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De-Activated Weapons

Part of Orders of the Day — Firearms (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:30 pm on 23rd May 1988.

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Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 8:30 pm, 23rd May 1988

If a visitor comes to this country with a deactivated weapon which is not proof marked in the way that I have described, it is caught by the ordinary provisions of the firearms legislation. I should be surprised if my hon. Friend wanted it otherwise. A number of weapons that are sometimes described as deactivated are not in the least deactivated and can readily be used to fire as a lethal weapon. We should set up proper protection for our fellow citizens, and I am sure that my hon. Friend would wish us to do that.

There is apprehension about conversion. That may well be my fault, in which case I apologise. It is true that clause 7 as originally presented to the House on Second Reading and in Committee enshrined within it the proposition that a gun could not by conversion ever change its original categorisation—if it started life as a section 5 gun, it always remained a section 5 gun; if it started life as a section 1 gun, it always remained a section 1 gun, even if work had been done to turn it into a shotgun or airgun. That proposition was criticised, and I understand why, so we qualified the position substantially.

The proposition which we originally brought forward remains now as it always was in respect of section 5 guns—if a gun starts life as a section 5 gun, it will always remain a section 5 gun in the eyes of the law, whatever is done to it. That proposition does not apply in respect of section 1 guns having a barrel length in excess of 24 in. In respect of a section 1 gun, for example a Lee Enfield rifle, which has been smooth-bored so as to take a ·410 cartridge and thus becomes a shotgun, it is not a section 1 gun any more—it is a shotgun.

The new clause has the effect of allowing people to transform their section 1 rifle into a shotgun if they wish without the necessity of getting any certification to prove it. That does not apply in respect of those guns with a barrel length of less than 24 in. The most obvious and gross examples are pistols which are smooth-bored which can still fire a pistol cartridge but which hitherto were treated as section 2 guns when they should have been treated as section 1 guns.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) expressed some doubt about the meaning of subsection (2) of new clause 3. That deals only with those section 1 guns which have a barrel length of less than 24 in. The character of such a gun cannot be changed by downward conversion into, say, a shotgun or an airgun.