Bills Committee on
Firearms and Ammunition (Amendment) Bill 1999
Administration's response to submissions
from the and
dated 28 and 30 June 1999 respectively and
issues raised at the meetings on 8 and 14 June 1999
I Regulation of modified firearms
("Concern Group") suggested the Administration remove modified firearms used for TV/film shooting from the definition of "arms" under the Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance (Cap.238) and draw up a specific definition for them. In addition, only minimum control should be imposed on the use of these firearms.
("Dealers") further suggested that the Administration should classify these modified firearms as "non-arms" and shift the control from the Police to the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority.
2. Both deputations considered that there was no need for the users, i.e. the actors, to apply for exemption permits for using modified firearms for TV/film shooting. Instead, permits should be issued to a TV/film producer or a "responsible person" who in turn can supervise actors to use the firearms covered by the permits.
3.These suggestions have in fact been discussed at the previous meetings. The Administration's reservation and concerns have been clearly stated in the "Administration's Response" issued in June 1999. In addition, to save the need for a TV/film producer to confirm the full list of actors in advance in order to apply for exemption permits for the actors, which is believed to be the film industry's main grievance about the existing system, we have drawn up a new permit system for the use of modified firearms for TV/film shooting. Details are set out in the paper on the "Committee Stage Amendments to be moved by the Administration".
II Inspection of modified firearms
4. Both the "Concern Group" and the "Dealers" disagreed with the Administration's proposal to inspect each modified firearm at an interval of two years. They suggested that random checking on firearms of frequent use should be conducted instead. In addition, the "Dealers" queried about the feasibility of the Administration's proposal in view of the Police's commitment of completing an inspection of a modified firearm only within a week.
5. As explained before, under the existing system, all modified firearms are inspected by the Police's Forensic Firearms Examination Bureau (FFEB) only before they are firstly used. However, due to normal wear and tear, improper use or lack of proper maintenance, a modified firearm may become out of order. Even worse, the modification may become ineffective. Hence, for the sake of the safety of the users and other people in the vicinity, there is a genuine need to inspect these modified firearms on a regular basis. In addition, regular inspection can make sure that the firearms are modified properly as approved by the FFEB during their first inspection.
6. Appreciating arms dealers' concern about the time that the FFEB would take to inspect a modified firearm, the Police have agreed to set a performance pledge to complete an inspection within a week. As explained at the meeting on 14 June 1999, it does not mean that the FFEB can only complete an inspection of one modified firearm in total within a week. It is a performance pledge on the assumption that all modified firearms will be delivered in different batches according to a staggered schedule that would be worked out in consultation with the arms dealers concerned.
III Replacement of "prescribed forms" by "specified forms"
7. While having no objection to the revised application forms that were submitted for Members' reference together with the Administration's response issued in June 1999, the "Concern Group" considered that all requests for further information should be made when an application is submitted. In addition, all applications should be processed within a reasonable time.
8. As explained at the previous meetings, the applications forms are revised with a view to facilitating an applicant to submit all required information at one go. In addition, according to the Police's performance pledge, it would take about 28 working days to process an application for a possession licence provided that all required information has been submitted. The Police would continue to review the application procedures so as to speed up the process as far as practicable.
IV Limited licences for transportation of arms or ammunition
9. The "Concern Group" suggested waiving the need for a limited licence under section 30 of Cap.238 for conveying arms or ammunition by a licensed arms dealer/shooting club to another licensed arms dealer/shooting club.
10. Under the existing legislation (section 30 of Cap.238), a limited licence (a possession licence or a dealer's licence) has to be obtained from the Police for the transportation of arms or ammunition within Hong Kong (the conveyance of arms or ammunition by the holder of a possession licence concerned from the approved storage location, normally an armoury, to the shooting club specified in his licence and vice versa by the shortest route is excluded from this requirement). The purpose is to empower the Police to exercise control and to monitor the movement of arms or ammunition in Hong Kong. According to the "Concern Group" 's suggestion, arms dealers or "responsible persons" of shooting clubs are only required to notify the Police on the transportation date. Such arrangements would weaken the existing control over the movement of arms or ammunition which is very important from the public security point of view and hence is not supported by the Administration.
V Cancellation and refusal to renew a licence
11. The "Concern Group" considered that when canceling or refusing to renew a licence, the Police should state the reasons clearly so as to enable the licensee to seek assistance or appeal to the decision as soon as possible.
12. According to the existing legislation (section 34 of Cap.238), the Police have to notify a licensee in writing if they have decided to cancel or refuse to renew his licence. The notice has to include a statement of the reasons for the decision. In addition, to address this concern, we have drawn up draft provisions to set out the main considerations of the Police when making such decision. We would stipulate in the legislation that when processing an application for the renewal of a licence or considering cancellation of a licence, the Police will consider whether the applicant is a fit and proper person, whether he has a legitimate need to hold the licence and whether there are any objections in terms of public safety and security. Details are set out in the paper on the "Committee Stage Amendments to be moved by the Administration".
VI Regulation of shooting clubs
13. The "Concern Group" considered that the licensing criteria for shooting clubs are too harsh and may adversely affect the development of arms shooting as a sport.
14. With the growing popularity of arms shooting and the increasing number of shooting clubs, the Administration has the responsibility to tighten the control over these clubs so as to ensure their safety standard. Through the control, we can create a safe environment for the participants, which in turn will facilitate the long-term development of the sport.
VII Testing of licensees, arms instructors and range officers
15. The "Concern Group" pointed out that arms shooting was divided into different categories and all of them were unique in nature. They queried whether Police officers were qualified to assess and decide who had the ability to hold a licence or be appointed as an arms instructor or range officer. It was suggested that the assessment should be conducted by the respective shooting clubs and the Police should focus on the criminal checks only.
16. Similar points were raised in the previous submission made by the Group. As explained in the Administration's response issued in March 1999, Police officers who are responsible for conducting the tests in question are working under the Police's Weapons Training Division. All of them are qualified and experienced weapon trainers and have the professional knowledge about different types of arms. In addition, the tests are focused on the safe handling of the arms instead of the skills in getting high scores. Hence, we believe that the Police officers have the necessary knowledge and experience in conducting the tests. In addition, if the tests are conducted by different shooting clubs, the standard may vary and it is difficult to ensure impartiality.
VII Proposed amendment to Summary Offences Ordinance (Cap.228)
17. Some Members expressed concerns about the wordings "negligently discharges" and "annoyance of any person" in the proposed amendment (the new section 14(A) that makes "knowingly or negligently discharges an air gun to the danger or annoyance of any person" an offence under Cap.228). They worried that the ambit covered by the proposed provision is too wide and suggested reviewing the drafting of it. A Member further proposed the Administration to replace "negligently" with "recklessly".
18. We have consulted the Department of Justice and are advised that to prosecute a person for "recklessly discharging an air gun", we have to prove that he fails to give any thought to the consequences (say, the possibility of there being any risk of danger to any person or damages to any properties) or he decides to do it even if he is aware of the consequences. It is very difficult to bring the prosecution under such provision. In fact, the Administration faces the same problem when prosecuting people for reckless driving and hence is considering replacing reckless driving with dangerous driving.
19. On the contrary, the concept of "negligence" means a deviation from the standard normally expects of a reasonable man would have acted in similar circumstances. In order to find someone "negligently discharging an air gun", it is required to prove that the action falls below the standard reasonably expected of a reasonable man would have done. We believe that the "reasonableness" test inherent in the proposed provision should be able to relieve Members' concerns about the scope and nature of behaviour to be covered. In fact, our intention for making "negligently discharging an air gun to the danger or annoyance to others" an offence is to induce greater care when handling air guns that could be potentially harmful.