The Bill Explained
This week in parliament, the Offensive Weapons Bill was debated in the House of Commons. This Bill is intended to help reduce violent crime through the limitation of access to weapons to minors. Following the dramatic increase of knife crime in England and Wales (up by 22% in 2017 alone), it has been deemed necessary to find ways to limit minors access to these weapons.
The Bill itself seeks to tackle multiple types of weaponry including corrosive liquids, knives and firearms. By prohibiting the sale (to minors) and possession of these items, the Government hopes to tackle the increase in local violence. This bill also seeks to reduce the number of acid and corrosive fluid attacks that have been seen across London in recent years (which nearly tripled between 2014 and 2016). This is part of the government’s £40 million Serious Violence Strategy.
The full Bill aims to cover and extend offenses for a range of acts, including:
- Selling (both offline and online) corrosive products to people under the age of 18.
- Possessing corrosive substances in a public place without good reason
- Greater requirements for online sellers of bladed products to take reasonable precautions
- Stopping the sale and dispatch of bladed products and corrosive products to residential addresses, and criminalises delivery companies doing this for a seller outside of the UK to a person under 18
- Criminalising previously prohibited weapons, such as knuckle dusters
- Increasing the charges for possessing these weapons on school grounds
This bill is predicted to cost roughly £5.2 million to act, and will mainly affect legal and distribution companies.
What Happened This Week?
On Wednesday (28th November 2018), the Bill was debated in its third reading in the House of Commons, and on Thursday had its first reading in the House of Lords, meaning that it is in the second main stage of passing.
On Wednesday, the bill was also edited to table a clause banning higher calibre weapons. While this clause was originally within the Weapons bill due to larger concerns over black market trade, there was increasing pressure on the Home Secretary Sajid Javid to remove the proposal from Conservative and DUP MP’s. Roughly 70 MP’s supported the dropping of this clause, stating that there was no real danger to the public and that it could potentially result in further limitations on sport in the future.
This has been met with shock, particularly by Labour MP’s such as David Hanson, who has cited the death of his 13 year old constituent in an air rifle accident previously, proposing more reasonable measures needed to be put in place.
Despite this dropping, the Bill still passed comfortably through the House of Commons and will now continue to be debated in the House of Lords.
If the Bill is fully passed, there will likely be very minimal changes to people’s everyday experience, apart from slightly stricter age verification processes on the purchasing of these potentially dangerous goods both online and offline.