Reader Nick Maunder writes:
I have been following TTAG from here in the UK for a while now. What a great website. Keep up the good work. The gun laws here are VERY different to the US. Here in Great Britain the liberals have already got their way. We are already living under the sort of gun control laws you will probably be in for if the constitution is changed. So, as if you needed a reason to fight for your constitutional right to bear arms I want to give you a picture of your future under a ‘liberal’ society. I wish I was making this up but I promise I am not. This is how it works here in the UK . . .
To own a firearm in the UK for leisure use you first have to fill in an application form for a licence. You send it off to the police with photos of yourself, two forms of ID, details of your doctor, details of everyone living in your home the type and number of firearms you want to keep, the type and amount of ammunition you want to keep, and a non refundable fee of £50 ( about $78 ).
You also need two people to act as references. One has to be the secretary of a target shooting club of which you are a full member. The other has to be someone you have known for at least two years. Neither can be a relative or serving police officer. Your references are strictly confidential, you are not allowed to see them, they are sent to the police separately from your own application form.
Once the police have received all three forms they will move to stage two: contacting the references to make sure you did not pay them to sign the forms or force them under duress. All being good they will then go onto the next stage: a full criminal records check. If you have ever been in jail for more than six months you will not be granted a licence. Shorter sentences may also disqualify you depending on the offense.
If the criminal records checks are all ok they will then contact your doctor to confirm you are not on antidepressants or have a history of mental health problems or substance abuse.
Next you get an appointment for the weapons control officer to visit you at home. They will have a look round the house to get a feel for the family situation, check out the security arrangements if you have a burglar alarm or cctv (both is best). Then they will want to look at the storage facilities for your rifle.
You have to have two safes: one gun safe for the rifle itself, and another for the ammunition and the rifle bolt if it is a bolt action rifle. No one other than the applicant can have access to either safe, so if you drop dead unexpectedly your wife will have one hell of a time getting access to the safes to dispose of your old guns.
They may then want to see further proof of ID and your membership forms for the target shooting club. If the weapons control officer is satisfied that all is acceptable they will then pass the whole file on the chief constable of the county who has the final say in approving the licence. After they have done so they will give instructions for your licence to be printed & delivered.
The timing varies around the country but three or four months from start to finish is about the norm.
Once you have the licence you can then order the firearms and ammunition listed on the licence. In my case I wanted a Henry Golden Boy which had to be ordered from the US. The shipping took another month, after which the rifle has to be registered by the government before it can be passed on to the dealer. This took a further two months.
At the point of purchase you are obliged by law to send a letter to the weapons control department of the county police force telling them the make, model, serial number & date of purchase of your rifle, the licence number and address it will be kept. The dealer will often do this for you. Every time you buy ammunition it has to be registered as well. It is recommended to keep a diary to record when you went shooting, where and how many rounds you used so the police can spot check your home or the shooting club if they feel the need.
If you decide you want to add another firearm to your collection you have to go through most of the process again. Either way the licence is only valid for five years so off we go again.
All in all it took me near enough exactly seven months to import one .22 rifle to the UK.
Even after all this you cannot fire the gun on your own property without a separate licence to permit shooting on that particular land. The application process is much the same as for a gun licence. Otherwise you are only allowed to shoot at the government approved firing range as a paid up member of the shooting club who in turn require you to have public liability insurance. If you are carrying a firearm or ammunition anywhere other than going to or from the firing range or firearms dealer you can be jailed, licence or not.
So, has all this licensing improved public safety?
In London, crimes involving illegal firearms have increased by 600 percent in around three years and are not showing signs of slowing. Most other UK cities are following the trend.
Sadly it is a popular vote winner to persecute anyone who supports target sports. So, every time illegal immigrants with illegal firearms shoot one another in a gang battle, self promoting publicity stunt seekers like Piers Morgan (remember him?) come crawling out from under their rocks claiming that gun laws in this country need tightening up even further. The fact is that changing the law on gun ownership will only affect people who plan to obey the law in the first place.
Law abiding citizens are not and never were the problem.
Don’t get me wrong here, despite the above, target sports are thriving in the UK. The police are extremely helpful and even quite sympathetic. In Sussex county alone there are 28,000 gun licence holders, most with more than one firearm on the licence. All the jumping through hoops to get the licence was well worth it. I am now the proud owner of a Henry Golden Boy and a Ruger 10/22. Both are the most fun I have had with my clothes on.
Make no mistake about it: any move to “tighten” control laws is merely the thin end of the wedge. Once the lid is lifted, our present will be your future.