We have an update for members of the NSRA in regards to Steyr LP50 and Variants - Semi Automatic Air Pistols.
Steyr LP50 and Variants - Semi Automatic Air Pistols
Report from the BSSC Practitioners Group Meeting held on 5 December 2016.
The meeting was chaired by David Coutts - Firearms Licensing Manager, N.Yorkshire. Other police representatives were Firearms Licensing Managers from W. Yorkshire, Avon and Somerset and Police Scotland.
Graham Widdecombe represented The Home Office. BSSC was represented by David Penn - Secretary, supported by representatives from the NSRA, BASC, Countryside Alliance, Scottish Association for Country Sports, HBSA and Gun Trade Association.
The LP50 components seized from Steyr UK followed a routine RFD visit by an FEO. The current position is that Harry Preston has been asked to source spare parts so that those parts plus the seized parts can be sent to NABIS (National Ballistics Intelligence Service) for reassembly and testing. The Home Office saw two issues; is the design self loading or not (if it is, the Home Office will continue to advise that these Steyrs should not be imported or sold), and can the power level be adjusted easily to over 6ft lbs.
NABIS will advise if the pistols are "self loading" or not. The result of this analysis will be sent to David Coutts, Brandon Lewis (Minister responsible for firearms) and BSSC. If this analysis considers the LP50 not to be "self loading" the problem goes away and the Police will not consider them to be Section 5 Firearms.
If, however, NABIS come to the conclusion that LP50's are "self loading" then those seized firearms will remain seized with risk that other Police Forces will follow North Yorkshire's lead. The Home Office hopes to be able to go to the Minister shortly. This is not just about Steyrs, so a decision would have to be taken as to whether this type of air pistol should remain prohibited or the law should be changed.
The general consensus is that the only long term solution is for the law to be clarified. This will not happen as part of the Police and Crime Bill 2016 which is close to its conclusion with Royal Assent due early in 2017. It is more likely to be part of a codification of previous Firearms Acts. However, timescales for this are unknown but it won't be soon.
None of the above is likely to lead to a swift conclusion in our favour.
The point was clearly made that the "law is the law" and this can only be changed by an Act of Parliament or by the Courts.
Opinions can only be tested in a high enough court, which has the power to change the interpretation of the law. Even the NABIS conclusion will only be an "opinion" albeit one which the courts would be unlikely to ignore. The Home Office could take a position, subject to any decision in the courts.
When more information comes available we will let you know.