A STEYR HS 50, a .50 calibre rifle.
A STEYR HS 50, a .50 calibre rifle.

Much is made of the Commons – so beset by Brexit that it fails to discuss anything else. But backbench Tory amendments to the Offensive Weapons Bill on Monday tell you something about their priorities in non-Brexit business.

They have decided that the fight they want to have, is the fight to keep .50 calibre rifles available to the public.

For the uninitiated, let me just introduce you to the .50 calibre rifle. Though it may be more illustrative if you have a scan of Google Images. It is an extremely powerful weapon of a different order to most. An anti-materiel rifle capable of such devastating force it can take out vehicles and trucks from long-range, the MoD have user requirements on it up to 1.8km and the NCA have told MPs it has a maximum potential range of 6.8km. Counter-Terror police have warned that officers would have no protection against them if they fell into the wrong hands.

For the Tories proposing the amendment on Monday, it is as if the past few years have simply passed them by. Read the Lord Harris review into London’s preparedness for a terror attack. The so-called Marauding Terrorist Firearms Attack (MTFA) is considered to be one of the most significant threats facing the UK. We know Nairobi, Orlando and Mumbai were influencing the response of UK policing; but the attack in Paris in the heart of Western Europe using bombs and firearms which killed 130 and left 350 injured dramatically altered the picture.

Counter-terror police are clear that we cannot take the risk particularly when we know from public information about foiled plots in the UK, that terrorists have explored ways to get their hands on guns. Highly-restricted gun supply in the UK means would-be terrorists and serious organised criminal are increasingly turning their attention to legitimate & licensed firearms holders. 39 rifles were stolen this year and 165 shotguns from lawful firearms holders.

Tory backbenchers know this. Mark Groothius of Operation Endeavour, the counter-terror policing unit in the Met told a Committee of MPs:

“My concern is that, if one of these guns were to be stolen, again with the ammunition, and if it were to get into terrorist hands, it could be very difficult to fight against or to protect against. There is very little— nothing, as far as I know—that the police service have that could go up against a .50 in the way of body armour or even protected vehicles.”

They know this, but whether they care is another question. After all, who needs experts?

The Party of law and order? Don’t make me laugh.

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