on 3 September 1998
LegCo Panel on SecurityPurpose
Firearms and Ammunition (Amendment) Bill
This paper seeks Members�views on the proposals contained in the Firearms and Ammunition (Amendment) Bill which we intend to introduce into the Legislative Council shortly.
2. The Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance (Cap.238) (The Ordinance� regulates the possession of, and dealing in, arms and ammunition. At the time when the Ordinance was enacted in 1981, there was comparatively little interest in the use of firearms for recreational or sporting purposes, with only two shooting clubs open to members of the general public. The use of firearms for the shooting sport has been very much left to self-regulation by individual shooting clubs.
3. The use of firearms for recreational and sporting purposes in Hong Kong has become more popular over the years. The number of shooting clubs has increased from 13 in 1988 to 20 in July 1998 and the number of licences and exemption permits issued for possession of arms has also increased from 894 in 1988 to 1,810 in July 1998. With the proliferation of shooting clubs, there is increasing concern that their possession and use of firearms should be strictly regulated. An inter-departmental Working Group, comprising representatives of the then Security Branch, the Police, Customs & Excise Department, Trade Department, Post Office and Civil Engineering Department, was formed in 1995 to review the licensing policy under the Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance. It recommended that the regulation of shooting clubs, arms licences holders, arms dealers, air guns, deactivated firearms and the use of modified firearms for TV/film production should be tightened to safeguard public safety.
4. The shooting clubs, licensed arms dealers, the TV/film industry and the then Legislative Council Security Panel were consulted in 1996 and the Working Group's recommendations were supported in principle. The Firearms and Ammunition (Amendment) Bill 1996 was subsequently introduced into the then Legislative Council on 3 April 1996, but it lapsed after the 1996/97 legislative session as the then Legislative Council did not have time to scrutinise the Bill. We intend to re-introduce the Bill into the Legislative Council in late 1998.
(a) Regulation of shooting clubs
5. Under the Ordinance, a licence is personal to the licensee and the licence for a shooting club is held by a responsible officer of the club. However, there is no clear definition of responsible officer�under the Ordinance. To ensure that the operation of all shooting clubs complies with the necessary safety standards, we need to tighten the control over them. We propose to clearly define in the Ordinance responsible officer�who holds the licence on behalf of a club as the one who is personally responsible for the management of the club. The licensing authority, i.e. the Commissioner of Police, will examine whether a potential licensee is suitable for holding such a licence before approving an application.
6. Tighter licence conditions will be imposed to regulate the conduct of shooting clubs in their possession and use of arms and ammunition and the running of their range, armoury or other facilities to ensure safety. These include-
- the licensee shall only permit the use of any arms or ammunition possessed by the shooting club or its members at a range approved by the licensing authority;
- before allowing a member to use any arms and ammunition possessed by the shooting club, the licensee shall ensure that the user has a licence for possession of that type of arms and ammunition or has attended the training course on their safe handling;
- where the shooting club owns, controls or operates a range, the range must be approved by the licensing authority; the licensee shall not permit the use of any arms or ammunition on the range unless such use is under the supervision of an approved range officer and in accordance with the range order in force; and the licensee shall at any reasonable time permit the licensing authority to inspect the range;
- where the shooting club owns, controls or operates an armoury for the storage of its arms and ammunition, the armoury shall be approved by the licensing authority and the licensee shall at any reasonable time permit the Police to inspect the armoury;
- any instruction on the use of arms and ammunition must be conducted by the licensee, or his agent or servant, who has obtained approval from the licensing authority to instruct others in the use of arms and ammunition; and
- the licensee shall comply with the directions issued by the licensing authority from time to time on the safe use, possession and storage of arms and ammunition.
(b) Exemption for members of shooting clubs
7. At present, when a licence has been granted to a shooting club, its members may use the shooting club's arms and ammunition at a specified range and are exempted from the requirement of holding a licence for possession of arms under the Ordinance. For safety reasons, we propose that members of shooting clubs be required to complete a course on safe handling of firearms if they do not already have a licence for possession.
(c) Instruction on the use of firearms
8. At present, any holder of a licence for possession of arms may instruct others on the use of arms and ammunition. They are not required to possess any specific qualifications or experience or to obtain any form of approval from the licensing authority. To ensure safety, we propose that only a licensee (or his agent or servant (employee)) who is approved by the licensing authority for instructing others in the use of firearms may give such instruction.
(d) Approval of appointment of agents or servants (employees)
9. Under the existing legislation, an agent or a servant (employee) of a licensee is exempted from the licensing requirement for possession of arms or ammunition. However, their appointment does not require the prior approval of the licensing authority. A person not eligible to obtain a possession licence or whose licence has been revoked may thus possess and handle arms in the capacity of a licensee's agent or servant (employee). This situation is unsatisfactory and we propose to require licensees to seek the prior approval of the licensing authority for the appointment of any such agent or servant (employee).
(e) Quantities of arms and ammunition covered by a licence
10. To reduce possible threat to public safety resulting from a large number of arms and ammunition being carried in public places or stored at the licensees�premises, we propose to empower the licensing authority to restrict the quantity of arms and ammunition to be covered in a licence for possession.
(f) Control of air guns
11. Low-powered air guns with a muzzle energy of not greater than 2 joules are not defined as arms under the Ordinance. To prevent misuse of these guns which could be potentially harmful, we propose to make it an offence under the Summary Offences Ordinance to discharge any air gun in a public place to the danger or annoyance of any person.
(g) Power to amend a licence
12. Under the existing legislation, the Commissioner of Police is empowered to cancel but not to amend a licence. To allow the Commissioner the necessary flexibility in the regulation of the possession of and dealing in arms and ammunition, we propose to empower the Commissioner to amend a licence. Similar to a cancellation of licence, any person who is aggrieved by the Commissioner's decision to amend a licence could appeal to the Administrative Appeals Board.
(h) Control of modified firearms for TV/film production
13. Modified firearms suitable for firing blank ammunition only are commonly used in TV/film production. These could be potentially dangerous if the user is not properly instructed or supervised, or the firearms are not properly examined before use. For safety reasons, we propose greater licensing control for arms dealers who hire out such modified firearms for TV/film production. They will be required to submit the modified firearms to the Police for annual examination. Such firearms may only be hired out for TV/film production if the hirers and other relevant persons involved in the handling of the modified firearms have obtained exemption permits for the possession of the firearms in accordance with the Ordinance. In addition, an arms instructor must be at scene to inspect the firearms, give instructions and supervise their use during filming.
New administrative measures
14. Consequent to the review of the Working Group in 1996, we have also implemented a number of administrative measures, as set out below, to tighten the existing licensing procedures and control:
- As from May 1996, all arms licence applicants have been required to take a test on the knowledge and proficiency in the use of the weapon. Renewal of an arms licence has to be submitted in person to the Police's licensing office where licensees will be interviewed to assess suitability for renewal. A test on the safe handling of firearms will be conducted if necessary.
- In respect of firearms used for decorative purposes, the Police have drawn up a set of standard guidelines on deactivation of firearms for the arms dealers.
- Additional conditions have been imposed in the arms dealers licence where appropriate. These include prohibiting arms dealers from conducting their business at premises other than those approved by the licensing authority; restricting the types of arms and ammunition which the dealers may deal in; and permitting only employees approved by the licensing authority to assist the licensee in dealing in the arms and ammunition.
SBCR 14/3231/55 Pt.17