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United Kingdom
Source
: National Reports on the Implementation of the ITI and of the PoA, 2010 and 2008 
Date
: 06/05/2011
National Report
:
 
Contact
: Mr. Eric Spicer, SALW Desk Officer
Email
: eric.spicer@fco.gov.uk
 
 
 
 


National laws, regulations and administrative procedures:

Firearms Act 1968; Gun Barrel Proof Acts

 

 
 
 


National Marking Practices:

In the UK, firearms are marked in the long-standing traditional manner i.e. punched or engraved but the law is not prescriptive in this regard. Normally punching is the most satisfactory method as the depth of the punch mark makes it difficult to either change or remove a metallurgical signature which punching impresses. On this basis, the current marking arrangements are deemed satisfactory and it does not appear that there is a requirement to enhance current UK procedures. The CIP (to which the UK is a signatory along with many other countries in Europe), deals with proof marking and as all firearms made in the UK are obliged to carry serial numbers and to be proofed all guns that pass through the CIP proof process must be legibly marked before they are accepted for proofing. Under the provisions of the Firearms Rules 1998, UK made firearms also carry the name and origin of the maker along with the serial number and quite often a trade mark or logo. Under the provisions of the revised European Weapons Directive, for the purpose of identifying and tracing each assembled firearm Member States shall, at the time of manufacture of each firearm, either: (a) require unique marking including the name of the manufacturer, the country or place of manufacture, the serial number and the year of manufacture (if not part of the serial number). This is without prejudice to the possible affixation of the trademark. For these purposes, the Member States may choose to apply the provisions of the Convention of 1 July 1969 on Reciprocal Recognition of Proofmarks on Small Arms (CIP); or (b) maintain any alternative unique user-friendly marking with a number or alphanumeric code, permitting ready identification by all States of the country of manufacture. The marking must be affixed to an essential component of the firearm, the destruction of which would render the firearm unusable. Member States must also require the marking of every single elementary package of complete ammunition, providing the name of the manufacturer, the identification batch (lot) number, the calibre and the type of ammunition. For these purposes Member states may choose to apply the provisions of the CIP. Furthermore, they must ensure, at the time of transfer of a firearm from government stocks to permanent civilian use, the appropriate unique marking permitting identification by States of the transferring country. The Gun Barrel Proof Acts require guns that are exposed for sale, exchange or export to be proved and marked as proved. This is done at two Proof Houses.

Marking at the time of import:

Marking of SALW in the possession of government armed and security forces:

All UK military SALW are marked with a unique serial number. The number is engraved into the metal of the body, trigger mechanism housing, or receiver of the weapon. When the UK MoD has involvement in the procurement of a new weapon system, we request in the contract the format of the full serial number. We stipulate that all serial numbers should be engraved or stamped in a prominent position on the master component/controlled item of the weapon. This is agreed before production of the finished product commences. The size of serial numbers will vary and will depend on the space available on the weapon; we do stipulate that they must however be of sufficient size to be clear and easily read with the naked eye. SALW procured by the UK MOD under a commercial off-the-shelf contract from manufacturers will come with the manufacturer’s unique serial number already engraved. This number will be accepted by the UK MOD as the master serial number. The weapon system will also be given its own individual approved NATO Stock Number (NSN) and description to distinguish it from other weapon systems. The UK has a system of policing by consent using a largely unarmed civilian police force. Individual forces keep their own detailed inventories of the firearms they possess based upon the manufacturers serial number.


Measures against the removal or alteration of markings:

There is a process for when a weapon is found to have an illegible or indistinct serial number. If such an incident arises the original serial number is identified by a process of elimination cross referencing the units list of equipment against all weapons of the same description held. If, through this process, the true serial number can be ascertained, the unit armourer may re-engrave the number on the weapon. If the true serial number cannot be ascertained the weapon is quarantined by the unit until any remaining part of the serial number are struck out and a new unique serial number is engraved in its place.

 
 
 


Accurate and comprehensive records for all marked SALW within their territory:

The UK MOD has a comprehensive Marking and Accounting systems for all SALW. Currently we have electronic records dating back to 1987 and paper records for many years before that. The electronic system currently in use gives details of weapons receipt, issue and history information. There is no specified internal time limit for the holding of records, however; electronic records will continue to be held indefinitely. The UK has been working with the European Commission and the European Parliament to amend the European Weapons Directive to ensure the coherent, effective and rapid application of international commitments. One of the requirements is for Member States to ensure, by 31 December 2014, the maintenance of a computerised data filing system, either a centralised system or a decentralised system which guarantees access of the authorised authorities to the data filing systems in which each firearm subject to this Directive shall be recorded. This filing system shall record and maintain for not less than 20 years each firearm's type, make, model, calibre, serial number and the names and addresses of the supplier and the person acquiring or possessing the weapon. Dealers, throughout their period of activity, shall be required to maintain a register in which all firearms subject to this Directive and which are received or disposed of by them shall be recorded, together with such particulars as enable the weapon to be identified and traced, in particular the type, make, model, calibre, serial number and the names and addresses of the persons supplying and acquiring the weapon. Upon the cessation of his activities, the dealer shall deliver the register to the responsible national authority. The National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) database was launched across England and Wales on 28 April 2008. This is a national database of all recovered firearms and ballistic material coming into police possession. The database also links these ballistics items to intelligence recorded by police forces and other UK Law enforcement agencies and can be used to link firearms incidents. Regional facilities have been created to allow for the test firing, analysis and the linkage firearms and ballistic material to items submitted from other incidents across the UK. The NABIS database can help to identify individuals who actively import, store and supply illegal weapons and also to track down those involved in illegally converting or adapting such weapons.

 
 
 


Measures taken for undertaking traces and responding to tracing requests
:

The Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) conducts tracing requests online with the IWETS database.

Operational Informaton Exchange:

The UK continuously co-operates with Interpol and the WCO through increased assistance in investigations and increased information-sharing with national law enforcement authorities. SOCA assists countries in tracing UK-origin illicit arms used in criminal activities. Within the G-8 Counter-terrorism Experts Group and the Lyon Group, the UK has advanced cooperation in illicit arms tracing among G-8 countries.

Needs and Request for Assistance::
Through visits and seminars, technical and legal assistance is offered on classification and tracing of seized weapons by MoD and the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). Through the Global Conflict Prevention Pool, the UK provides support to a number of organisations: the UN Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development (Lima) to train police and law enforcement officials in trafficking, record keeping, marking, tracing and safe disposal of weapons in the Latin America and Caribbean region; Viva Rio to develop harmonised tracing in 14 states in Brazil and to assist the Governments of El Salvador and Mozambique as they develop database and tracing programmes; RECSA to support a forthcoming programme of marking and tracing in East Africa, the Great Lakes Region and Horn of Africa under the Nairobi Protocol.

Implementation challenges and opportunities:

The UK has been working with the European Commission and the European Parliament to amend the European Weapons Directive, specifically but not exclusively to meet the requirements of the UN Protocol against the Illicit manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts, Components and Ammunition. A final text has now been adopted and the amended Directive will take effect from 28 July 2010. This Directive will require Member States, at the time of manufacture of each firearm, either to: (a) uniquely mark, including the name of the manufacturer, the country or place of manufacture, the serial number and the year of manufacture (if not part of the serial number). This is without prejudice to the possible affixation of the trademark. (b) maintain any alternative unique user-friendly marking with a number or alphanumeric code, permitting ready identification by all States of the country of manufacture.