me onto my next point…
The new Conservative Government in Canada is coming under pressure from gun owners to scrap the hugely costly gun registry, which came into being as a result of the Firearms Act 1995. Originally it was expected to cost $2 million, but with on-going costs it’s probably topped $2 billion by now.
The new Government has pledged to scrap the registration of so-called: “non-restricted firearms”, i.e. most sporting long guns, which make up more than 90% of the firearms owned by Canadians. However, it is the gun owner licensing provisions that make up most of the cost of the system, and it’s not clear what will happen there. So far the Government has merely proposed handing it over to the RCMP to manage instead of the Dept. of Justice.
Many gun owners in Canada were hoping the law would return to the pre-1995 situation, but this was always unlikely. Some of the more hated provisions of the legislation, such as the prohibition of handguns with a barrel length of 105mm or less, magazine capacity restrictions on pistols and semi-automatic rifles, etc. seem destined to stay, at least for now.
The national target shooting associations in the UK, the National Rifle Association, the National Smallbore Rifle Association and the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association have announced their intent to merge into one organisation that will be called the “National Association of Target Shooting Sports”. I can think of better names frankly, but this is a huge step in the right direction of strengthening the shooting sports in this country. It will allow for a co-ordinated national strategy in many areas, including the political one of course.
Shame they didn’t do it twenty years ago, but better late than never.
“A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercise, I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body, and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks.” – Thomas Jefferson in a letter to his nephew, 19 September, 1785.