LC Paper No. CB(2) 2689/98-99
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/BC/15/98
Bills Committee onMembers present :
Firearms and Ammunition (Amendment) Bill 1999
Minutes of meeting
held on Tuesday, 4 May 1999 at 4:30 pm
in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building
Hon James TO Kun-sun (Chairman)
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon Howard YOUNG, JPMembers absent :
Hon Gary CHENG Kai-nam
Hon CHOY So-yukPublic Officers attending :
Clerk in attendance :
- Security Bureau
- Mr Philip CHAN
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Security
- Ms Jessie WONG
- Assistant Secretary for Security
- Hong Kong Police Force
- Mr M B DOWIE
- Assistant Commissioner of Police (Support)
- Mr FAN Sik-ming
- Superintendent (Licensing)
- Department of Justice
- Ms Leonora IP
- Government Counsel
- Examination Bureau
- Mr B J HEARD
- Senior Superintendent
- Forensic Firearms
Staff in attendance :
- Mr LAW Wing-lok
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2)5
I. Meeting with the Administration
- Mr Stephen LAM
- Assistant Legal Adviser 4
- Miss Mary SO
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2)8
Further submission from the (the Arms Dealers)
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 1819/99-8-99(01))
Referring to para.3 of the submission from the Arms Dealers (which was responding to the Administration's response to issues raised by members at previous meetings (LC Paper No. CB(2) 1819/98-99(02)), Mr David CHU shared the views with the Arms Dealers and expressed disappointment with the Administration's explanation. While appreciating the need to regulate the use of modified firearms from the safety point of view, Mr CHU opined that the Administration should not impede the operation of the TV/film industry. He said that as far as he was aware, no accident was reported in relation to the use of modified firearms. He urged the Administration to re-examine the need for regulating the use of modified firearms by the TV/film industry.
Reversibility of modified firearms
2. Senior Superintendent, Forensic Firearms Examination Bureau/ Hong Kong Police Force (SSP(FFEB)) pointed out that having regard to the fact that firearms used in TV/film productions were modified slightly only, they could be reverted and put into a fully operational level quite easily. To facilitate members' understanding on the reversibility of modified firearms, he demonstrated how modified firearms could be reverted to function like genuine firearms within a couple of minutes.
3. SSP(FFEB) said that the Police had no intention to make it difficult for the TV/film industry in relation to the use of modified firearms in TV/film productions. The modification specifications for firearms used in the TV/film productions were the minimum requirement for converting genuine firearms into modified firearms for filming purpose so that the modified firearms could be used to produce the required effects in a TV/film production. Only those parts which would constitute a misuse and cause serious accidents were removed from the firearms. The specifications were drawn up after extensive discussion with the arms trade.
4. While appreciating the serious and responsible attitude adopted by the Administration to regulate modified firearms, Mr David CHU enquired about the feasibility of finding a mechanical solution so that it would be difficult to revert modified firearms back to genuine firearms. The Chairman shared Mr CHU's view. He considered that it would save the efforts and time for both the Administration and the arms dealers in respect of the inspection of modified firearms.
5. In response, SSP(FFEB) said that should any firearms be modified to such an extent that they could never be reverted to genuine firearms, many parts had to be removed from the firearms. As a result, the firearms in question could not be operated properly to produce the required effects. Should the TV/film industry accept such modification specifications, they could simply use a plastic toy gun as a substitute which looked real. However, as far as the Administration was aware, the TV/film industry indeed preferred modified firearms which looked and operated like real firearms. There was presently no way under which modified firearms could not be reverted unless making them dysfunctional.
Inspection of modified firearms
6. SSP(FFEB) pointed out that given that there were over 1 500 modified firearms being used by the TV/film industry and that such firearms might become dangerous due to the normal wear and tear, the Administration was of the view that there was a genuine need to inspect modified firearms regularly to ensure the safety of users and other people in the vicinity as well as no reversion had been made to the firearms. As regards the comments made by the arms dealers about an unduly long period taken for carrying out inspection of modified firearms by FFEB, SSP(FFEB) said that presently there was no designated officer in FFEB responsible for the inspection of modified firearms.
7. Mr Howard YOUNG asked whether the delay in carrying out inspection of modified firearms was due to a lack of clear specifications on the requirements for the applicants to comply with or the requirements were too difficult to be complied with. SSP(FFEB) said that the specifications were general and easy for the applicants to comply with as far as practicable. But it was noted that most of the applicants failed to follow the guidelines for applications. The arms dealers could approach FFEB for advice and clarification should they have doubts in the course of applications. He stressed that the primary objective of the inspection of modified firearms was from the safety point of view.
8. Responding to Mr James TIEN's enquiry about the need to procure ammunition from overseas for the inspection of modified firearms, SSP(FFEB) said that the delay cited by the arms dealers was indeed an individual case which involved the inspection of a new type of modified firearms. In that case, the Police did not have any stock of the special ammunition in need. Thus, the Police had to procure the ammunition from overseas for the necessary inspection. There would be no further delay in carrying out inspection against such type of modified firearms.
|9. Responding to Mr James TIEN's enquiry about the lead time for an inspection of modified firearms, SSP(FFEB) said that under the existing arrangement, modified firearms would first be handed to an armoury which would then be transferred to FFEB for inspection. FFEB would take a couple of days to carry out the necessary inspection. It would pass the modified firearms in question to the armoury, which would be handed back to the relevant arms dealer. SSP(FFEB) pointed out that having regard to the small establishment in FFEB, priority would be accorded to crime related activities. After the Bill came into effect, an officer in FFEB would be designated for the inspection of modified firearms whom could be approached by the arms dealers directly. It was expected that an inspection of modified firearms by FFEB could be completed within three days. The Chairman requested and SSP(FFEB) agreed that a performance pledge would be issued in due course. ||Adm|
Clause-by-clause examinationClause 2 - InterpretationDefinition of "ammunition"
10. Referring to the definition of "ammunition" under section 2(1) of the Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance (the Ordinance), the Chairman asked about the rationale for the proposed addition of paragraph (ea) and amendment to paragraph (ii) and their effect. In response, Superintendent (Licensing) (SP(Lic)) said that according to the advice of the Department of Justice, bullet and cartridge case were different components of ammunition. The purpose of the proposed amendments to the definition of "ammunition" was to spell out clearly that any parts which constituted ammunition would fall within the meaning of ammunition and that if they were used only for adornment purpose they would be exempted from the Ordinance.
Definition of "arms"
11. Referring to the proposal to change to , Assistant Legal Adviser 4 (ALA4) said that, in his view, it would distinguish clearly the Chinese version of "firing" and "discharge" used in the Ordinance. Principal Assistant Secretary for Security E (PAS(S)E) said that the proposal did not amend the substance of the legislation.
Definition of "deal in"
12. The Chairman enquired about the reason for adding "export" to the definition of "deal in". In reply, PAS(S)E said that the proposed amendment aimed at covering the arms dealing activities relating to or in the course of exportation. Mr Howard YOUNG was concerned whether the legislative proposal would impose operational difficulties for those who brought in arms and ammunition and then transported them to other places. PAS(S)E said that the possession of arms and ammunition in transit was regulated under section 8 of the Ordinance. No amendment was proposed in the Bill. Any person who was in the possession of arms and ammunition in transit did not need to obtain a licence in this context.
Definition of "dealer's licence" and "licence for possession"
13. Responding to the Chairman's enquiry about the rationale for the proposed addition of subsection (4C) to section 2 of the Ordinance, Assistant Secretary for Security (AS(S)) explained that the proposed amendment was a technical amendment so that limited licences granted under section 30 of the Ordinance would be covered by the definition of "dealer's licence" as well as the definition of "licence for possession".
Definition of "air gun"
14. At the invitation of the Chairman, PAS(S)E said that at present, air guns with a muzzle energy not greater than two joules were not defined as arms and hence were not regulated by the Ordinance. Assistant Commissioner of Police (Support) (ACP(Sup)) said that under section 26 of the Ordinance, the Police expert was empowered to certify muzzle energy of air guns which used air only but not other types of gases. The amendment was necessary so that the Police expert could issue certificate for air guns using compressed gas. PAS(S)E added that the use of compressed gas by rifle, gun or pistol was already covered under the Firearms and Ammunition (Declaration of Arms) Regulation. The proposal would spell out such regulation clearly in the principal Ordinance.
Definition of "appoint"
15. The proposed definition of "appoint" would cater for those being employed in shooting clubs.
Definition of "armoury"
16. PAS(S)E said that one of the objectives of the Bill was to strengthen regulation over the proliferation of shooting clubs in Hong Kong. Clause 2 provided, inter alia, key definitions for new sections 46A, 46B and 46C. The Chairman suggested that the proposed addition of "armoury", "authorized arms instructor" and "shooting range" be discussed in the context of the proposed addition of sections 46A, 46B and 46C.
Definition of "own"
17. Responding to the Chairman, AS(S) said that reference to "own" was made in new section 27A(2)(b) of the Bill. It sought to clarify that any venue of a shooting club, regardless whether it was leased or hired or in the possession of the shooting club was within the meaning of "own", would be subject to the regulation of the legislation.
Definition of "responsible officer"
18. PAS(S)E said that the Bill sought to provide a definition of "responsible officer" who held the possession licence on behalf of a shooting club or who was personally responsible for the management of a club. AS(S) said that under the Ordinance, a licence for possession of arms or ammunition was issued to an individual (i.e. responsible officer of a shooting club) rather than a shooting club. Government Counsel (GC) added that as no definition of "responsible officer" was provided in the Ordinance, it was unable to differentiate who was actually a responsible officer of a shooting club. Given that the situation was unsatisfactory, it was considered that a clear definition of "responsible officer" ought to be provided in the legislation.
Definition of "specified form"
19. Members agreed that the issue would be discussed at a later stage.
Proposed addition of subsection (4A) to section 2
20. Mr MA Fung-kwok asked whether the provision targeted at regulating the use of modified firearms. GC said that modified firearms was already included in the definition of "arms" for the purpose of section 2(4) of the Ordinance. Proposed subsection (4A) sought to put beyond doubt that modified firearms was within the meaning of "arms".
Clause 3 - Possession on behalf of the Crown etc.
21. In response to the Chairman, AS(S) said that presently the possession of, or dealing in, arms or ammunition by the Agriculture and Fisheries Department was permitted under exemption permits issued by the Commissioner of Police.
Clause 5 - Possession by corporations, associations of persons, and members thereof
22. Responding to the Chairman, AS(S) said that under the existing legislation, a member of a shooting club was allowed to use firearms of the club regardless whether he was a licensee or he had any knowledge on the handling of firearms. To safeguard the safety in using firearms, the addition of subsection (2)(aa) to section 11 was proposed. PAS(S)E added that the definition of "prescribed course of instruction" was provided under proposed section 11(3) with a view to ensuring the standard of the prescribed course. SP(Lic) further said that a member of a shooting club would be allowed to use firearms of the club under proposed subsection (2)(aa)(i) if he held a licence for the same type of arms or under (2)(aa)(ii) after he had attended the approved course organized by the respective shooting club. The syllabus of the course of instruction would be designed by the relevant shooting club in conjunction with the Police.
23. In reply to the Chairman's question on the standards adopted in respect of the approved course of instruction under proposed subsection (2)(aa)(ii), PAS(S)E said that consistent standards would be adopted from the safety point of view.
24. Referring to the amendment to subsection (2)(d), Mr MA Fung-kwok enquired whether a shooting scene in a TV/film production would be regulated under this provision. AS(S) responded that section 11 was applicable to shooting clubs only. The Chairman said that the amendment to subsection (2)(d) would be considered later in the context of proposed addition of section 46B on shooting ranges.
Clause 6 - Possession for purposes of instruction
25. The Chairman enquired about the rationale for the amendment proposed to section 12. GC said that the reference to "the use of arms and ammunition" in existing section 12(a), if interpreted strictly, would not be able to cater for situations such as transporting the arms or ammunition in question. The proposed amendment was to cater for situations other than using the arms or ammunition for shooting activities.
26. Regarding the proposed addition of section 12(2), PAS(S)E said that under the Bill, only persons who were authorized arms instructor approved by the Commissioner of Police could instruct other persons in the use and handling of arms and ammunition. AS(S) supplemented that under the existing legislation, a licensee could instruct other persons in the use and handling of firearms. The legislative proposal aimed at ensuring the standard of arms instructors, i.e. a standard approved by the Commissioner of Police.
27. The Chairman asked whether a licensee would be allowed to instruct a non-licence holder to use firearms in a shooting club under the Bill. SP(Lic) said that any person should be instructed by an authorized arms instructor only for the purpose of section 12 of the Ordinance.
28. Mr Howard YOUNG was concerned that the examination for arms instructors should not be too difficult. In response, SP(Lic) said that the purpose of the examination aimed at testing the applicant's knowledge on the safety in handling arms and ammunition. At present, a total of 15 persons had already been approved by the Commissioner of Police as arms instructors in shooting clubs. It was noted that some of the eligible applicants preferred to take the examination after the enactment of the Bill. He pointed out that the syllabus of the examination was made known to the candidates. Responding to the Chairman, PAS(S)E said that it was expected that the new arrangement would take effect in one year's time.
|29. The Chairman remarked that the Administration might consider spelling out clearly in the Bill the criteria under which the Commissioner might revoke an authorization. ||Adm|
Clause 7 - proposed addition of "section 12A. Possession by approved agents"
30. Responding to the Chairman, PAS(S)E said that under the existing legislation, an agent of a licensee was exempted from the licensing requirement for the possession of arms or ammunition. However, the appointment did not require the prior approval of the Police nor the notification of the licensing authority. Hence, the Police did not have any information in respect of the agent. Such situation was considered unsatisfactory. The Administration therefore proposed that a licensee was required to seek the prior approval from the Commissioner of Police for the appointment of any such agent. A consequential amendment to repeal section 13(1)(b) was proposed.
31. Mr MA Fung-kwok and the Chairman asked whether every employee in a shooting club as well as a person who was in the possession of arms in transit needed to be an approved agent upon the enactment of the Bill. AS(S) said that any person who was, appointed by a licensee, in the possession of or dealing in arms or ammunition should be an approved agent approved by the Commissioner of Police. Such person was not necessarily a licensee. PAS(S)E added that the proposal was to enable the Police to have information on the whereabouts of the arms and ammunition in question.
32. On the question raised by the Chairman on whether a person was in breach of the legislation for keeping firearms on the licensee's behalf during his/her temporary absence from Hong Kong, SP(Lic) said that the possession of firearms without a valid licence or approval from the Commissioner of Police as an approved agent was not allowed under the Bill. ALA4 pointed out that section 24 of the Ordinance spelt out the presumptions relating to possession of arms, ammunition and imitation firearms. The Chairman said that section 24 would have to be examined in greater details at a later stage.
33. In reply to the Chairman, PAS(S)E said that no application fee was required for the approval in connection with an approved agent. Regarding the criteria for approving an approved agent, SP(Lic) said that the Police would take into account factors such as whether the applicant had criminal record and whether he had a need for the possession of or dealing in arms and ammunition. The criteria for approving an approved agent would be different from those for a licensee. An approved agent would not be required to have knowledge on the handling of firearms.
34. Responding to Mr Howard YOUNG's enquiry about the appointment of a security guard by a licensee, PAS(S)E said that the appointment of security guards was governed under the Security and Guarding Services Ordinance. ACP (Sup) added that the Police had no intention to issue licences specifically to body guards.
35. Members raised no questions on the proposed addition of section 12B.
II. Date of next meeting
36. The next meeting would be scheduled for 13 May 1999 at 8:30 am.
37. The meeting ended at 6:35 pm.
Legislative Council Secretariat
16 August 1999