"Slight fall: But 1.3m is still a lot of shotguns" (caption and photo courtesy mirror.co.uk)

“The number of legally owned guns in England and Wales is at its highest level for 20 years,” mirror.co.uk reports. Note the wording: “for 20 years.” Twenty years ago, in the wake of the Dunblane Primary School massacre, Her Majesty’s Government instituted the kind of gun control legislation that American antis dream about. For one thing, all handguns (save .22 calibre single-shot weapons) were banned. Just like that; civilian disarmament. But not total disarmament. Provided a UK subject could jump through a plethora of regulatory hoops, they could own shotguns and rifles. And so they have, in increasing numbers. Here are the stats . . .

A report published by the Home Office alongside the figures said the number of firearms fell from 418,300 to 295,000 between 1996 and 1998 as tighter controls were introduced in the wake of the Dunblane shootings.

“Since 31 December 1998, there has been an upward trend. The number of firearms as at 31 March 2015 was 78.0% higher (230,125) than as at 31 December 1998,” the report said . . .

There were more than 1.3 million shotguns and 525,125 other firearms covered by licences at the end of March, official data showed.

The combined total of 1,863,524 is the largest recorded since statistics were first collected in 1995.

It was also revealed that the number of holders of some guns is at its highest level for more than a quarter of a century.

There were 153,603 firearms certificates, which cover guns other than shotguns such as rifles, on issue earlier this year – the highest number since 1988. A certificate can cover several guns.

The number of shotgun certificates fell slightly to 582,494, but they covered 1,338,399 guns – the highest number since the year ending March 2010.

So “gun-free” UK isn’t so gun-free as gun control advocates would have us believe, eh Mr. Bond? And this is a problem, why?

The figures come weeks after police watchdogs warned Britain could face new shooting massacres unless the chaotic licensing regime is overhauled.

Inspectors found the public are at risk because of inconsistencies in the way prospective and existing gun owners are vetted and monitored.

In other words, the next time someone goes on a shooting rampage in the UK, another – perhaps the final and ultimate – clamp-down will be forthcoming. Count on it.

44 Responses to OMG! 1.8m Registered Guns in the UK! OMG!

    • That’s a perfect summary of all genuine gun control proponents.

      A summary of the non-genuine gun control proponents (about 95% of them) would go something like
      “No guns for you filthy little peons – serfs don’t deserve human rights.”

  1. If I lived in the UK I would own 2 good center fire rifles(1 is none, afterall) and all the double and single shot shotguns I could afford to own. And a top quality hack saw.

    That way if SHTF I would have rifles and pirate pistols.

    • I think they can have pump shotguns as well. If I were a Brit, I’d try to have a couple of Enfields as well. That is a good fighting gun, for a boltie.

        • Pump shotgun capacity in England and Wales is limited to 3 rounds if you hold the shotgun on a shotgun certificate. If you want it to hold more than 3 you need to hold it on a Firearms certificate, for which there is no magazine limit.

  2. When banning guns didn’t decrease violent crime, they banned self defense. They also banned any folding knife with a locking blade. They tried to ban pointed kitchen knives. But they did succeed in banning carrying any kitchen knives outside the home unless one had a license verifying they needed said knives to work as a chef.
    Training in martial arts is not yet illegal but using martial arts training to defend yourself is a crime if you harm your attacker in any way and the criminal can sue for damages.

      • With the greatest respect to the well-informed, and with due respect also to the right of the ill-informed to repeat inaccuracies… there is a lot of poor information stated on TTAG every time Britain comes up.

        Self defence is not illegal, and it is not illegal to use a weapon (of any kind) to defend oneself if necessary. However, it is illegal to obtain or keep a weapon for the purpose of self defence.

        You are not required to have a chef’s license to carry kitchen knives outside the home. But context is important: if you are stop/searched (for whatever reason) and are found carrying a 12″ knife, zip ties, balaclava and photos of your ex-GF… then it’s likely to be treated differently than if you’re carrying a knife and the ingredients for a picnic. I’m guessing LE in most states would take a similar approach.

        It is certainly not illegal to use martial arts to defend yourself if attacked. I suspect it would also be very hard to prove that you had done so, even if a court sought to do so. Hard to do ballistic tests that prove it was judo, krav maga, whatever…!

        And as to being sued by your assailant if you hurt them while defending yourself – it has happened, I can’t deny, but in fact if you look at UK case law it’s extremely clear that the courts will find in favour of the defender under almost all circumstances short of massively excessive force (eg. attacker is already neutralised and the defender then carries out a retributive beating). In fact, as commentators on this forum bring up quite frequently, there seems to be a real risk of litigation in the U.S., in the case of a DGU or other use-of-force incident… and British courts have explicitly and repeatedly stated that they wish to avoid following the U.S. down that legal road. We may not have a “stand your ground” law, or “castle doctrine”, but LE and the courts really do not seek to prosecute a legitimate case of self defence.

        As to the rape comment – I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt and call it a tasteless joke. But it goes without saying that it’s wholly inaccurate.

        The key point on self defence, under UK law, is that any use of force must be:
        • minimal
        • reasonable
        • proportionate

        In other words:
        1) if you can resolve a situation using non-lethal or less-lethal means then you should do so (minimal);
        2) you must not use force unless there is a genuine reason to do so, usually interpreted as meaning that there is an immediate deadly/serious harm occurring or about to occur unless you act, and there is no other means of preventing it (reasonable); and
        3) you should use force proportionate to that you are acting against (proportionate)

        I personally agree with these three principles, although I do believe that they place an exceptionally high burden of responsibility on any citizen taking action in defence of him/herself – and I am concerned that there is an unhelpful legal ambiguity in there…

        Specifically, the third test (proportionality) worries me. The intent of that test is to make it clear that beating someone with a length of rebar because they used harsh language is not ok. However my concern is that it may be interpreted to penalise a citizen who (for example) grabs a kitchen knife and uses it while defending him/herself against a physically stronger, but unarmed, home invader.

        In practice, the courts have tended to use what most on this forum would recognise as common sense. In other words, proportionate is not usually interpreted to mean equivalent, or identical. If you are clearly under threat of serious or deadly harm, and use deadly force in self defence, it shouldn’t matter that you carried out a successful, lethal DGU against an attacker who was “only” armed with a knife.

        Given the low number of gun owners, and the fact that almost all guns in legal circulation are long guns, kept locked in a safe when not in use, DGU is highly uncommon.

        TTAG readers commonly cite the case of Tony Martin, a farmer who shot and killed one / wounded another during a home invasion. This is however a bad case to use: the shotgun was illegally in Mr Martin’s possession, he set an ambush, shot the invaders in the back, got off the nursed charge, and served about the same time in jail for manslaughter as the surviving invader did for burglary… In my view he got off very lightly, while simultaneously harming the argument that a legitimate DGU should not alarm LE or the courts unduly.

        A better example is the case of Andrew Ferrie. This is the only recent (since Labour lost power) case that I know of, involving legal DGU in the UK. In this instance a couple were burgled by several men, in September 2012, and the homeowner got his 12ga. out, loaded it, issued a verbal warning, and then fired twice at the intruders – wounding two of them. The intruders ran away, and Andrew Ferrie rang the Police to notify them of the incident. He was arrested for wounding (grievous bodily harm), questioned, and released without charge. Admittedly, it took the Police three days to satisfy themselves he had no charge to answer, but the key point is that the law sided with the right person – and indeed it didn’t even go to a charge.

        We have a wildly anti-gun press, and a very substantial anti-gun majority of the population – against a very small minority of gun owners (in the region of 1%).

        The “Police Watchdogs” referred to in the closing paragraphs of the original article are a civilian oversight body, which aims to maintain and improve standards of policing. They are – inevitably – going to represent the national demographic in their view on firearms: in other words, they’ll be anti-gun and pro-ban / pro-licensing.

        Fortunately, they don’t actually make the law; or indeed have the direct ability to enforce their advice. They say that poor licensing process may increase the likelihood of future shootings; they may be right or wrong, but what they definitely can’t do is force the UK’s Police forces to accept that guidance without a change in the law. It may happen, but equally we have had a (admittedly small) number of mass shootings using licensed weapons, and since 1997/8 there has been no substantial change to firearms law – because it is already pretty tightly seen up.

        For an article that I posted on the subject of firearms law in the UK, and the following discussion which covered a number of the points above in more detail, see this link:

        http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2015/07/daniel-zimmerman/a-brits-view-firearm-laws-in-the-uk-arent-quite-as-bad-as-you-think/

        DISCLAIMER 1 – I’m not a lawyer and the above / linked are not legal advice, etc.

        DISCLAIMER 2 – I am a gun owning Brit who disagrees strongly with our system, and agrees with your constitutionally protected RKBA, so please don’t flame me for being an apologist (I’m not!)….. I just get a little frustrated to see the same inaccuracies repeated again and again.

        • it is illegal to obtain or keep a weapon for the purpose of self defence

          So you can use your shotgun to defend your home if it is a “hunting” shotgun, but you can’t use the same shotgun to defend your home if it is NOT a “hunting” shotgun. It’s the same home, the same attack, and the same shotgun. One is legal and the other is illegal?

          My hair hurts.

        • Gabriel, it doesn’t matter what the law is in the UK, only how law enforcement and the courts handle what are viewed as offenses.

          When you have “official” sites like askthe.police.uk informing citizens that it is illegal to buy anything for the construed purpose of self defense it shouldn’t be hard to see why law abiding Americans where we have an actual right of self defense scoff at you. Something like Castle Doctrine would probably make 90% of Brits wet themselves out of the sheer terror that they might be shot dead over such a minor offense as burglary or home invasion.

          From my Yank perspective the only reasons guns aren’t 100% illegal in the U.K. is that there needs to be loopholes and provisions for the wealthy to own them so that they can do things like manage pests on their estates… and even then you get sensationalist news headlines when some Scot has a HOARD of *gasp* 33 rounds of .22 LR on the property.

          I do fully expect that when the next criminal with an illegally created/obtained weapon commits some kind of mass murder it will be regular citizens who somehow get blamed for it and it will be insisted that all of those 1.8M weapons get rounded up and destroyed… although of course we’ll never know how many slip through the cracks.

        • Hi Lone Ranger,

          Thank you for your thoughts – couple of mine in response:

          “…you have “official” sites like askthe.police.uk informing citizens that it is illegal to buy anything for the construed purpose of self defense it shouldn’t be hard to see why law abiding Americans where we have an actual right of self defense scoff at you.”

          To be as clear as possible… We absolutely do have a right to self defence. That is comprehensively enshrined in basic common law and in supporting statute and case law. What we do not have is a legal right to possess weapons for the purpose of self defence.

          If you have a legally owned gun, and a legitimate reason to use it in a DGU situation, then the courts honestly will find in your favour.

          “Something like Castle Doctrine would probably make 90% of Brits wet themselves out of the sheer terror that they might be shot dead over such a minor offense as burglary or home invasion.

          I’m not really sure what you are getting at here… Probably 90%+ of Brits don’t commit home invasions – but that’s because they are generally law abiding, rather than because they’re scared of armed home owners / or not.

          As to “wetting themselves”, well, there may be plenty of hoplophobes in the UK but equally there are plenty of folk who have stood in the line alongside our U.S. allies in warzones across the world. And indeed there are plenty of regular folk who, while not necessarily PotG, are not pussies.

          Basically I think you’re just saying that we are mostly a bit spineless. In which case I respectfully disagree – but hey.

          “From my Yank perspective the only reasons guns aren’t 100% illegal in the U.K. is that there needs to be loopholes and provisions for the wealthy to own them so that they can do things like manage pests on their estates…”

          While many major landowners and rich folk do own guns, honestly, you really are way off with this one.

          The largest single group of shooters in the UK is rural working class. In other words, the people who have always had – and still do have – the most obvious opportunity and reason to use long guns, either recreationally or professionally.

          Granted, “posh” shooters are also a demographic, but land-owning wealthy folk really are a very small minority in the UK, and certainly nowhere near the largest group even among our small number of shooters.

          “…and even then you get sensationalist news headlines when some Scot has a HOARD of *gasp* 33 rounds of .22 LR on the property.”

          As I’ve said before, and I’m my comments above, British news media is extremely anti-gun – pretty much across the board. Since the same can be said for much of the U.S. press as well (something that is a regular feature here on TTAG) I’m not really sure what this adds to the conversation.

          I mean, I agree with you on this one. Anti-gun media are indeed anti-gun. But I’m not sure that’s a UK specific issue…?

          “I do fully expect that when the next criminal with an illegally created/obtained weapon commits some kind of mass murder it will be regular citizens who somehow get blamed for it and it will be insisted that all of those 1.8M weapons get rounded up and destroyed…

          I think it’s really quite unlikely that a mass shooting with illegal weapons will lead to further restriction of those that are currently still legal.

          Had you said a mass shooting with legally held weapon(s) then we might – and I stress might – see a push for further restriction by some politicians. But, as far as I’m aware, all of our most recent mass shootings (of which there aren’t many, to be fair) have been with legally held weapons… And despite anti-gun pressure groups, and an anti-gun media, there has been no further movement towards a total ban. Some grandstanding bu a few politicians, but that’s about it; no genuine party pressure.

          It really isn’t practical. It’s manifestly obvious that it will not serve any real purpose in preventing such attacks. So it’s unlikely to happen, because it just isn’t worth it.

          “…although of course we’ll never know how many slip through the cracks.”

          Precisely why further regulation is unlikely, in my view. That plus the fact that there are already more than enough illegal weapons on the black market, and even the most vocally anti-gun media can’t make the logical case that no legal private ownership of guns somehow causes the gangbangers’ illegally held weapons to vanish of their own accord.

          I have no problem with criticism of our laws. They are flawed, as is any man-made set of rules.

          I do question the mentality that our different laws, and adherence to them, makes us cowards, slaves, sheep, etc.

          I would, in fact, suggest that it’s a man (or woman)’s actions that define them, not their possessions. A gun doesn’t make you brave or cowardly. It just makes it that bit easier to carry out a task requiring the use of ranged, deadly force.

          There were plenty of brave folk, and plenty of cowards, in the world before guns came on the scene. I’ve come across plenty of individuals who have shown amazing courage without a gun – and others who display remarkable cowardice despite having guns.

          Just my two cents…

        • I think it’s really quite unlikely that a mass shooting with illegal weapons will lead to further restriction of those that are currently still legal.

          Had you said a mass shooting with legally held weapon(s) then we might – and I stress might – see a push for further restriction by some politicians. But, as far as I’m aware, all of our most recent mass shootings (of which there aren’t many, to be fair) have been with legally held weapons… And despite anti-gun pressure groups, and an anti-gun media, there has been no further movement towards a total ban. Some grandstanding bu a few politicians, but that’s about it; no genuine party pressure.

          It really isn’t practical. It’s manifestly obvious that it will not serve any real purpose in preventing such attacks. So it’s unlikely to happen, because it just isn’t worth it.

          Precisely why further regulation is unlikely, in my view. That plus the fact that there are already more than enough illegal weapons on the black market, and even the most vocally anti-gun media can’t make the logical case that no legal private ownership of guns somehow causes the gangbangers’ illegally held weapons to vanish of their own accord.
          ———————-

          Now, if only our government would see that.
          We’ve got people calling for more restrictions because someone that’s here illegally, has been deported half a dozen times, has many felonies against him, and steals a cop’s gun to shoot a woman dead. Their biggest thing right now is background checks, like one doesn’t have to go through one when they buy one in a store(though they make it seem like gun stores hand out free guns-without BGCs- just for stopping by). They want to use the same BGC as the stores use, and that many recent killers have passed before they went out killing others.

  3. England; “you can have your freedom back when there’s not one single murderer or evil thought left in the entire world…”

    America; “You can have your freedom back when BANG! AAAAAAAH THEY F#!&KING SHOT ME!!!!!”

  4. England and Wales have 56 million people. That’s an ownership rate of 0.03. The US ownership rate is 1.16, or nearly 40 times that of England and Wales combined.

    • I wouldn’t have used “combined” as the last word because I think that shifts too much focus to it. But otherwise, hey, run that up a pole and I’ll pledge allegiance to it.

    • Danny,

      You’re slightly out on the absolute numbers. The rate of guns to citizens is about 0.03 – but that doesn’t take into account the fact that many gun owners have more than one gun.

      Owning (for example) a skeet gun, game hunting shotgun, and a .22 is pretty common. So that drops your ratio of gun owners to non-gun owners to somewhere south of 0.01

      I’m not actually aware of a clear, current official statistic on total number of (legal!) gun owners in the UK; but clearly the anti-gun media, and indeed the anti-gun public majority, will emphasise the largest number possible, to strengthen their case.

    • Hi Danny,

      Website won’t let me reply to your reply on my long comment (above), so I’m replying here.

      You say:

      “So you can use your shotgun to defend your home if it is a “hunting” shotgun, but you can’t use the same shotgun to defend your home if it is NOT a “hunting” shotgun. It’s the same home, the same attack, and the same shotgun. One is legal and the other is illegal?

      The key point is purpose. The British system of firearms licensing requires you to demonstrate “good reason” to own a rifle or high capacity shotgun. This may be pest control, gun club use, hunting, or various other reasons.

      But it cannot be “self defence”. That is not recognised as a reason to own any form of weapon.

      Indeed, if you used a skillet from the kitchen to hit a home invader, and told the Police you keep the skillet in the kitchen “to defend myself” then you would face charges for possessing a weapon with intent to harm people. By contrast, if you killed the guy with your skillet and told the Police “of course I have a skillet in the kitchen, it’s a kitchen for Pete’s sake!” then you’d probably get a pat on the back for being a good citizen.

      In the same sense – if you own a gun then, by definition under UK law, you should not own it for self defence. But, if your use of that gun in a DGU situation meets the triple test (minimal, reasonable, proportionate) then strong odds are you’d be clear of any criminal charges. And it’s highly likely the judge would also throw out any attempt to sue you, under those circumstances.

      You said:

      “My hair hurts.”

      Haha – I sympathise! But hopefully the above makes it (slightly) clearer?

  5. “If I lived in the UK I would own…”

    A small CnC machine shop and sell my products on the darknet via GPS drops… There would be Glock 18s everywhere.

    • We touched on this before … what makes you think Big Brother cannot see what you are doing on the darknet?

      If you participate on any electronic network and Big Brother is aware of that network, Big Brother can monitor your activity.

      “But we use encryption!” you might be tempted to say. And I say that encryption is meant to be broken. Furthermore, your use of encryption probably elevates you to the top of Big Brother’s list of interesting people to surveil. Even if Big Brother was having trouble cracking your encryption, they could (if sufficiently motivated) most likely infer what you are doing based on your other communications that are easily watched/cracked. For example, make comments on an open forum (like TTaG blog) about darknet and “illegal” firearms and then search for mills and “full auto sears” on a popular search engine and it isn’t hard for Big Brother to figure out what you are up to.

      The most robust, eavesdropping resistant network is actual face-to-face conversations in a location where no one else can hear or see your conversation and where you can verify that no one is wearing a transmitter … in other words old-school cloak-and-dagger stuff. Even then, your person-to-person, face-to-face network is only as secure as the people who make up the network.

      Saying it another way, no matter what you do, no matter how you do it, if you do it often enough, someone can eventually figure out what you are doing.

      • If the .gov was indeed that badass, there wouldn’t be nearly so many outstanding criminals. They’d be able to immediately prosecute any weapons violation, particularly by those *evil* Republican OFWG’s.

        The .gov can’t secure the border, can’t make a decent website, can’t balance the budget, and can’t always catch or prosecute their most wanted offenders. Heck, some creepy dude waltzed into the White House awhile ago.

        I’ve worked for the government way too long to buy into that “government knows all” schtick.

        • You bring up valid points about government incompetence. I suppose it all comes down to whether or not someone has an ax to grind.

          I have no doubt that Big Brother has the capability to crack encryption and track packets on the Internet. The only question is whether or not they are motivated to do it for any specific person.

        • What the NSA knows, and what they give you access to are two wholly different things.

          If the Feds are really interested in someone, there is the ability to track them better than any spy movie. Can that person ‘go dark’ and avoid it all for a long time? With enough physical and fiscal resources, sure. But one day you’ll walk by some idiot taking a selfie and posting it to FB. The Fed can be on you in a matter of a day. Or less.

          The NSA records the entirety of the net, in real time, at Bluffdale UT. Can they aggregate and filter it instantly? They’re getting closer. And if you’re interesting for some reason, the laser focus is they can deploy is amazing – especially against Americans…

  6. I’m too lazy to googlefu. Anybody know right off hand what the UK laws are concerning muzzle loading, blackpowder pistols like cap and ball revolvers?

  7. “The next time someone goes on a shooting rampage in the UK, another – perhaps the final and ultimate – clamp-down will be forthcoming.”

    I’m not normally a gambling man, but I’d bet that when it happens, it’ll be perpetrated by one (or more) of those poor politically-protected recent arrivals.

  8. Didn’t the Nazis going on a shooting rampage? Didn’t the British going on a shooting rampage in America in 1775? Didn’t the British murder anyone that got in their way for world domination?
    No double standards put the DC politicians on Obamacare and SS.Thanks for your support and vote.Pass the word. mrpresident2016.com

  9. The way I read this is that there are not enough guns to bring down an oppressive government if the people finally decided they were tired of the tyranny of their government. There is no doubt the government over there is both oppressive and socialist, and willing to import enough middle eastern Sharia types to keep their socialist butts in office whether the people want them or not.

  10. While they are also pointing out that crime is at a 20 year low in the UK, citing their gun control laws as the cause…if licenses are at an all time high, they may be right.

    • Remember, in England it only counts as a crime if they catch, and arrest, and convict the bad guy. So if your friend gets stabbed to death it didn’t happen unless they put the perp in jail….that way of counting really improves the numbers, sort of like how they count employment here in the US.

  11. “…police watchdogs warned Britain could face new shooting massacres unless the chaotic licensing regime is overhauled.” GASP!!! It’s bad enough the jihadists are beheading our soldiers in the streets! But…GUNS!!!

    Why is it every time I picture a British anti-gunner, I picture a little trickle of wee running down their leg as they tremble in fear over inanimate objects. Maybe we need to up our exports of Depends undergarments?

  12. Only 1.8 million firearms? Even us Aussies can outdo that number with less than half the population.

    But those are the guns that are known about. The powers that be fail to recognize its the guns you don’t know about are the ones to worry about.

    And their license system is messed up. The final approval is in the hands of the local district police commissioner. This is the system that allowed the Dunblane incident to happen when the all the gun clubs complained about the perpetrator not being a member of ANY club (they all revoked his membership) and therefore ineligible to have a license and own firearms. The DC’s response was “We see no reason to cancel his license at this time”. The results are history. The DC was reportedly transferred after the incident.

  13. Being an Englishman based here in Virginia I am keenly aware of the differences in our national attitude towards the ownership of ‘firearms’. Having spent a not inconsiderable time of my life in the UK military and having spent the last fifteen years as a Private Military Contractor in Afghanistan, Iraq, East Africa and the Yemen I am a great advocate for weapons of all types and sizes. As I have stated on many occasions to US DoS personnel when asked why I feel it necessary to carry ” there is nothing more embarrassing than needing a weapon and not having one”. Far better to have one and not need it in my opinion. With regard to the laws in the UK. They are what they are. I have owned both shotguns and rifles for the last thirty plus years having received my first shotgun certificate at the age of sixteen. If you want to shoot in the UK you can. You simply have to be prepared to jump through some hoops. The UK is just different to the US. Neither is right or wrong, its just the way it is. One thing I would say as a final parting note. I have been more concerned with safety shooting at ranges here in the US with fat untrained individuals exercising their right to own and shoot with little or no training. Truly scary at times.

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