Rifles are shoulder-fired long guns with rifling (spiral grooves cut in the bore to make the bullet spin which improves accuracy). A Section 1 Firearms Certificate is required. Rifles are used for target shooting and hunting foxes, deer and other wildlife. Following the Hungerford Gun Massacre in 1987 in which 16 people were killed by Michael Ryan using legally-owned military-style guns The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 banned semi-automatic, pump-action and self-loading rifles.
See ‘Gun Law’ pages.
IDENTIFICATION - Because imitation rifles look like real guns it can be impossible to tell without close examination if a gun being brandished during an incident is real or an imitation, deactivated, airgun*, airsoft, replica or other non-licensed gun which looks like a rifle. Victims of armed crime are traumatised and not surprisingly unable to identify the gun being used to assault them. Media reporting is unreliable and unless guns are fired or recovered they are categorised as ‘unidentified’. Many press reports which refer to ‘rifles’ are likely to involve imitations, deactivated, airsoft, air rifles* and other non-licensed guns which look like rifles.
*The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill
The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament in June 2015 and received the Royal Assent in August 2015. Under the provisions of the Act it will be an offence for a person to use, possess, purchase or acquire an air weapon in Scotland without holding an air weapon certificate.
1. RIFLES – FATALITIES
Rifles are used in homicides domestic violence, suicides and are implicated in ‘accidents’. These incidents and ‘accidents’ can involve rifles legally-held by those involved in shooting activities, farming and the military where individuals have access to Section 1 rifles. There have been incidents when an individual armed with an imitation gun has been shot by police.
2. RIFLES - VIOLENT CRIME
Rifles, or other long barrelled non-licensed guns resembling rifles are used to enable crimes including armed robbery, domestic violence, drug related crimes, intimidation, vandalism, threats, and drive-by random shootings. Incidents can require police investigation, hospital treatment, court costs, insurance and repairs. Victims and families endure pain and suffering, time off work, loss of income and disruption to daily life. Rifle crime is paid for by individuals, the community and the taxpayer. (See 6)
3. RIFLES – CRIMINALS BANNED FROM OWING GUNS CAN STILL BUY IMITATION RIFLES
Criminals banned by the courts from possessing guns, and those banned from possessing guns by virtue of having served prison sentences, can still buy long barrelled guns, airsoft rifles* and other non-licensed guns resembling rifles online from international suppliers, UK dealers and private sellers, forums, websites, newspapers and magazines, no background checks are required*.
4. RIFLES – MENTAL HEALTH, ALCOHOL AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE
Long barrelled guns which look like rifles can be bought by individuals suffering from mental health issues and those involved in alcohol and drug abuse, no background checks are required.
5. RIFLES – CRIMINAL DAMAGE, VANDALISM, ANIMAL CRUELTY AND COST TO THE PUBLIC
Rifles, airsoft guns, and other long-barrelled guns which look like rifles are involved in incidents of criminal damage, vandalism to public and private buildings and animal cruelty. Incidents are difficult to investigate. In cases of animal cruelty farmers, pet owners and animal charities are faced with considerable veterinary costs. There are financial cost implications for society and for individuals in terms of police time, the judiciary, insurance, local authority services, time off work, disruption to daily life, commerce, industry, transport. Rifle crime is paid for by individuals, the community and the tax payer.
Rifles are used illegally by hunters and gamekeepers to kill birds of prey. These incidents occur on or close by land and estates managed for game shooting and may well be linked to the need to protect game birds for commercial shoots.
6. RIFLES – CAPABLE OF CONVERSION TO DEADLY FIREARMS
There have been a number of prosecutions regarding illegal commercial ‘gun factories’ found to be engaged converting deactivated and imitation rifles, some involving large numbers of weapons organised on an industrial scale. Several such enterprises have involved ex-military individuals, dealers and gun collectors.
7. RIFLES – IRRESPONSIBLE STORAGE AND THEFT
Rifles held under Section 1 Firearms Licences are subject to safe storage conditions. There are occasions when owners fail to adhere to these.
Military weapons are known to be ‘lost’ and stolen from depots and barracks and smuggled into UK as trophies of war by those returning home after a tour of duty.
Unlicensed guns which look like rifles are not subject to any safe storage conditions. They are left in cupboards and on top of wardrobes in homes, and in garages, sheds, outhouses, vehicles, boats etc. where security is inadequate and they are stolen by petty criminals. They are also displayed as wall ornaments in homes, commercial premises, pubs and offered for sale in shops or shop windows where they are easily accessed and used to enable crime.
See ‘Gun Law’ pages.