The proposals laid out in the Government consultation on offensive and dangerous weapons propose moving two firearms (.50 calibre and certain rapid firing rifles) from the general licensing arrangements to the stricter provisions of section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968. This provision prohibits the ownership, other than as authorised by the Secretary of State or the Scottish Ministers of more dangerous, non-civilian firearms such as handguns and automatic rifles. The consultation sets out legislative measures to reduce violent crime, responding to recent rises in police-recorded firearm offences.
The Government has said that in proposing to prohibit the ownership of .50 calibre 'materiel destruction' rifles of a type developed for use by the military, it considers that the potential range and penetration of these weapons are such that they are a significant risk if they were to fall into the wrong hands. For this reason, it has proposed that they no longer be allowed for civilian use.
Similarly the Government is also proposing to prohibit ownership of rapid firing rifles, as the rate of fire with these weapons is significantly greater than a conventional bolt-action rifle. As the intention of the Firearms Act is to prohibit civilian ownership of semi-automatic firearms and the threat such weapons pose, the Government also believes it appropriate to subject such rifles to the controls of section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968.