Obsolete Calibre (Antique) Firearms Threat Briefing

21st August 2018

NABIS were featured on BBC Panorama last night, if you missed it you can catch up via iplayer.  

The role of NABIS is to support policing in reducing the threat from the criminal use of firearms. The use of antique firearms in crime was first identified by NABIS in 2010, but goes back to 2007, since then the use of antique firearms has increased. NABIS believe that the reason there has been an increase in their use is due to the ready availability of ammunition. This was apparent in the case involving Paul Edmunds, a Registered Firearms Dealer who was manufacturing Obsolete Calibre ammunition that was then supplied to criminals across the UK. Despite the conviction and sentencing of Edmunds last year other offenders have started to manufacture Obsolete Calibre ammunition, so antique firearms continue to feature in crime.

There is a clear distinction between law abiding collectors of antique firearms who are interested in their heritage value and people who acquire them for criminal intent. NABIS are aware that the evidence they have provided to the Home Office will have an impact on some law abiding collectors but NABIS have a duty to put public safety first and prevent crime.

There are 400+ Calibres on the Obsolete List, NABIS have identified 9 calibres or groups that feature in crime and should be considered for removal from the list to prevent crime.

Detective Chief Superintendent Jo Chilton, Head of NABIS, said: "Earlier in the year NABIS submitted evidence of the criminal threat from certain Obsolete Calibre firearms to the Home Office, as part of the consultation on the Police and Crime Act 2017. These are calibres that we believe impact on public safety as we see them used in crime. NABIS will continue to work with police forces to identify new and emerging threats, as working in partnership is key to reducing the threat from the criminal use of firearms."

There are 568 obsolete calibre firearms that have entered police possession through links to criminality or from suspicious circumstances and are comprised of 53 different obsolete calibres.

Fifty per cent of antique firearm recoveries from police intervention or criminal circumstances are made in combination with suitable ammunition.

Obsolete calibre firearms have been confirmed as having been discharged in four homicides. There are a further two homicides that are believed to have been caused by obsolete calibre firearms, this can only be confirmed when the firearms are recovered.

Criminals appear to be versed in the legal exemption for antique firearms, quoting 58(2) of the firearms act as defence for possession when stopped by officers.

There were 56 Obsolete Calibre firearms surrendered to police in the last national firearms surrender that took place in November 2017.

NABIS has submitted evidence of 9 Obsolete Calibres / groups to the Home Office for consideration of removal from the Obsolete Calibre list. These 9 calibres / groups all feature in the criminal use of firearms.

NABIS has shared their concerns on these Obsolete Calibres / groups with representatives from the shooting and collectors Communities.

NABIS presented at the Law Commission symposium on the threat seen from Obsolete Calibre firearms.

There are other Obsolete Calibres that have been used in crime but to a lesser extent than those submitted to the Home Office. NABIS will continue to monitor their use in crime.

The Police and Crime Act 2017 allows for a definition of an antique firearm but that part of the Act is yet to be enacted. A decision on the wording of this definition is with Ministers.

There are greater restrictions on scrap metal than on antique firearms. Anyone, who is not a prohibited person, can buy or transfer an antique firearm for cash leaving no audit trail.

There is no mechanism or requirement to notify the police if someone purchases multiple antique firearms. In the case of Paul Edmunds and Mohinder Surdhar 50+ antique firearms were purchased. Some of these antique firearms have been used in crime others remain outstanding but as there is no requirement for an audit trail the investigating Officers have not been able to trace them.

It is acknowledged that removing certain calibres from the Obsolete Calibre list will impact on genuine law abiding collectors; however NABIS have a duty to prevent crime and to protect the public from the criminal use of firearms

Ex-Offenders report easy access to Obsolete Calibre firearms and ammunition.

Ex- Offenders report that Obsolete Calibre firearms are reliable and do not jam, making them firearms of choice.

A recommendation of the Law Commission was for full codification of the Firearms Legislation. This is a recommendation that NABIS support.

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