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Old 26th June 2015, 01:07 PM
cloverleaf cloverleaf is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Oxfordshire
Posts: 117

Seems like we're back on firmer ground thanks to a few recent posts..

Originally Posted by RobF View Post
That's it in a nutshell.

The way I see it is they're like the drug classes that were decriminalised. They're still illegal to own, and the penalties for such may change, but at the moment policy is not carry out prosecutions for mere possession... but where more serious offenses to do with possession are involved, there will be (supply etc). That may change.

To me, the HO are saying as per the GTA/AMTA that they're illegal still. The HO have and the CPS & BASC are saying that you won't be prosecuted for having one. The HO haven't said you will, just that in the strict definition of the law, they're still illegal.

When advising it's members, like any organisation would do if approached, the GTA have said they are not legal. That's compeletely understandable in my book. I doubt any organisation would take them on as legal once an enquiry was made.

In the same way BASC are saying to their members, they're illegal by the strict definition of the law, but there's an HOC that says you won't be prosecuted for having one.

Probably the small numbers that have existed for ages have sat so low on the radar they haven't caused any bother. But now we have the internet and we can see all manner of things, and get them delivered, people are now asking their UK supplier chain these questions, and it's probably taken some time for the various communications to find their way in and out of people that are qualified to give their opinion. I would say that the CPS is probably something that doesn't change it's website overnight, and law is a very unclear area, which is why people get paid very large sums to be successful in it. So i really doubt that unless the HO want to get stuck into firearms legislation, we'll see much change.

As much as we could say it's no big deal to solve etc, there will be people opposed to any change in firearms law either way, that will make it at least a headache for anyone that goes near it, and a change in law is something that takes a lot of time and money to get right. I dare say I can't see it happening.
Completely agree with this - I think this is an excellent, accurate interpretation of the situation

Originally Posted by Cam View Post

The HOC 68/097 states: -

"We have consulted ACPO and the Crown Prosecution Service about the legal status of these weapons and have agreed, in the absence of a court ruling, that the issue should resolved formally at the next legislative opportunity. In the meantime chief officers are advised that self-loading or pump action rifled airguns should CONTINUE to be regarded as falling outside the certification process provided they are low powered and do not fall within the Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) Rules 1969"

Rob, how can they be illegal if they fall outside of the certification process?
I think this just comes back to the same old situation that Rob is attempting to decipher - to the letter of the law they are prohibited.

In suggesting that the guns "fall outside of the certification process.." the HO are acknowledging the fact that the guns are not, strictly speaking legal, however they support the law not being applied to these guns since it was never intended to..

It was apparently their aim to revise the law accordingly "at the next available opportunity" but for whatever reason this didn't happen - presumably because the issue was not high enough profile to really give anyone cause to push the issue. Until now.

Originally Posted by JasonGoldsmith66 View Post
Received yesterday ; Bold & highlighted by me...


Thank you for your email. This subject is very complicated; however BASC’s position is clear;

The Section 5(1)(ab) prohibition does not include an exception for “air weapons” as defined by Sectin 1(3)(b) of the Firearms Act 1968 i.e. low powered air rifles, airguns and air pistols. Section 5(1)(ab) expressly prohibits “any self-loading or pump-action rifled gun other than one which is chambered for .22 rim-fire cartridges;” As such; it is clear that semi-automatic air “rifles” and “pistols” are caught within this provision under the term “gun”. However care must first be taken in defining each and every air weapon as to how it operates.

I have not seen the mechanism or any expert report in respect of some of the air weapons being talked about. My initial thoughts to contribute to the discussion (these are not fully developed nor intended in any way to be an official position) are that the interpretation of "self loading" is provided by section 25 of the 1988 Firearms (Amendment) Act which states "In this Act Self Loading relation to any weapon mean(s)... that it is designed or adapted so that it is automatically re-loaded..."

It is interesting to review further what constitutes the critical term "loading" or being "loaded". To my mind the term "loaded" is practically used in a number of ways. "Self-Loading" when it is traditionally related to the context of a "self-loading" rifle would most usually refer to the automatic chambering of the round of ammunition. In armed forces terms however, to "load" is simply to place a charged magazine onto the firearm as distinguished from being "made ready" which would be to chamber a round. However this last use of the term "loaded" (i.e. placing a loaded magazine onto a firearm) is certainly not the action being referred to in the normal use of the term "Self-Loading Rifle."

There is of course an interpretation of a loaded air weapon under S.57(6) of the principal Act which for the purposes of the Act states (b) a shot gun or air weapon shall be deemed to be loaded if there is ammunition in the chamber or barrel or in any magazine or other device which is in such a position that the ammunition can be fed into the chamber or barrel by the manual or automatic operation of some part of the gun or weapon.

The above 57(6) interpretation of "loaded" is again not consistent with what is typically understood by the descriptive use of the term "self-loading" in connection with a mechanism.

With regard to true semi-automatic air weapons; Home Office Circular 68 from 1997 says; self-loading air weapons are not caught so long as they conform to the definition in Section 1(3)(b) of the 1968 Firearms Act i.e. they are not ‘specially dangerous’ (they are low powered under 12 ft lbs). The circular has not been revoked and cannot be, it remains public policy and relates to other matters within the Act.

The Crown Prosecution Service web site supports the circulars text as follows: "The Home Office regard self-loading or pump action rifled airguns (including paintball guns) as outside the scope of the Firearms Act, unless they are sufficiently powerful to fall within the category of a "specially dangerous" air weapon (Archbold 24.8a). Paintball guns could be considered imitation firearms. "

Anybody prosecuted for owning such a firearm can immediately rely on the circular and the CPS website, however it remains to be seen if any law change has been recommended. BASC has recommended to the law commission that the law be amended for semi-automatic air rifles as well as cartridge operated firearms to be expressly allowed in the Act.
Nice work - a shame that David has apparently left the forum, but Kudos to BASC for summarising everything so clearly!

Originally Posted by rich View Post
On another forum we hear that the GTA would dearly love to sell semi auto air guns here; they want a part of the market that is sure to grow, given the free exposure it's had over the last few months.

So, if the technical legal position is "prohibited", but the practical position is, "tolerated", what stops the trade from carrying them in stock?

My guess is, it's the insurers. If I wouldn't go shooting without insurance, I sure as hell wouldn't deal in firearms without insurance. If I were an underwriter I'd be using the "prohibited" definition to walk away from any obligation or exposure in the event of a claim.

Could it be that what little lobbying the GTA are doing at the HO, at the rare meetings they've had, is all directed actually to get the promised change to the law effected, so that the insurers will be able to extend cover to the dealers, and we can look forward to racks of lovely semi autos to admire at the dealers, with price tickets that match the continental suppliers?
Tbh having spoken to a GTA representative myself some time ago, their position could be interpreted as simply wishing to cover their arses and those of their members. The point was made to me that given the "questionable" legal standing of such guns, it would be irresponsible for the GTA to advise their members that SA airguns were legal, incase the law turned against such rifles - leaving GTA members in the shoite along with the GTA for advising them incorrectly.

Whether they have any agenda other than "playing it safe" wasn't apparent to me during the course of the conversation.