Citation(s) from the literature library

Northern Ireland. 2005 ‘Weapons Subject to General Prohibition.’ Guidance on Northern Ireland Firearms Controls 2005; Part V (Article 45), pp. 38-41. Belfast: Northern Ireland Assembly. 1 February

Relevant contents

Weapons Subject to General Prohibition

1. The guidance on this Part describes the weapons and ammunition prohibited under Article 45, how the Secretary of State can authorise their possession and the various exemptions from the need to have his authority under Article 46.

2. Article 45(1)(a) includes weapons such as machine guns, sub-machine guns, chain guns and the so-called "burst-fire" weapons which discharge several missiles (typically 3-5) in succession on a single application of the trigger. Case law also suggests that the courts should consider the actual operation of the firearm rather than the intent of the designers.

Article 45(1)(aa), introduced by the Firearms (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 2005, adds to the list of prohibited weapons any air gun which uses, or is designed or adapted for use with, a self-contained cartridge system, the Brocock being the most commonly cited example. This action was taken because of the ease with which one can be converted to take conventional ammunition. Anyone holding one of these air guns on certificate at the time the Amendment Order was made will be permitted to continue to do so provided he obtains the Secretary of State's written authority. He will not be permitted to transfer ownership to another party.

3. Article 45(1)(b) includes carbines. Originally, a carbine was a short musket or rifle intended for use by mounted troops but the term has come to mean any rifle with a short barrel. Also caught in this category are the so-called "hybrid" firearms such as the Colt Armalite AR-15 "pistol". These weapons are self-loading versions of long arms made to operate in self-loading mode only and sold without a shoulder stock. The term "automatic" is also sometimes incorrectly applied to self-loading pistols.

4. Article 45(1)(c) includes short-barrelled or short overall length pump-action and selfloading shotguns, which may have folding or retracting shoulder stocks. The terms "self-loading" and "pump-action" are defined in Article 2(2). Article 2(3) explains that the barrel of a firearm is measured from the muzzle to the point at which the charge is exploded on firing.

5. Article 45(1)(d) includes most smooth-bore revolver firearms though an exception is made for the so-called "ratting" or "garden" guns chambered for 9mm rimfire and for muzzle-loading revolver firearms, both of which are subject to control under Article 3. Article 2 defines a smooth-bore revolver gun as one containing a series of chambers which revolve when the gun is fired. Examples of such guns are the "Dragon" and the "Striker"…

8. Article 45(1)(g) includes cartridges containing explosive bullets and ammunition containing noxious substances such as CS gas. Explosive bullets are those containing an explosive charge the purpose of which is to cause the bullet to explode on or immediately before impact with the target. Tracer bullets, which contain a chemical flaring compound designed so that the flight of the bullet can be seen, are not prohibited. Smoke canisters are not covered by this provision.

9. Article 45(2)(a) covers any firearm disguised as something else, for example a walking stick shotgun or a pen pistol. A firearm with camouflage applied for legitimate use, for example by gamekeepers or wildfowlers, is not considered to be a disguised firearm…

11. Article 45(2)(c) includes such items as launch tubes fitted to fixed or rotary-wing aircraft for the types of missile mentioned in Article 45 (2)(b). Launch rails, which provide solely for carriage and release, are not considered to be launchers unless they also provide the initial guidance for the missile…

14. Article 45(2)(f) prohibits ammunition incorporating a projectile that is designed or adapted to expand on impact in a controlled manner when it is for use in a pistol. Expanding ammunition is the kind normally used in deerstalking and pest control because it is more likely than non-expanding ammunition to ensure a quick, clean kill. Semi-jacketed soft point and hollow point are typical forms of expanding ammunition but care must be taken to distinguish between match target hollow point ammunition, which has a tiny hole at the front for manufacturing purposes, and true hollow point. Match hollow point rounds, such as the Sierra Match King, are not prohibited; neither are flat-nosed bullets designed to be used in tubular magazines. This is to prevent magazine explosions caused by a pointed bullet resting on the primer of the cartridge ahead of it. All bullets will distort on impact but only those which were designed or adapted to do so in a controlled manner fit this category. (See also paragraphs 1 to 9 of the guidance on Article 46 (exemptions))

15. Article 45(2)(g) extends the prohibition on the various types of prohibited ammunition to the actual bullet or missile itself, not just the complete round of ammunition (a complete round consists of the bullet, the cartridge case, the propellant and the primer). There is no need for the bullets to be listed separately on the firearm certificate, other than in the circumstances described below. However, where a certificate holder requests large quantities of bullets, it is important to remember that the total number of bullets authorised counts towards his overall limit on possession of expanding ammunition. The exception to the rule on listing bullets separately on a certificate applies in the case of a certificate holder who wishes to possess a variety of different types of bullets. This may be reflected in a relatively higher overall limit on possession and, in these circumstances, the bullets may be listed separately to help avoid unnecessary stockpiling of complete rounds. The dealer making the sale must record transactions of expanding bullets on certificates and in his records.

16. Applications for the Secretary of State's authority to manufacture, sell, transfer, purchase, acquire or possess prohibited weapons or prohibited ammunition are processed by the Northern Ireland Office. Those who wish to apply should write to the Northern Ireland Office at the address given in the Introduction to this Guidance. Exemptions from the requirement to have the Secretary of State's authority to have prohibited items are described in the guidance on Article 46

17. Article 45(10) enables the Secretary of State, subject to the approval of Parliament, to make an order adding to the list of prohibited weapons and ammunition.

18. Before the Secretary of State makes a decision concerning a particular application for authority, he will ask the Chief Constable for his recommendation. If he grants authority, he will inform the Chief Constable. As a matter of policy, the Secretary of State would normally grant authority only to those with a good reason, such as legitimate commercial need, to possess prohibited weapons, rather than for private use or speculative business interest. The Chief Constable will also be informed of any case where authority is refused or revoked.

19. Prohibited weapons are subject to more stringent control than other firearms and the authority may restrict the holder to a particular category of prohibited weapon or prohibited ammunition and specify the range of transactions that may be undertaken. The Chief Constable should report to the Northern Ireland Office any circumstances that might justify revoking authority.

20. When it receives an application for renewal of authority, the Northern Ireland Office will again seek the views of the police. It is essential, therefore, that applications for renewal are made well in advance of the expiry date.

21. Prohibited weapons and ammunition are included in the definitions of "firearm" and "ammunition" in Article 2(2) of the Order and are therefore subject to the restrictions applicable to other types of firearms and ammunition. A firearm certificate should not be granted in respect of any weapon or ammunition to which Article 45 applies unless the Secretary of State has given his authority for its possession or the applicant is exempt. If any person applies for a certificate for a prohibited weapon or ammunition already in his possession where he is neither exempt nor able to produce authority from the Secretary of State, the application should be refused and the person required to surrender the weapon or ammunition immediately.

22. The Guidance on Articles 12, 26 and 29 deals with the Chief Constable's action in relation to the agrant or revocation of a firearm certificate or a firearms dealer's certificate when the Secretary of State grants or revokes his authority.

23. The authority to possess prohibited weapons granted to a theatrical, television or film producer may permit their possession by such other persons as he may select to have them whilst taking part in the performance, rehearsal or production.

24. Article 45(4) provides that authority will be subject to appropriate conditions to ensure that the prohibited weapon or prohibited ammunition will not endanger public safety or the peace. Article 45(5) makes it an offence to fail to comply with such conditions. Under Article 45(6) it is an offence, upon revocation, for a person to fail to surrender the authority to the Northern Ireland Office within 21 days of the date of the notice of revocation.

ID: Q6848

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