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The Offensive Weapons Bill is a government bill which was introduced in the House of Commons on 20 June 2018 and, following delays, completed report stage and third reading on 28 November 2018. It was introduced in the House of Lords on 29 November 2018 and is scheduled to have its second reading on 7 January 2019. The bill contains a range of measures intended to tackle violent crime, specifically by: 

  • prohibiting the possession of corrosive substances in a public place and the sale of corrosive products to those aged under 18;
  • strengthening the arrangements for the online sale of bladed articles, bladed products and corrosive products;
  • prohibiting the possession of certain offensive weapons (such as flick knives and butterfly knives); and
  • prohibiting the possession of certain firearms.

The bill follows concerns about the increasing number of violent offences, as highlighted by press reports and government statistics. For example, the Office for National Statistics has stated that there has been an apparent increase in some lower-volume, higher-harm offences, including knife crime and homicides. The bill also follows the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy, which was launched on 9 April 2018, and a consultation on the bill.

Overall, the bill has cross-party support. However, Labour has criticised its “limited” measures. In particular, Labour unsuccessfully opposed a government amendment tabled at report stage that removed provisions which would have prohibited rifles featuring kinetic energy of more than 13,600 joules at the muzzle of the weapon (including .50 calibre rifles). Labour also sought to strengthen the firearms provisions and make it an aggravated offence to be found in possession of certain offensive weapons when on a moped. Similarly, the Scottish National Party backed the bill, but also criticised the narrowing of the firearms provisions. The Government stated it would be launching a consultation on firearms.

This briefing provides background to the bill and its provisions, including statistics on crime in England and Wales involving certain offensive weapons, and provides a summary of the bill’s House of Commons stages.

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