Report on the use of air weapons

Part of Offensive Weapons Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:00 pm on 28th November 2018.

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Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Conservative, The Cotswolds 3:00 pm, 28th November 2018

I am grateful for your advice, Mr Deputy Speaker, but it is important, in view of what Louise Haigh had to say, that I refute some of the facts that have been put about.

The figures for stolen firearms should be put into context, which Mr Rodhouse does not do. There are 2 million firearms in civilian hands. Up to July this year, only 204—I accept that that is 204 too many—had been stolen, and the vast majority were shotguns, not rifles. Only 1% of non-airgun firearms crime is committed with rifles, and none of those has ever been from a .50 calibre legal weapon.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley might be interested to know that Mr Rodhouse did not give the whole story regarding the case of the stolen .50 calibre weapon. The police dealing with the theft considered it opportunistic and that the .50 calibre was stolen with other firearms and not specifically targeted—[Interruption.] She should just listen for a minute. The .50 calibre was rapidly abandoned, and there is a suggestion that the police were told where to find it. All this points at the criminals finding the .50 calibre unsuitable for their purposes, and one can understand why—a single-shot rifle, requiring hand-loaded ammunition, weighing 30 lb and around 5 feet long, is very difficult to carry, let alone use in a criminal or terrorist incident.

The second case mentioned is the Surdar case. The whole point is that Surdar did not sell his legally held .50 calibre rifle to criminals; they did not want it. In the first case, level 3 security would have prevented a crime, and in the second case, it was a dealer who was not entirely above board.

Mr Rodhouse goes on to talk about the threat of illegal importations. That will not be cured by banning legally held guns. How many .50 calibre weapons have been seized as illegal imports? The answer is none. It is true that most UK firearms law is the product of outrage in the wake of atrocities such as Dunblane or Hungerford. At least legislators in those cases were seeking to improve the law with clear evidence. Mr Rodhouse, on the other hand, is seeking to persuade Parliament to change the law in relation to .50 calibre weapons without any significant evidence whatsoever.

The Government’s original proposal was not supported by the evidence. We in this House have a duty to protect minorities and to ensure that we do not act illiberally by banning things when there is no evidence. I submit that the Government have done the right thing in withdrawing these weapons from the Bill and are right to have a properly evidence-based consultation, to which all experts, including the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley, can give evidence. If, at the end of it, the Government conclude that there is an issue of public safety, we will need to debate that further in the House. I rest my case.