Government exploring toughening crossbow rules



Under current legislation, it is illegal for anyone under 18 to purchase or possess a crossbow, and anyone who carries a crossbow in public without reasonable excuse faces up to four years behind bars.

The government is considering going further, launching a call for evidence to ask whether these rules are tough enough. Strengthened rules could include a licensing scheme to protect public safety police checks for anyone looking to purchase a crossbow.

This would mean that crossbows are policed under regulations similar to that of firearms.

Safeguarding Minister, Laura Farris said:

“Crossbows are used rarely in violent crime in this country but they can be highly dangerous.

We’re doing all we can to ensure we have the appropriate measures in place against any risks these potentially dangerous weapons may pose.

I encourage the public and those in the industry to come forward to share their views so we can have the most accurate picture and take any necessary action to keep our streets safe.”

Whilst crossbow incidents are rare – there were fewer than 10 homicides by crossbow between 2011 and 2021 – it is clear that when used as a weapon, crossbows do pose a risk and the government is determined to ensure any needed safeguards are in place to keep the public safe.

The government is seeking views on the following:

Whether to introduce some form of licensing scheme that would provide controls on the use, ownership and supply of crossbows. This may take the form of one or more of these three proposals:

Licensing of sellers and suppliers. This would make it a requirement for sellers, suppliers and importers to have a licence from the police in order to sell crossbows and bolts. Obtaining a licence would be subject to police approval. Sellers would be required to keep a record of buyers, including name, date of birth, address and purpose of the purchase and this information should be shared with the police on request. Breach of the licence conditions by the seller/ supplier would include a financial penalty and/or withdrawal of the licence.

Licensing of sellers and buyers without police checks. This approach would be similar to the ‘Registration of sellers and buyers’ option (option c) but would also make it a requirement for those who wish to purchase and possess crossbows to register and obtain a licence. Granting of the licence by the police could be automatic on paying a fee but the police would have the authority to refuse in certain circumstances.

Registration of sellers and buyers following police checks. This approach would be similar to option b) above, but the police would undertake suitability checks on sellers and buyers before they registered and granted the licence.

Whether additional measures might be required on the sale and possession of broadhead arrows. Although it is unlawful to hunt with a bow or crossbow it is lawful to sell or possess broadhead arrows or bolts. Broadheads are, primarily, used for hunting and have no purpose in target shooting. There would be exemptions to any prohibition, in line with other prohibited offensive weapons, for items of historical importance or for use in bona-fide historical re-enacting, sporting activities, for use in film and theatre, possessed on behalf of a museum or gallery, or lent or hired by a museum or gallery for cultural, artistic or educational purposes. Antique broadhead arrows would also be exempt (over 100 years old).

The call for evidence closes at 23:55 on 9 April 2024.

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Image credit: “Crossbow” by ToastyKen is licensed under CC BY 2.0.