LC Paper No. CB(2) 2670/98-99
(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 Monday, 19 April 1999 at 2:30 pm
in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building
Hon James TO Kun-sun (Chairman)
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon Gary CHENG Kai-nam
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon CHOY So-yukMembers absent :
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JPPublic 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 B J HEARD
- Senior Superintendent
- Forensic Firearms Examination Bureau
- Mr FAN Sik-ming
- Superintendent (Licensing)
- Department of Justice
- Ms Leonora IP
- Government Counsel
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
Miss CHOY So-yuk chaired the meeting during the absence of the Chairman of the Bills Committee.
Reversibility of modified firearms
2. Principal Assistant Secretary for Security E (PAS(S)E) said that given members were concerned whether a dividing line could be drawn so that when modified firearms were proven of no reversion could be made, such modified firearms would not be subject to the Police's regulation, Senior Superintendent, Forensic Firearms Examination Bureau/ Hong Kong Police Force (SSP(FFEB)) would demonstrate how modified firearms could be reverted back to genuine firearms.
3. SSP(FFEB) pointed out that modified firearms required by the TV/film industry, indeed, resembled similar mechanical requirements with genuine firearms so as to achieve the audio and visual effect, except that modified firearms fired blank ammunition. Thus, modified firearms could be regarded as weapon. He then demonstrated how firearms could be reverted back to genuine firearms within a couple of minutes. SSP(FFEB) added that as modified firearms were not converted permanently, they could be reverted to a fully operational weapon quite easily.
4. Mr Howard YOUNG enquired whether there were other feasible ways to prevent the reversion of modified firearms back to genuine firearms, e.g. to impose additional parts on modified firearms so that it would be very costly for a reversion. SSP(FFEB) responded that spares parts could be bought at a low price from overseas. Given that modified firearms were converted from genuine firearms, there would be some ways for reversion.
5. Mr Gary CHENG and Mr Howard YOUNG further asked whether there were any methods for converting genuine firearms into modified firearms to such an extent that it was virtually non-reversible, e.g. block the barrel of a gun completely. In reply, SSP(FFEB) said that the specifications on modification were the minimum requirement for converting genuine firearms into modified firearms for filming purposes, which were drawn up after extensive discussions with the arms trade. He pointed out that it was technically not feasible to block the barrel of a gun completely, otherwise the pressure inside would destroy the gun when it fired. Assistant Commissioner of Police (Support) (ACP(Sup)) added that the TV/film industry required certain types of firearms which looked real when being fired in TV/film productions.
Regulation of modified firearms
6. Miss CHOY So-yuk said that under the existing legislation a person had violated the law when he reverted a modified firearm back to a genuine firearm and possessed it without a valid licence. Therefore, there was no such need for the regulation of modified firearms used in TV/film production. Mr MA Fung-kwok shared the view with Miss CHOY. PAS(S)E said that as demonstrated by SSP(FFEB), modified firearms could be reverted back to genuine firearms quite easily. The reversion of modified firearms into genuine firearms was comparatively easier than the illegal procurement of firearms. Thus, there was a need for regulating modified firearms from the public safety point of view. ACP(Sup) added that having regard to the fact that some 1 200 modified firearms were being kept by the arms dealers which were made available for the use of the TV/film industry, regulation of the use of modified firearms was needed so that they would not be accessed by the public for illegal use. SSP(FFEB) further pointed out that when there were a large collection of deactivated or modified firearms, it would be easy to assemble a fully operational firearm by taking a spare part from each deactivated/modified firearms.
7. Responding to the Chairman's enquiry about the purposes for introducing regulatory measures for modified firearms, PAS(S)E said that the Police would be able to identify and to trace who was in the possession and the location of modified firearms in the event that any reversion of modified firearms to genuine firearms was known or theft was reported.
8. At the invitation of Mr Gary CHENG, Assistant Legal Adviser 4 (ALA4) said that notwithstanding firearms could be used for sporting purpose, the regulation of firearms, but not for other types of weapon such as knives, was desirable due to their potential hazard to the public if they were used for illegal purposes. Government Counsel (GC) said that under section 2(4) of the Ordinance, any article which would otherwise be within the meaning of "arms" or "ammunition" should not be excluded therefrom by reason only of the fact that it was defective or out of repair. As such, "modified firearms" were already within the meaning of "arms".
9. Responding to Mr Gary CHENG, GC said that modified firearms were regarded as "defective" therefore were within the meaning of "arms" under the existing legislation. The legislation did not include a specific reference to "modified firearms". ALA4 echoed GC's view that the application of section 2(4) was indeed very wide.
10. While appreciating the need to regulate the possession of modified firearms, Miss CHOY So-yuk asked the Administration to consider working out a separate licensing system in view of their restrictive use and the fact that there were no serious accidents involving modified firearms. PAS(S)E reiterated that having regard to the fact that over 1 200 modified firearms were in use, the Administration ought to adopt a proactive approach in safeguarding the safety of the public rather than wait until the occurrence of a serious accident arising from the mishandling or misuse of modified firearms.
11. Mr Gary CHENG opined that the introduction of regulatory measures could not prevent accident from occurring but only to facilitate the investigation or tracing the responsibility of an accident. PAS(S)E shared Mr CHENG's view. He said that the more information was made available to the law enforcement agencies, the more effective would be for carrying out investigation when an accident occurred. The Police would establish a data base on all licensed firearms.
12. PAS(S)E remarked that according to the ballistic experts' advice, it was impossible to modify a firearm in such a way that it could not be reverted to function like a genuine firearm. Hence, it is not feasible to draw a line under which modified firearms would not be subject to the Police's regulation. Thus, the key issue for addressing the concern of the TV/film industry was on how to minimize unnecessary regulatory measures for the industry.
The Administration's response to the written submissions(LC Paper No. CB(2) 1705/98-99(01))Restriction on the number of firearms used in a TV/film production
13. Responding to the concern expressed by the
(the Arms Dealers) about the number of modified firearms which could be used in a TV/film production was limited to not more than 20 firearms per production, PAS(S)E said that according to the Police's record, the Licensing Office approved the use of modified firearms in 72 TV/film productions in last year, of which, there were 30 productions where the number of modified firearms used in each production exceeded 20. There was no limit on the number of firearms that could be used per production. As a general rule, the basic principle adopted by the Licensing Office in approving the use of modified firearms in a TV/film production was that one actor was able to carry two firearms only at any one time. Consideration would be given to relaxing the restriction imposed on the number of firearms that could be used in a TV/film production having regard to individual circumstances and the need. Superintendent (Licensing) SP(Lic) added that the basis for calculating the total number of firearms that could be used in each production was the number of actors involved in using firearms. Each actor was assumed to carry two firearms only at any one time. Should there be a need for more firearms in a TV/film production, approval would be granted having regard to the circumstances of each case. The total number of firearms permitted to be used in a TV/film production would be valid throughout every stage of the production. In other words, an actor could carry more than two firearms in one shot provided that the approved total number for the production was not exceeded.
14. Mr Gary CHENG opined that the impression of inconsistency in granting approval for the use of modified firearms in a TV/film production was resulted from the unclear approving criteria. Mr CHENG asked whether the restriction on the number of firearms that could be used by an actor was necessary and whether the restriction had been explained clearly to the TV/film industry. SP(Lic) said that it was noted that the TV/film industry had some misunderstanding on the approving criteria for the use of modified firearms in a production. He said that the Police would endeavour to explain the approving criteria and the application procedures to the industry. He reiterated that the Police would take into account the need in respect of each TV/film production in granting approval.
15. While not objecting to the regulation of modified firearms, Mr Gary CHENG opined that it was difficult to justify the rationale for not allowing each actor to carry more than two firearms at any one time from the legal point of view. The Administration should put in place stringent, clear and consistent guidelines rather than restricting each actor to not carrying more than two firearms in a production.
Issue of exemption permits
16. Responding to the Arms Dealers' concern that the requirement for obtaining exemption permits for the possession of firearms by individual actors involving in the handling of firearms in a TV/film production created difficulties for the film industry, PAS(S)E said that as advised by the Department of Justice, an exemption permit was only granted to an individual person in respect of the possession of specified firearms under the existing Ordinance. The Administration was aware that the requirement for each actor to pay a fee of $310 for the exemption permit might have the effect of increasing the production cost, it would consider the feasibility of reducing charges for each film production in conjunction with the Finance Bureau.
17. To allow flexibility, Miss CHOY So-yuk suggested that the Administration might consider granting one exemption permit to the producer or director of a production who would be held responsible for all the modified firearms to be used in the production. She further said that should an exemption permit be issued to the producer or director of a TV/film production, the licensee might make an agreement with the actors on the use of modified firearms. Mr Howard YOUNG shared the view with Miss CHOY. He said that the TV/film industry should not be subject to any unnecessary regulation.
18. Mr MA Fung-kwok said that actors were indeed acted in accordance with the direction of the producer or director of a production. Thus, the responsibility for the use of firearms in a production should be assumed by the director or producer. In considering granting an application for exemption permits, the Police would check the criminal records in respect of the applicants, i.e. the actors in question. This had created difficulties for the producer because he would not check an actor's criminal record when entering into an agreement for filming.
19. PAS(S)E reiterated that there was no flexibility under the Ordinance regarding the issue of exemption permits. The legislative intent was to know specifically who was granted the permit. SP(Lic) supplemented that if any person was in the possession of firearms without a licence, he had committed an offence in his own capacity. The Commissioner of Police might exempt any person from the prohibition in respect of the possession of arms. An exemption permit would only be granted to an individual person for a specified period. It could not be issued to a person for use by a third party.
20. To address the concerns expressed by the Arms Dealers, Mr MA Fung-kwok asked whether it was necessary to require modified firearms to meet the same stringent regulation as that adopted for genuine firearms and whether the Administration would adopt a more flexible approach for modified firearms. In response, ACP(Sup) said that modified firearms could become dangerous if they were not maintained or used properly or as a result of frequent use. The spare parts of the firearms might become fragmented which would be propelled with the air current and hence might give rise to an accident.
21. ALA4 pointed out that Mr MA's question could be addressed only if an amendment was made to the definition of "arms" under section 2(4) of the Ordinance. PAS(S)E said that the Administration would need to obtain legal advice on the responsibility of a permit holder if an accident occurred in the handling of the modified firearms by an actor if an exemption permit was granted to a third person other than the actor in question.
22. Mr MA Fung-kwok said that the TV/film industry considered that the proposed regulation of modified firearms would stifle the development of the industry. They urged that the regulation of modified firearms should be put under the Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau which had a better understanding of the TV/film industry. Mr MA added that adequate safety measures were adopted in TV/film production and the use of them in TV/film production was supervised by the licensees' agents. The Administration might consider holding the arms dealers responsible for the use of modified firearms in this regard.
23. Miss CHOY So-yuk suggested that modified firearms used in TV/film production might be separated from other categories of "arms" as defined in the Ordinance. PAS(S)E said that the thrust of the question was whether modified firearms should be regarded as "arms" having regard to its reversibility. The Administration would need time to seek legal opinion and to consider the proposal as major policy issues were involved. He considered that having in place clear application procedures was more important than providing separate provisions for regulating the use of modified firearms in TV/film productions.
24. ACP(Sup) said that the Police were aware of the special circumstances for using modified firearms in TV/film production. As such, an exemption permit instead of a full licence for the possession and the use of modified firearms was issued. Regarding the proposal to make separate provisions under the Bill for the regulation of modified firearms, the Police had to examine the problems involved carefully, in particular the possible opening of loopholes in the legislation. Given modified firearms could be reverted back to genuine firearms, he worried that a relax in regulation of modified firearms would make dangerous weapons open to the detrimental of public safety. ACP(Sup) pointed out that as far as he was aware, the concern of TV/film industry was mainly on the fee for the exemption permits which was set at $310 per permit. The Administration was currently considering ways to reduce the charges for each production.
|25. PAS(S)E said that the Administration would further consider members' proposals and revert to the Bills Committee at the next meeting.||Adm |
Regular inspection of modified firearms
26. PAS(S)E said that regular inspection of modified firearms was considered necessary so as to ensure the safety of the firearms and that they had not reverted back to genuine firearms.
27. Mr MA Fung-kwok said that the requirement of regular inspection of modified firearms would impose additional cost for the TV/film production. The arms dealers would have to stock more modified firearms as some firearms would need to be submitted for inspection, hence increasing the number of such firearms in circulation in the market.
28. The Chairman questioned how long it would take for carrying out the regular inspection of modified firearms. SP(Lic) said that there was presently no requirement of regular inspection of firearms. At present, FFEB required about one month to complete an inspection. An additional ballistics officer would be appointed to take care of the proposed regular inspection system in addition to dealing with all types of inspection and licensing requirements after the Bill coming into effect. The trade would be informed of the time needed for the regular inspection of modified firearms in due course.
29. Mr MA Fung-kwok commented that one month inspection time was unduly long. He enquired whether there were sufficient experts in the Force to deal with the regular inspection as required.
30. Mr David CHU questioned the need for modified firearms to be submitted to the Licensing Office for annual inspection given that genuine firearms were not subject to annual inspection requirement. Owners of modified firearms should hold responsible for the safety of the firearms. The regular inspection requirement for modified firearms would incur additional resources for the Police.
|31. PAS(S)E responded that the Administration would consider members' views and would revert to the Bills Committee at the next meeting.||Adm|
Whether modified firearms used in TV/film production should be classified as "arms"
32. As regards the proposal to change
, GC pointed out that it was intended to distinguish the Chinese version of "firing" and "discharge" used in the Ordinance. It sought to clarify the relevant provisions in the Ordinance and did not amend the substance of the legislation.
33. Responding to ALA4, SSP(FFEB) explained that "firing" meant the firing of cartridge where no missile was discharged, while "discharge" referred to where a missile was discharged from the barrel. When modified firearms fired blank ammunition to produce sound and visual effects, it was "firing" but not "discharge".
34. Responding to Miss CHOY So-yuk, SSP(FFEB) said that though references to "firing" and "discharge" were interchangeable in general situations, the context under which these terms appeared in the Ordinance would be sufficient for distinguishing the meaning of each other.
Application for licences for procession and dealers' licence
35. In response to the concern expressed by the
(the Concern Group) about the inconsistency in the issue of licence for possession arising from the proposal to replace "prescribed form" with "specified form", PAS(S)E said that the "prescribed form" for application of licences for possession and dealer's licence was repealed in 1994 and replaced by a "specified form" designed by the Licensing Office. The Licensing Office was reviewing the "specified form" presently in use with a view to including all the information required from the applicants.
|36. Mr James TO enquired about the background for repealing the "prescribed form" in 1994. He said that the Administration should consider re-introducing the "prescribed form", under which all information required for application was spelt out in the subsidiary legislation. It might tackle the problem of inconsistency in issuing licences for the possession of firearms. PAS(S)E said that it was not unreasonable to believe that the reason for repealing "prescribed form" was to enhance flexibility having regard to the fact that even a minor textual amendment to the form would be subject to the legislative procedures. He would look into this point and revert to the Bills Committee later.||Adm|
II. Date of next meeting
|37. The Chairman requested and PAS(S)E agreed to provide a copy of the "specified form" for members' reference.||Adm|
38. The next meeting would be scheduled for 26 April 1999 at 4:30 pm.
39. The meeting ended at 4:40 pm.
Legislative Council Secretariat
6 August 1999