Government plan to ban thousands of antique guns

By Flora Thompson, PA Home Affairs Correspondent
·2-min read

Thousands of old guns could become illegal to own without a licence under plans to stop them falling into the hands of criminals.

The Government is trying to close a legal loophole which allows collectors and dealers to buy and sell certain antique firearms without a licence.

Seven types of ammunition, which are said to be most commonly used by criminals, would be banned under the proposals.

If approved by Parliament, this would mean up to 26,000 more guns which use these cartridges would need a firearms certificate in order to comply with the law, or owners could face up to five years in jail for unlawful possession.

The regulations would apply in England and Wales, as well as Scotland – except for air weapons – and are set to be reviewed every three years.

The plan comes after the Home Office said it received evidence from police there was “criminal exploitation” of the existing rules, with some antique firearms being used in violent crime.

But the department’s impact assessment concluded there was no “robust evidence” to indicate that the measures would cut crimes involving old guns.

Citing figures from the National Ballistics Intelligence Service, the Government department said there had been a “sharp rise” in the number of antique guns being seized from crime scenes in recent years.

In 2007 there were four recoveries, which grew to 97 in 2016 and remain at high levels, with 69 recovered in 2019, according to the department.

In the past 13 years six deaths have been linked to antique firearms.

The impact assessment said: “A number of assumptions have been made regarding the proportion of dealers, collectors and museums that will either retain their firearms, sell them or surrender them.

“The costs of this policy are sensitive to the extent to which the market value of these firearms falls as a result of the legislation, which is uncertain.

“However, there is no robust evidence to indicate that re-classifying antique firearms in this way will reduce criminality involving antique firearms, serious violence, wounding or homicides.”

The seven types of ammunition set to be banned are:

– .320 British (also known as .320 Revolver CF, short or long)

– .41 Colt (short or long)

– .44 Smith and Wesson Russian

– .442 Revolver (also known as .44 Webley)

– 9.4mm Dutch Revolver

– 10.6mm German Ordnance Revolver

– 11mm French Ordnance Revolver M1873 (Army)

Owners can sell, deactivate or surrender the guns before the law changes if they do not wish to buy a firearm certificate.

Any guns made before September 1, 1939, like those which may be of historical significance for museums, collectors and dealers, will still be exempt.

Policing minister Kit Malthouse said: “Public safety is our top priority and we cannot allow these dangerous firearms to fall into the wrong hands.

“The UK has some of the toughest gun laws in the world – we will do everything in our power to make sure it stays that way.”