It is now illegal to own certain offensive weapons without lawful authority or a reasonable excuse, even if they are kept indoors in private. Flick knives and antique firearms are also subject to new definitions.

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New laws explained

New laws have been introduced regarding knives, firearms and offensive weapons. If you own a weapon, it is important to check whether these new rules apply to you.

Offensive weapons

Ever since the Criminal Justice Act, 1988 was implemented, it has been illegal to carry an offensive weapon in public unless you have the lawful authority or a reasonable excuse. An offensive weapon is any weapon that is:

  • Made for use of causing injury; or
  • Adapted for the purpose of causing injury; or
  • Carried with the intention of causing injury

Now, weapons that are banned in public by the Criminal Justice Act 1988 are now also banned in private. This means that weapons such as zombie knives, shuriken, death stars and knuckle dusters can no longer be kept in your home. The ban also covers cyclone knives, spiral knives and rapidfire rifles.


Flick knives have been unlawful since 1959. Now, the definition of a flick knife has been expanded so that more knives are covered. The definition has been updated to:

“any knife which has a blade which opens automatically

  1. from the closed position to the fully opened position, or
  2. from a partially opened position to the fully opened position,

by manual pressure applied to a button, spring or another device in or attached to the knife, and which is sometimes known as a “flick knife” or “flick gun”; or

any knife which has a blade which is released from the handle or sheath thereof by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force and which, when released, is locked in place by means of a button, spring, lever, or another device, sometimes known as a gravity knife.”


The legal definition of an ‘antique firearm’ has also been provided for the first time. It is now deemed to be any firearm manufactured before 1st September 1939.

If you own an antique firearm, you have until 22nd September 2021 to apply to the police for a firearms certificate to allow legal possession. If you do not want to apply for a certificate, then you’ll need to surrender, sell or dispose of the firearm by the same date.

Consequences of possessing a banned weapon

The government ran a surrender scheme between December 2020 and March 2021. Those who owned a weapon that was previously legal but is now illegal under the new rules could drop it off and claim compensation for their loss. During that time, 14,965 knives, 1,133 rapidfire firearms and 32,000 ancillary items were surrendered, with 829 claims for compensation processed.

Now the ban is coming into force, anyone found in possession of a banned weapon will face prosecution. Unlawfully possessing a firearm carries up to 10 years’ imprisonment. The offence of possessing other weapons covered by the new ban carried up to six months’ imprisonment.

Speak to our firearms and knife offences solicitors

If you are caught in possession of a banned weapon, contact our firearms solicitors for free legal advice.

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