The Firearms Bill is a private member’s bill focused on two areas: first, so-called ‘miniature’ rifle ranges involving small calibre/air weapons. These ranges can currently be run without the need for firearm certification, and anybody can use these weapons at such a range without a certificate. Second, the control of ammunition and its component parts. In both these areas, law enforcement agencies have voiced concerns that current safeguards are insufficient.

The government conducted a wide-ranging consultation exercise in 2020–21 on firearm safety, which included these issues. It its response, the government indicated that a majority of respondents had agreed change was required and ministers said that they would legislate to strengthen regulation in these areas as a result.

The Firearms Bill follows that undertaking. It was sponsored by Shaun Bailey (Conservative MP for West Bromwich West) in the House of Commons and will be sponsored in the House of Lords by Lord Colgrain (Conservative). Explanatory notes to the bill have been prepared by the Home Office.

The bill would introduce two main changes:

  • It would remove the current exemption for operators of miniature rifle ranges in the Firearms Act 1968, requiring them to possess a firearms licence in future so that they are subject to police suitability checks. The bill would also redefine the definition of a miniature rifle to mean a rifle chambered for use with .22 rim-fire cartridges, thereby clarifying which firearms are appropriate to be used by persons who have not been subject to any suitability checks.
  • It would introduce an offence into the Firearms Act 1968 of possessing component parts of ammunition with “intent to manufacture” and detail the resultant new penalties regime.

The legislation received cross-party support in the House of Commons and passed unamended. The Labour frontbench did question whether the provisions should go further, however, particularly regarding 3D-printed weapons and resolving issues with the current firearm certification regime.

Second reading of the bill in the House of Lords is due to take place on 14 July 2023.

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