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By Gabriel Carter (not pictured above)

Quite a few on TTAG reckon that the UK is a socialist “police state”, intent on eliminating the right of its “subjects” (not citizens) to bear arms, and implementing ever-expanding surveillance programmes and curtailing civil liberties of all sorts. As a proud gun-owning Brit, and one who regularly carries firearms in the course of my work (security contractor, mostly in Afghanistan) as well as for hunting at home, I’d like to give a little local perspective on that . . .

First off, some (non-exhaustive) basic information about firearms law in the UK:

  1. Handguns and SMGs are, with a few very heavily regulated exceptions, illegal for all except LE/Military.
  2. Centre-fire rifles are restricted to bolt/lever-action only (again with some regulated exceptions) apart from LE/Military.
  3. Civilian semi-auto rifles are restricted to .22lr only.
  4. Shotguns are mostly, but not exclusively, restricted to a max capacity of 2 +1.
  5. Universal police records are held of legal firearms ownership, and an appropriate license is required to purchase weapons or ammunition

But it’s not all bad news. Some aspects of gun ownership in the UK are actually pretty reasonable. And licensing requirements are fairly common sense within the limitations of the law as it stands:

  1. Silencers are not restricted, and for centre-fire rifles they are actively encouraged by most police forces, as reducing noise pollution in a fairly crowded country.
  2. No restrictions on magazine capacity for rifles, and shotgun capacity restrictions can be waived with appropriate licensing.

Assuming the applicant has no criminal record or medical/mental-health issues making ownership of concern, has a safe place to store the firearms, and a “good reason” to want or need them, there is no bar to ownership of the legitimate and approved classes of weapons.

  1. Access to gun clubs is generally not restricted in any way, and there is a healthy pro-gun lobby which promotes the positive aspects of firearms ownership, without aggressively lobbying to repeal or de-regulate the law of the land; and government generally doesn’t seem inclined to restrict things any further
  2. Open carry is, technically speaking, legal across the whole of the UK with no restrictions. That being said, you’re likely to get a pretty speedy response from LE if you carry weapons in public other than in a slip/case.

So let’s look at the restrictions first:

  1. Handguns: apart from black powder/nitro muzzle-loaders, and some ‘long-barrel’ weapons designed to comply with minimum size restrictions, handguns are illegal in mainland UK. They are, however, legal in Northern Ireland for certain individuals who are deemed at risk from terrorism, as concealed carry PPWs. And they are legal, with mechanical restrictions, for some practical uses such as humane slaughter of livestock, etc. (usually with welded-in magazines/cylinders permanently restricted in capacity to single shot).
  2. Centre-fire: centre-fire semi-autos were banned after the Hungerford massacre in 1987, carried out with a .30 caliber M1 and a 7.62 Type 56. The only real exceptions to the ban are ‘lever release’ rifles, for practical shooting competition: basically a semi-auto AR with an automatic hold-open after each shot, requiring a manual release to “re-cock” and therefore deemed roughly equivalent to a bolt or lever action.
  3. Semi-autos: limited to .22lr with the exception of lever release rifles described above.
  4. Shotguns/capacity: in theory, shotguns are restricted to a “magazine of two”, which is universally interpreted to mean O/U, S/S, or pump/semi with 2 +1 in the chamber. High capacity shotguns can, however, be licensed, albeit with more stringent checks and licensing requirements.
  5. Records and licensing: I guess this may be one of the most contentious points for many TTAG readers. Basically, the law says that absent a compelling reason why an individual may not possess firearms, there is nothing to stop them acquiring said firearms – but that the license holder must provide a bunch of information about themselves and the weapon(s) they hold to the police. In slightly more detail:
  • Shotguns are covered by a Shotgun Certificate (SGC). It is presumed that every non-prohibited person has a legal right to own a shotgun, subject to having a secure place to store it, and no objection from their local police licensing department. A background and medical check is carried out, one reference is taken, and an interview is held with the licensing department. It helps if the applicant has their own land, permission on a friend’s land, or a club at which to use the shotgun – but this is not a legal requirement (contrary to popular belief).
  • Other firearms of any sort, including high capacity shotguns, are covered by a Firearms Certificate (FAC), which is slightly harder to qualify for. In addition to the licensing requirements for a SGC a second reference is required, and the applicant must show “good reason” to obtain firearms and ammunition. Self defence is not a “good reason”; acceptable reasons include membership of a club, hunting, pest control, and target practice (not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea). The applicant must also show that they have a “proper place” to use the weapon – which in practice means either a club, or their own/a friendly person’s land of reasonable size.
  • It is important to note that while a SGC permits the holder to acquire an unlimited number of shotguns/quantity of ammunition, simply notifying the police of each weapon acquired/disposed of, a FAC imposes specific restrictions on the number of weapons, calibre, and quantity of ammunition that may be purchase or held at any given time.

Now let’s look at the more positive aspects:

  1. Silencers: silencers are technically classed as firearms in their own right, and must be entered on an FAC. However this is actively encouraged (informally) by almost all Police forces across the UK, as it makes good sense for noise pollution, hunting practicality, etc. No tax stamp required.
  2. Magazine capacity: not limited for rifles, and subject to their being listed on a FAC rather than SGC, not limited for shotguns either. Although AR platforms are less common, and therefore hi-cap magazines are less frequently seen, there is nothing to stop the UK gun owner from slapping a 100 round drum on any compatible and licensed weapon, anywhere in the UK.
  • No bar to ownership: just as felons and registered maniacs are (reasonably enough) restricted from owning firearms in the US, the same restrictions apply in the UK. Otherwise, and assuming that you have somewhere to keep it – and for FAC weapons somewhere to use it and a good reason to do so – there is nothing to stop Tom, Dick or Harry from getting the paperwork and going shopping. The police are generally very open and helpful in this process, though clearly if you live in an inner-city area and are covered in gang tattoos, they may ask a few probing questions about your “good reason” for acquiring a .50 sniper rifle…! Discrimination is a bitch.
  1. Gun clubs and the pro-gun lobby: basically, the vast majority of firearms use in the UK is country sports related. Hunting, wild-fowling, etc. Clubs are not a huge thing, but do exist all across the UK and have an active membership. What is a real plus, though, is that the pro-gun lobby and government generally engage in fairly constructive dialogue. It’s not really adversarial. The main advocate role played by the gun lobby (we have an NRA, but the larger lobby is the British Association for Shooting and Conservation – BASC) is actually to clarify points of law when they are misunderstood by police licensing departments, and/or to participate in government working groups trying to understand any new developments – such as getting lever action rifles or long-barrel pistols approved.
  2. Open carry: there are literally no restrictions on carrying weapons, except in a few obvious prohibited places. The law simply says you should not do so in a threatening way: this is usually interpreted as meaning it should be in a slip or case, or at least broken/displaying a chamber flag. I have personally gone to a meeting at the Foreign Office (think State Department) while on my way back from a rifle competition, and left my rifle at the front desk: I took the bolt out and kept that with me, and nobody had a problem with that. Post 9/11.

What about the armed citizenry protecting itself against encroaching government? Or indeed what about the law abiding citizen’s legitimate right to self defence? I mean, it’s one thing to have firearms technically available, and another to actually have them when you need – right?

Well, kinda. Let’s take them in turn:

Armed citizenry defending against the actions of government:

The UK has never been a particularly heavily armed country (at least not since firearms became the dominant battle weapon). Go back in time and sure, there were militias, and we had a civil war a few hundred years ago, etc. etc. But the reality is that firearms – outside those used by LE or the military – were in the main either held for personal defence or for sporting/hunting use.

There is basically no concept of a constitution, or of a political class directly answerable to its citizenry as there is in the States. Our parliamentary system basically did that back in the day, (Magna Carta, 1215 AD), establishing a separation between the power of the Crown and the power of the people – or at least the important people of the time. Since then the principle has evolved, but it remains the case that most citizens of the UK, while being subjects of the Queen, neither resent that fact too much nor feel unduly oppressed by the government.

In fact, from the point of view of a modern gun owner, the government has actually done a pretty good job – on the whole – of standing up to a vocal anti-gun majority of the population. Most Brits don’t use guns, don’t own guns, and don’t like guns. Campaigning against gun-ownership follows the same emotive lines as it does in the States, but without the fallback of the Second Amendment or indeed a large armed population.

Against this, government has generally taken the view that while some types of firearm are generally not needed for public use (handguns, ARs, machine guns) some are (shotguns, hunting rifles, target rifles). And so they have consistently protected ownership of these weapons.

Legitimate self defence:

The law on self defence is pretty clear over here. You can use any level of force and any means available to you, provided that your actions are “minimum, reasonable and proportionate”. If someone uses harsh language and you shoot them in the face (or stab them), you’re looking at time inside. But if somebody charges at you with a knife and you happen to have a loaded rifle or shotgun to hand, then…you should be in the clear.

We don’t have a Stand Your Ground law. However even that has, to an extent, been improved following a number of recent cases in which homeowners have responded with deadly or extreme force against a home invasion. Not necessarily with firearms – but the principle has been upheld that if a homeowner has reasonable cause to fear for their life or the lives of their loved ones then they are entitled to play to win, rather than handicapping him/herself to the same form of weapon used by the attacker.

It’s obviously borderline impossible to put figures on illegal gun ownership, but even there, in the last twenty-odd years, fatal shootings (total!) have varied from an annual low of 30 to a high of 96 across a population of about 65 million. Basically, you’re unlikely to be shot to death. Other forms of homicide per year: varying between 400 – 600. Basically, you’re really quite unlikely to be murdered in the UK, by any means: chances are about 0.0009%.

I should point out that we don’t, by and large, have to worry about animals, either. There are wild boar in some parts of the UK, which can be dangerous; but we don’t have bears, wolves or even feral dogs or coyote.

So what’s my conclusion? Well, basically I think it’s a shame that government has caved to pressure from the general public (yes, that way around) and restricted centre-fire semi-autos and handguns from general ownership. Would I have implemented those bans (1987 and 1998) if I ran the country? No.

But in fact we don’t face the personal threat levels that make defensive pistol ownership worthwhile. We don’t have the same constitutionally rooted culture of proud gun ownership as in the States. And given the constraints of a small and crowded island, we don’t have that many places where recreational use of semi-auto ARs would be sensible.

I’m lucky. I live on a 300-acre farm. I own several shotguns, a S&W M&P15-22, AICS/Remington 700 in .308, and have silencers for the lot because I don’t want to disturb the livestock or my neighbours.

And – unlike many TTAG readers, it seems – rather than fearing that my government will take away my guns, I’m grateful to them for consistently standing up against an ill-informed public that thinks people like me are “posh, blood-sports enthusiasts”, who should be deprived of all forms of firearms.

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    • Clearly showing the difference between the United States and Great Briton.

      People left there and came here to be free and not have a nanny .gov/sovereign tell them what to do. As a decedent of that type of person, I too feel the yearn to be free, live my life, and let others live theirs. I am Sovereign.

      People who stayed in their various motherlands, and their progeny, are happy to be told what they can and can’t do.

      I will fight to my last breath for, and teach my children what it is to truly be free, what it means to be a United States Citizen and not subject to some far removed .gov/sovereign.

    • Why does a regular Brit even need a shotgun, anyways? Home defense? That’s what the lollipop brigade is for. As for bird hunting, the land is all owned, so really only wealthy aristocrat landowners of a wild plot greater than say 10 acres would really have a need for one. Honestly Britain, no wonder their crime is so high compared to the rest of the world, its those lax gun laws letting the rabble own weapons!

      And just in case someone missed it, we should also eat Catholic Irish babies.

    • Let this article be a warning to all of us who love our 2A rights. Without eternal vigil, you will see these types of laws and regulations in every single major metropolitan area in the United States. California, NY, NJ, Chicago, Baltimore are already there and might be even more restrictive (e.g. no supressors at all). Be vigilant my friends. Do not budge. There is no such thing as a “sensible” gun grabber.

      • +1

        Although I have to say that even in your most restrictive states you probably still have a higher proportion of gun owners than we do in the UK (about 1% of the population).

        Therefore, you’re likely to have more people keeping the flame burning in that eternal vigilance than we do…!

        Speaking as a gun owner in a heavily restricted country – it’s a lot easier to keep what you have than to re-acquire what once has been lost. Good luck to all of you!

        • “. . . to re-acquire what once has been lost. . . . ” True, but yet, we in the US have managed to recover over the past 30 years from what came close to a national ban on Carry. A few States continued to permit carry without a permit or with a permit – and willingly issued permits. However, generally, most of the population lived in States where carry wasn’t feasible for the ordinary citizen.

          Yet, State by State we’ve crawled back. There remain 5 – 10 States (or other jurisdictions) that are densely populated and still resist carry. Even so, we are within striking distance of National Reciprocity which will bring even these jurisdictions kicking-and-screaming back to the 2A.

          It seems to be conceivable that you Brits too might come to your senses. Unfortunately, its probably going to take some nasty catastrophe – and a continuing one at that – before 70% of the population has an epiphany. Meanwhile, it’s important that the few of you who remain continue to promote sporting uses of guns and argue the case.

    • The can would be easier than the. 22LR or ammo for, Northern Ireland has more sense than the masters they serve. Unfortunately free Ireland is as bad as the bangers & mash country. When Indian Curry is the favorite food it means the former colony is now master.

      Your a contractor in Afghanistan so you won’t.miss being able to protect yourself, should friends or relative’s of someone you killed decide to do a little retribution?

      After putting criminals away for years with no problems, even being thanked by a few for helping change a life theirs or a son/daughter etc… Never making it personal. Was at the mall with wife last night, recognized me tried to cut me at a urinal. He was a wife beater who got 3 years, did 6 months and that was in 1987. Held a grudge that long, one reason I am glad I live in a country where I can provide & protect myself. Can you say the same about the Orwellian nightmare you live in.

      • +1

        and to the UK:

        “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
        ― Samuel Adams

        • No offense but that quote makes absolutely no sense when it is directed at subjects of a Government. They don’t have freedom to to sacrifice at the altar of Political Correctness like WE Americans have and continue to do. Context

          Now that quote would work if the “k’ was a typo and you were being honest and meant it to be an “S”.

      • Absolutely: I am well aware of the loss of that defensive option when I come home and cannot arm myself, and I am deeply concerned that my loved ones cannot arm THEMselves.

        My main aims in writing this piece were:
        • to explain a bit more accurately what the situation is, and
        • to say that it could be a lot worse…

        But yes, I agree 100% that the possibility of a retributive attack is one that I have to be aware of: I am aware of that risk, and within the limits of the law I take what measures I can. It’s a shitty situation, and I hope it never actually becomes life-threateningly shitty.

        • Thank you for writing this piece. It’s very enlightening, but maybe not in the way you had intended it to be.

  1. This was a very interesting article. It’s unique to read from the perspective of a British gun owner.
    The worst part of reading an article that is describing how “it isn’t that bad”, is knowing how much of their freedoms are non existent. I suppose much of this really is a cultural difference. Many believe here that an individual is free until they’ve given cause to lose that freedom (violent felon), and that it shouldn’t be a free man’s job to prove on multiple levels that, you are in fact, innocent and to be trusted with liberty.

    • Prison isn’t that bad, they feed me, we get 5 channels on the breakroom TV, and I only get raped in the ass once every other week.

      • If you’re getting raped in the ass once every other week you damn sure don’t have the juice to change the channel on the break room TV…

        Just say’in…


      • Well, it’s not as bad as getting one channel on the TV, and getting mugged in the ass 5 times every two weeks,…………………….I’m guessing?

    • Having never known freedom they don’t understand that having to ask permission from their “betters” for everything “is not that bad”.

    • Hey Tyler,

      You and several others are reading my article as saying “it’s not that bad”.

      That really isn’t what I am saying. I don’t agree with the UK’s firearm laws and I think they fail in their purpose.

      What I’m saying is: plenty of folk do not have an accurate knowledge of the real situation in the UK.

      For example, they may think that guns are impossible to obtain (wrong), or that only the wealthy can own or use them (wrong), etc.

      To these people, I am trying to tell The Truth About Guns in the UK – and I’m telling them that while it’s not a GOOD situation, it isn’t quite as bad as they think. That’s all.

    • Its more than just the freedom to own guns. but the freedom to carry means to protect ourselves in public places from muggers and rapists.France i read allows all manner of things like 30,00 volt elec stun devices, coshes ,mace and tear gas sprays.Revolvers converted to fire micro shotgun cartriges. When do you ever hear of a woman defeating a rapists attack? Its ALWAYS her body was found etc etc..Likewise 55 % of UK burglaries take place when the homeowner is present .Compared to less than 10%in the US….and no doubt heavily armed France too. I do a lot of camping ,everything i need is always in my car boot.I can and would be prosecuted for having a hatchet and kitchen knife amongst my camping stuff..Its an outrage.Criminals are not detered by any restrictions on the population at large.

  2. Some people love their chains. Please stay on your side of the pond. Oh…and when the ISIS fellows start carving up your fellow subjects like Drummer Rigby, don’t call me.

    • Did you read the article? He clearly said that he didn’t support the bans, and wouldn’t have implemented them.

      The main point of the article was to point out that it’s not quite as bad as many of us thought (I didn’t realize their gun owner licenses were shall issue; I thought the government could deny them for arbitrary reasons), and briefly explain the history of gun ownership and gun laws in the UK.

      • The article says “Basically, the law says that absent a compelling reason why an individual may not possess firearms, there is nothing to stop them acquiring said firearms.”

        That is not shall issue. That is may issue that has so far probably been permissive. Different people read different things into “compelling reason”. Ask Finns, who had similar thing with their concealed carry licenses, and somehow about 20 years ago the authorities began finding compelling reasons (or their equivalent of this sort) to deny any and all CC applicants.

        • Hi Bungameng,

          Just to clarify – it’s not the case that you need a “compelling reason” to own a gun.

          In fact it’s the opposite: the Police would have to show a “compelling reason” why you may not, in order to justify refusing a license. For example, a criminal record or a history of mental illness with violent tendencies.

          There have been numerous successful challenges to Police forces trying to block license applications, and in fact the majority (but not all) of our mass shootings have been carried out by individuals whose licenses were challenged, but ultimately issued because the Police couldn’t show a sufficiently “compelling reason” to refuse.

          I don’t know if that quote counts as shall issue but it’s definitely a presumption that if you can complete the paperwork then should issue.

          The problem is that, with a gun owning population only ~1% of the total, it is very hard to lobby for anything better. And every time a licensed owner shoots somebody, the public (about 70% in favour of a total ban) and the newspapers say that this is proof further restrictions are needed.

    • Hi TommyKnocker,

      You are free to hold that view, and sadly I can tell you there are plenty of Brits who, similarly, would not rush to the aid of America in an hour of need…

      But, as someone who stands up alongside my American brothers in Afghanistan and elsewhere, I find your comments somewhat offensive.

      Whether I find your views offensive or not though, if you were in Drummer Rigby’s position and it was within my power to help, I still would. So I’m sorry to hear that despite the advantages you enjoy under law, you would not help out an ally in need.

  3. So the overall theme of the apologist’s article is that you can own a gun in the UK if you jump thru flaming hoops and have a “good reason” (which is defined by whom exactly?) to own one. No thank you.

    • “So the overall theme of the apologist’s article is that you can own a gun in the UK if you jump thru flaming hoops and have a “good reason” (which is defined by whom exactly?) to own one. No thank you.”

      Pot meet kettle is how I would feel as an informed American citizen after reading your post. The lady that was murdered in Jersey for not being granted state permission for a firearm is just one example.

      “which is defined by whom exactly?”
      To Americans it is a sheriff or one of our political betters that determine if WE can carry a gun after paying a tax on a right. I probably owe farago a twenty dollar tax(fee) for the option to not have my 1st amendment censored.

      • I think that complaining about CWP fees and training is a side-show and counter-productive to our long-term interests.

        We should be touting to non-gun owners that the Shall-Issue States do a BC so that only law-abiding gun owners are permitted to carry. Some – not all – require a bit of training. That’s fine; we are all for training. However, the records of training-required vs. no-training-required States are comparable. Anyone serious about carrying a gun is going to get some training whether formally or informally. (All of this is comfort-talk.)

        (Now for the coup de grace.) A number of States, after running their CWP programs for a few years, have decided that collecting fees, requiring training and issuing CWP cards isn’t worth the effort. They have followed VT and allowed Constitutional Carry (i.e., permits carry) to anyone who is not bared from possessing a gun. They haven’t had any trouble and none has considered reverting to the CWP system.

        So, you see – gentle neighbor – citizens carrying guns just isn’t the pearl-clutching disaster you might think. About 5% of the adult population now carries – either under permit or permit-less carry laws. Have you heard may – or ANY – stories about law-abiding gun-carriers shooting-up bars? No? Who wooda-thunk!

        All the stories you hear about gun crime are committed by the same old culprits; the felons who are barred from even touching a gun to say nothing about carrying a gun in public.

        We OUGHT to be concentrating on pushing CA, NYC, DC, NJ, MD, HI into Shall-Issue as a stepping stone toward Right-to-Carry nation-wide. The CWP is the transition vehicle to get them from Won’t-Issue to recognizing ANY Right-to-Carry.

        Then follows the mop-up; moving Constitutional-Carry along a couple of States at a time. Eventually, half the States will be permit-less; then 3/4 of the States will be permit-less. Thereafter, if a few States stick to their CWPs it just won’t matter. The Right-to-Carry on a permit-less or Shall-Issue basis will be firmly established in American society.

        Our most important effort needs to be to establish carry in public places as a normal activity. A gun is merely a form of accessorizing as far as everyone-else is concerned. Just as one woman has a right to clutch her pearls, another has a right to carry a gun to defend herself and her children. Achieving this goal is NOT going to be accomplished by promoting permit-less CONCEALED-carry. Remember, concealed-is-concealed. The general public has no more idea whether you choose revolver-vs-semi-auto than boxers-vs.-thongs.

        To get the general public to accept guns-in-polite-society I see no alternative but to promote OC. I hasten to add that OC must be introduced both gently AND flamboyantly. We will frighten the hoplophobes; there is no way around this. What we must NOT do is frighten those who have YET to form a fixed opinion about guns.

        We need to seek-out ways to cause acceptance of OC to spread from NM and AZ soon to TX, then on to OK, MO, etc. until we have gradually moved acclimation from State to State until we have reached DE.

        • MarkPA, thank you for your thoughts. That seems to me a very credible and compelling way to move gun rights forwards in the States.

          Your head-start over us is not something we will ever make up, I suspect: no 2A, and only 1% of the population (max) owning guns.

          But thank you for talking through the concept, rather than – as some have done – going to town on Brits for all being serfs etc.

          Very interesting, thank you again.

        • You know who you are; why should we of a different culture rub it in.

          We Americans have become quite used to being called all the dirty names in the book, in countless languages. We don’t care; we never cared what anyone called us.

          The data all speaks for itself.

          Unfortunately, we have our own Progressives to deal with. They are dead set on taking America to hell-in-a-handbasket. Fortunately, when push comes to shove . . .

          What’s that old saying? ‘We got the guns; they don’t. Where’s the problem?’

  4. Come on boys! It aint dat bad! Massa lez us walk da dawgs every sunnay fo chuch, an uz even gets da leftovahs from sunnay dinnah!

    Cold hard fact, Brits: If your system encountered a hard crisis, it would be mob rule, and you would be found along your driveway with your bolt action 22 sticking out of your 4th point of contact.

    • The author has a .308 precision rifle, and a collection of shotguns (among others) on his 300-acre farm. I think he’d be okay. The guys in the suburbs would be the ones with problems.

      • Indubitably!

        After the YOBS empty the cities with their properly registered and legal guns(snickers). The Suburbanites will be like lambs to slaughter.

  5. “And licensing requirements are fairly common sense within the limitations of the law as it stands”

    Spoken like a true subordinate

    • Chrispy, thanks for the opinion…

      I admit that I comply with the law, and try to make the best of the situation that I legally can. On that count, ok, I’m subordinate.

      I assume, given your disdain for that position, that you have a bunch of illegal machine guns and untaxed silencers?

      If not then it seems to me that you are just as “subordinate” to the law of your country as I am to the law of mine… But you have the good fortune to live in a country that has more permissive laws.

      If you are in fact a badass packing loads of illegal heat then fair play to you – true rebel – and I hope the BATFE never find out!

      • No sir, unfortunately I live in the state of New York. And yes, I do follow the laws. But you won’t catch me saying that they’re “really not all that bad.”

        The BS I had to go through to get a carry permit was disgusting, and I live in a county which actually isn’t “that” bad, (relative to other counties in this state). I also will continue to condemn the SAFE act until it’s full repeal, (which likely means I’ll have to condemn it forever.)

        Certainly my comment can be taken as a “pot calling the kettle black”, and I’m okay with that.

        • Hi Chrispy, thanks for coming back on that.

          I’m not arguing – at all – that our firearm laws “aren’t all that bad”. I think they’re pretty dreadful, although I can certainly see that there are places which are even worse.

          All I was trying to convey (and some people did / some did not take this) was a more accurate, factual run-down of the laws in the UK. The Truth About Guns, UK style.

          Personally I disagree with the law, but I comply with it because I’m a law-abiding citizen and don’t fancy jail.

          Anyway, thank you again (sincerely) for replying to my last.

      • Don’t know about Chrispy, but I doubt that very many people keep illegal full-autos. Building a crude cheap silencer is not out-of-the-question; but these are kept well hidden or discarded after the amusement has warn off.

        As a broad-sweeping remark, it’s generally not hard to build, maintain and shoot a pretty nice arsenal without violating the law. So, we don’t have to go out-of-our-way to enjoy our gun liberty in America.

        Certainly, there are exceptions. E.g., I believe that it would be impossible to live in NJ, actively participate in the shooting sports, and avoid committing a felony. If you are careful enough, you won’t get caught.

        Clearly, there are plenty of people in NY, CT, CA, NJ and other States with unregistered illegal modern sporting rifles. These are the scofflaws that might be worthy of your study.

        When we see a law that we just cannot abide, we can muster the courage to defy that law. The “Assault Weapons Bans” and “Large” capacity magazine-‘clips’ are two examples.

        We abide by the machine-gun closing-of-the-registry because the risk/reward just isn’t there for us. We abide by the SBR, SBS and Silencer law because – frankly – $200 doesn’t mean that much any more. (You sort of get the drift when you see PotG complaining about how long it takes for the ATF to send them the stamps they bought and paid for; far more such complaints than complaints about the price of the stamp.)

        The AOW and Destructive-Device taxes aren’t much of a point of complaint. We PotG just chuckle with the spot the ATF put themselves into allowing gun manufacture to market Destructive Devices without NFA stamps because they didn’t read their own law.

        Another avenue for you to study is the outright gun crime that American Law Enforcement routinely ignores. If you are a criminal with a long rap sheet you might be arrested in possession of a gun on a charge of armed-robbery. The prosecutor is dealing in volume-of-convictions. So, he is very apt to cheerfully allow you to plead guilty of strong-armed-robbery and drop the gun-possession and armed-robbery charges. Does this make sense? Only to a prosecutor facing full prisons and a lenient judge. He just can’t afford to go to trial with all the gun charges that flow through his office.

        Another example, straw-buying. Should be a fairly straightforward case. But, it takes some work. And, ultimately, you are facing the prospect of sending a young female – often a single mother – to prison for a non-violent crime of buying a gun and giving it to her “boy-friend”. Prosecutors just don’t want to do this when they have violent criminals to deal with.

        I would be really interested to discover how many peaceable gun-owners defy the bans on carrying without a permit in jurisdictions such as NYC, DC, NJ, MD, and CA. I don’t think many people do; i.e., I think people are largely observing the law notwithstanding their contempt. However, this might change in the next 5 years or so. Maybe citizens in these States will start defying the laws against carrying without a permit because these States Won’t-Issue permits.

        • MarkPA, thank you for that – some very interesting points.

          I was aware of straw buying but I guess hadn’t considered it at any length.

          And regarding the other gun / gun-related crime that you mention, we have a similar problem here with overcrowded jails. The difference is that any crime involving illegal firearms (even if it’s just possession with no use at all) gets a mandatory minimum tariff of 5 years…!

          In any case, thank you for your thoughts. It is genuinely a pleasure to talk to a community of shooters with different perspectives.

          When I referred to illegal machine guns / silencers etc., that wasn’t really a serious point. I was simply trying to highlight that in my view, it’s neither servile nor an abdication of responsibility to:
          • abide by the law
          • arm oneself as far as legally possible, and
          • use legal channels to try and make the situation better

          I’m not saying you were arguing that view – but others have done, and that’s why I put up the ‘straw man’ argument that they have no right to criticise me unless they’re packing an arsenal of illegal weapons.

          Thank you again for your thoughts, and for taking the time to share them!

        • No. No! NO!! You just don’t understand American gun law at all!

          “The difference is that any crime involving illegal firearms (even if it’s just possession with no use at all) gets a mandatory minimum tariff of 5 years…!”

          A mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years ONLY is applied to a LEGAL gun owner with a perfectly CLEAN record for a nominal infraction! If you are a career criminal then you must be treated with leniency. Dis, is AMERICA!

          Read the stories of:
          – Shaneen Allen
          – Steffon Josey Davis
          – Gordan Van Gilder
          – Brian Aitken

          The only one case in the above list that showed a modicum of common sense was Van Gilder. The sheriff’s deputy let him go; but the sheriff came back to arrest him. The prosecutor declined to prosecute; even she would be too embarrassed to send a retired teacher to prison for 5 years for possession of an unloaded 260 year-old flintlock (no flint).

          The ONLY reason Allen got off is because she was charged by the same prosecutor who let (professional football player) Ray Rice off with (essentially) probation for cold-cocking his girlfriend in an Atlantic City hotel ON FILM. ACTAL violence against a woman gets you probation; disclosing to a cop that you are carrying under a PA license gets you a generous plea-bargain of 3 1/2 years. (Her lawyer offered to take probation and a 2-game suspension; but no deal.)

          Allen and Davis eventually got a pardon from the governor; but only because he is running for President and needs any gun vote he might be able to finagle.

          Brian Aitken spent 3 years in prison before the Governor commuted his sentence. His crime? He transported hollow-point bullets from one home to another. It was perfectly legal for him to have hollow points in his home. Perfectly legal to transport hollow points from his home to a range, target-practice place, or hunting. His crime was that he transported directly from home->home. Had he been law-abiding he would have had to go from old-home->range->home-new. The judge had to stoop that low to get this guy imprisoned. The judge also refused to instruct the jury that the gun move from home->home was perfectly legal; the gun conviction was overturned on appeal.

          In NJ, a child’s sling-shot will get you a felony.

          A magazine for a semi-automatic rifle holding more than 10 rounds is a felony. (A NJ resident was caught with a 100 round magazine for a Tommygun. His lawyer got him off on a technicality. The magazine would ONLY fit a full-automatic Thompson; it would fit no existent semi-automatic look-alike. So, the machine-gun mag was fine.)

          The American gun laws that get enforced are applied to OFWG who aren’t doing anything wrong. The laws where leniency apply involve serious criminals.

        • Hi MarkPA,

          Those cases sound appalling – to be fair to the UK, I am not actually aware of anything quite that egregious (this may just be my ignorance, or it may be that there are fewer gun owners to chase after…!).

          Regarding the mandatory five years: that’s the UK law for any illegal possession of a firearm.

          Where it gets stupid is that the law takes exactly the same view of:

          Scenario A
          I am a known gang-banger, and I get caught carrying a full-auto Mac-10 and silencer, and 300rds of 9mm.

          Scenario B
          I am the legal owner of multiple weapons up to and including .50BMG, but I never asked for a .22lr adding to my license. I get caught letting my friend store his .22lr in my safe, to which I have a set of keys.

          In both scenarios, I “possess” a gun to which I have no legal right. The law doesn’t care about the fact that one gun is prohibited for any private ownership, and the other is just illegal for me on a technicality. In either case the court has no choice but to sentence me to a minimum of five years.

          Now, the court may sentence me to more than five years for the Mac-10 because they consider it to be somehow “more illegal”. But in principle if your only crime is illegal possession – deliberate or accidental, blatant or technicality – then you’re still looking at five years regardless.

        • Fundamentally, the more laws there are to enforce the more likely the criminal justice system is to find a violation.

          Likely the main reason there are relatively few full-automatic violations in the US is that the penalties are draconian. Most people with any ability to rationalize their actions can figure out that whatever the amusement value there might be to having a full-auto, the product of the probability of getting caught multiplied by the penalty makes it not worth-while.

          If you are a criminal you can do enough damage with a semi-auto gun to achieve your objective. So, why risk getting caught with a machine-gun for a very slight increment in fire-power.

          We have a lot of laws to complain about; however, most of these complaints don’t really cut to the heart of what we need to defend. My most important objective is to see a Right-to-Carry established in the last 5 – 10 jurisdictions that deny this right. Next is to protect a massive fraction of the civilian inventory beyond any means effectively to track-it-down. Third is to narrow the grounds for classifying an individual as a prohibited-person based on a pretext other than a record of violence. These – collectively – are the greatest threats to gun rights in America.

    • Both my grandfathers brought plenty of guns home from Ww1when there were no restrictions.Sadly their generation never fought the law makers.Nor did my fathers generation.I lobbied my mp several times when i was a pistol shooter.Until all the red tape forced me out. But its too late now the screw will only get tighter.Americans can crow and point the finger ,but you are protected by a RIGHT a LAW SET IN STONE .We never had that.


    Using “murder” alone as a measure of safety in the UK is beyond short sighted.

    Having the tools available to protect ones self from any of the crimes listed in the link above is a basic human right. Infringing on ones ability to protect themselves from any form of violent crime is not at all tolerable.

    Stop sticking up for the “Law of the Land” and fight for your basic human right of self preservation and defense.

  7. A very good post! I appreciate having a gun-owning Brit’s perspective. There are definitely some good things going on with firearms in Britain, but I know I couldn’t stand to live in a place that wouldn’t let me have my handguns and semi-auto rifles.

      • He can get a suppressor cheaper, and faster than we can (I ordered my most recent one in February, the form 3 finished in May, maybe I’ll see it in August).

        Other than that, I don’t see anything that makes me envious. Maybe somebody in NYC or Hawaii would be envious of some of the other things (no magazine capacity restrictions).

        • He may be able to get a can cheaper and/or faster, but its still treated as a firearm with all the paperwork and ass pain that entails. Hardly a positive.

        • He has to do slightly more paperwork to get the initial permit, but then can get the suppressor quickly. I have to do a buttload of paperwork and wait several months (11 for my .22 suppressor) for each one.

    • Because sadly handguns are illegal in the UK. Skeet, rifle etc. can train here just fine.

      But the pistol team have to train elsewhere because even though we’re talking about .22 target pistols here… the law is basically inflexible on that front.

      Any weapon must have a barrel of 12″ and a total length greater than 24″ – so Olympic pistol shooters are stuck.

      Ridiculous, and caused some serious arguments running up to 2012 Olympics, but the general public – and particularly the newspapers – are very vocally anti-gun, and handguns are top of the “hate” list.

      • How did London handle Olimpic pistol shooting if it is illegal? I don’t watch most Olimpic sports so I don’t know.

        • They passed an Act of Parliament making it temporarily legal for specific individuals (the competitors) to own and use pistols for the purposes of target shooting at the Olympics.

          The controversy mostly centred on whether, in the run-up, Brit competitors should be allowed to train here in the UK with that same exemption. The overall conclusion was no, because it would set a precedent: eg. if you can for the Olympics then why not for the World Championships… etc.

          I think that’s a pretty ridiculous state of affairs, but that’s how it is.

  8. Confirmed (what we already know)… Our Forefathers were right then and are even more so now (if that’s even possible)… Spare us that judas goat happy subject crap, we’re not buying it…

    • Let not our hubris lull us into thinking this can’t happen in America. This is exactly the type of model that our liberal overlords want for us. We must stand our ground or see our rights be eroded over the next century. We think this won’t happen in 2015, which is correct. Can you guarantee that our children or their children won’t be in this situation in 2115?

  9. A 300 acre farm would be highly desirable here in the US, but in the UK?

    Definitely posh.

    I lived in the Suffolk area in the early 80’s, and could not bring home the shotgun I used a the
    rod and gun-club on base. It had to stay there.

    Sure, it made the general public feel oh so much more secure, but just felt oppressive to a
    Yank who grew up with unfettered access to pretty much anything…

    • Yes, unless “military contractors” pay in UK, where land on the island is generally an elite premium, is stunningly more than those contractors from here in the US, mr Carter is indeed a lucky fellow. As for hunting, game in jolly old England was the property of the king/government, versus being the property of all the public here in US – that is a very important distinction. Me. Carter would be welcome if he sold his 300 acres and moved here.

      • Hey JimmyJonga,

        I am posh, as it happens. But as I’ve said elsewhere in the comments, in fact the majority of shooters in the UK are rural working class.

        Rough shooting (as opposed to driven game) is a pretty common hobby. There is actually a fair amount of common land in the UK – eg. publicly owned – and even where land is privately owned it’s not at all uncommon to simply ask the landowner for permission to shoot on it.

        Round where I live, for example, most families have at least one shooter – and pigeon, pig, fox, rabbit etc. are all commonly hunted.

        “Game” animals (deer, pheasant, partridge, grouse, duck*) are usually the legal property of the landowner and you need specific permission to hunt those quarry, but other quarry can be taken without any special permission.

        * duck are treated as game if curated for the purposes of shooting – eg. with flight img ponds etc. If they are on the shore or natural rivers then you can shoot them under the general classification of “wildfowling”.

  10. That sounds awful to me honestly. Incredibly repressive. I can understand things are different over there, but that still sounds really limiting to one’s self defense. I once had a friend come over and visit from the UK and his eyes were wide open like saucers the whole time. He just couldn’t get over how big the US is. Wanted to keep driving across the country haha. Changed his entire perspective, he said. I can dig your view, but man… it’s a whole different world over here. I guess I won’t reference Britain’s role in the US having a 2A in the first place… But I can tell you that even my UK buddy saw things a bit differently after he got a taste of US style freedom.

  11. My ancestors left Britain to seek freedom and liberty. I am their legacy and will never look back.

    I appreciate the author and his perspective, but it is all he knows. It would be saying that flank steak is a great cut a beef while never having tasted filet or a porterhouse.

  12. The Home Offfice has a long history of “cooking the books” to reduce official homicides to very low numbers. I have been there many times. What passes for “liberty” in the UK would be unacceptable to most Americans.

  13. Within the context of the laws as they stand, it may not seem so bad from someone who clearly lives under such laws. Those who are largely unburdened by such tyrannical bureaucracy, like us (I’ll go ahead and apologize to residents of NJ/NY/IL/CA/MD/CT/etc.) rightly understand it as a giant travesty — and a civil rights tragedy.

    It’s all about perspective.

  14. I think I’m happier with not being able to own a silencer without jumping through hoops than jumping through many more hoops to spend way too much on a partially disabled rifle. And I have handguns! At least one that isn’t just military-style, but actually (Polish) military surplus! And I didn’t have to answer any questions about wanting it. In fact, I ordered it off a website.

    Now, I had it shipped to Michigan, which means that before and after I picked it up from the FFL who ran the background check, I had to stop by the Sheriff’s department to get a slip saying I was allowed to own it, then drop said slip back off. That’s two background checks, for those counting. Those two trips plus that initial check cost me around twenty minutes of my day. It’s also what many readers here would call “Draconian.”

    I appreciate your optimism, but you’re wrong. What you described is just as bad, if not worse than what American gun owners imagine. But, hey, enjoy your silencers.

  15. Right, murder is not the only risk – violent crime in general warrants lethal defense, and I do believe that’s a human’s natural right (self-defense).
    I was struck by the ‘not-so-bad’ list. Unrestricted mag capacity, yes, but nothing is legal to use it with except a bolt action rifle.
    Open carry is “legal”, but you’ll be harassed by police if you try it.
    Handguns are legal in some places, but only for the political class that perceives a threat from Irish rebels.
    Murder rate is low, so you’re only at risk of rape and/or getting skull fractures from the criminal element, which you are to some extent expected to lie down for after blowing your whistle.
    I think this is a great read and good perspective, but I think the takeaway is an example of what’s wrong with being a subject rather than a citizen. It’s certainly interesting to see how differently we view the role of government and our role in society.

    • Hi Steve,

      Thank you for your thoughts. It has certainly been interesting to me, to hear the views of various gun owning Americans (and others) here on TTAG.

      They have generally ranged from appalled but polite, to a misunderstanding that causes them to label me as an apologist.

      I certainly am not – and I’m not saying our situation is a good one, just that it’s not as bad as it might easily be. And you’re right, I do see my government as playing a generally positive role in protecting my freedoms against a ~70% majority of the population who favour an outright ban on gun ownership.

      You are technically wrong on one point: “Handguns are legal in some places, but only for the political class that perceives a threat from Irish rebels.”

      Handguns are legal in Northern Ireland, and self defence is a legitimate reason for ownership. The most common handgun owners in that part of the UK are LEOs who live in Northern Ireland and work where they live – and are therefore under daily threat from terrorism. Assassinations or attempted assassinations occur regularly, even now that a “peace process” is under way.

      Soldiers, politicians and others who may equally be targeted are also allowed to own and carry – but they are slightly less likely to live permanently in the civilian community where they work, and so are less under threat than their LEO counterparts.

      • A clarification on my post above: ownership of handguns in Northern Ireland is not restricted to the types of individual I listed (LEO, Army, politician) – but they are the most common groups to own handguns because they are subject to the highest threat.

  16. Well, um, I have a non hostile question/statement for Mr. Carter. You live on 300 hundred acres and you use cans. It’s my understanding that air gun hunting is a going concern in Britain. Have I been misinformed?

    • Hey JWM, yes I use cans on all my rifles on my own farm, because it’s a working farm with livestock and there’s no point in scaring them unnecessarily. And because it’s very easy to get the necessary permission (actually my local Police force prefer me to have them than not).

      You’re sort of right about airguns, but not 100%.

      In most of the UK they are still a restricted sale item, eg. you have to be an adult to buy, but otherwise no paper required. In Scotland, which has a pretty devolved government and makes many of its own laws (think State vs Federal) there is a strong movement for classing airguns just the same as any other firearm.

      Fortunately, in England and Wales that was laughed out of court.

  17. Keep in mind this is also written by someone privlaged enough to have 300acres in a tighly populated country.
    Not exactly a “common man’s” point of view is it?

    • Hi Jim,

      I guess statistically speaking I’m not a “common man”, in that most people are urban dwellers and therefore almost certainly don’t have 300 acres on their doorstep.

      On the other hand, in the eyes of the law I’m treated no differently than a “common man”. Sure, it’s easier for me to show a safe place / good reason for owning guns. But several of my neighbours have licenses because they shoot on my farm, or on other private land, with the landowner’s permission. Most of them fall much more clearly into your common man bracket than I do.

      The fact remains that the majority of gun owners in the UK are rural working class. That is followed by middle class gun-club shooters and hunters; and then as a distant third by posh folks, of whom there really aren’t that many.

  18. Mr. Carter – thank you for taking pen to paper and submitting an article. I found all that very interesting.

    • And moving right along this is America and we live at the good leave of God the queen can kiss our … ah freedom can’t you just smell it.

  19. It appears to be a better situation than I had figured, but gun ownership is still a “privilege” one must be granted permission for in the UK, and not a right to be freely exercised unless forfeited for cause in the US.
    I estimate that the basic situation here in “tight gun control areas” e.g. MD, MA, NJ, CA, holds true in the UK —- much depends on local authorities and how they view “civilians” owning guns.

    • What does it say about GB laws when you can easily say that CA laws allow far more freedom to own and use guns?!

  20. That’s sad, and even more so because he doesn’t think it is that bad.

    The only reason I can see they haven’t restricted magazine capacity is because they have already restricted every firearm that could make use of a higher capacity magazine. There’s no point in having any.

    Other than no restrictions on silencers I see little to cheer about.

      • Hey CentralIL,

        I think you’ve misunderstood my argument slightly.

        I really DO think it’s a bad situation in the UK. But I’ve previously come across numerous posts on TTAG from Americans and others who believe that either guns are completely illegal in the UK (not true, as I’ve explained), or that you have to be mega influential and powerful to get through all the hoops to ownership (also not true, as I’ve explained).

        Do I like the situation? Not at all. But is it better than many people seem to believe? Yes it is.

      • “Well, yes…we have our nutsacks in a vise, but it is not too tight and at least they don’t crank it any tighter.” is what I hear.

        • Hi Scoutino,

          That’s pretty much correct.

          Can you suggest a legal alternative, whereby we as a 1% monitory of gun owners can overturn the will of ~70% of the public, who want a complete ban?

          And are you really do different? Yes your laws are more permissive (the vise isn’t as tight), but you still have both federal and state restrictions of various kinds.

          My nuts are in a vise and I’m very glad it’s no tighter. Is that an unacceptable view to hold?

        • I think you see your options as clearly as anyone could.

          You might want to think of getting US residency in case you see the need to retreat. Maybe Canadian residency.

          I myself am looking to Mexico. They have more interesting guns; but, you seem to be interested only in the lawful ones.

        • MarkPA,

          The U.S. residency option is one that I have looked at quite seriously.

          Having worked DoD and DoS contracts in Afghanistan I used to hold a Common Access Card (U.S. Army sponsored). This required me to get a FIN – as I understand it, the equivalent of an SSN for a non-US citizen. I have been told that this makes the process of applying somewhat easier, although I don’t know for sure.

          I’m a keen skier and used to train in Vail, so had always had CO in the back of my mind as a possibility.

          But right now I’ve got a family to take care of, and a home where I can enjoy the freedoms that still remain open to a British citizen – so emigration is currently in the “maybe some day” bracket.

        • What you refer to as a “FIN” is a “TIN” Tax-payor Identification Number. (Or so I understood from years ago when I worked on a tax reporting project.) The TIN is for non-resident aliens who have a tax-reporting obligation to the US.

          I very much doubt that holding a TIN will do anything for your application for a green-card. The easiest route is marriage; albeit I have the impression that you are already under new management. The quota system is typically a deeply backlogged route; however, it varies enormously by country. If the demand for green-cards from UK citizens is relatively low the queue might be reasonable. I understood that this was the case for the Irish. You might want to look into this; and, if the queue is modest (let’s suppose 5 years for illustration) consider getting your application in so as to move toward the head of the line prior to the need to immigrate becomes really compelling.

          The proposition of being a non-resident green-card holder is one which you need to investigate. You can’t hold your green-card without periodically spending time in-country. What – precisely – the rules are I don’t know; but, you should understand how they would impact you while you are intent upon remaining outside the US. It might be sufficient to make an annual visit for a week; or, it might be much too onerous to keep up.

          Another aspect is taxes. So long as you are either a US citizen or green-card holder you are under the umbrella of the IRS UNLESS your residence is in one of several (not all) of the US territories. So, for example, you could be either a citizen/green-card-holder resident in Puerto Rico. Thereupon, you would be beholden to Puerto Rico for tax and tax-reporting rather than the US. If you could make that applicable to your situation (might be tough) then you might lighten your tax reporting burden by taking up tax residency in PR, USVI, Guam etc.

          I’m very much concerned about the deterioration of security throughout the world; including the US. It looks to me as though the US ought to be the last ship to sink; whereupon there would be no safe haven anywhere. Nevertheless, before the US were to sink, things might actually become more dicy here than in some other places. I imagine you are more capable than I of working out the scenarios given your vocation.

        • >> The quota system is typically a deeply backlogged route; however, it varies enormously by country. If the demand for green-cards from UK citizens is relatively low the queue might be reasonable. I understood that this was the case for the Irish. You might want to look into this; and, if the queue is modest (let’s suppose 5 years for illustration) consider getting your application in so as to move toward the head of the line prior to the need to immigrate becomes really compelling.

          You still need some qualifying reason to immigrate. Family immigration (which includes marriage) is one, but requires a direct relative already with a citizenship. Also, if you have an employer in US, then they can sponsor you for a green card while you’re on H1B – but that requires finding such a job and holding it for long enough. Then there’s asylum seeking, but there you’d have to prove that you’re somehow persecuted with a real danger to yourself where you’re coming from. Finally there’s investment, but it requires bringing in a lot of money.

          Then there’s the diversity green card lottery with its quotas. The problem is that it is still just that, a lottery. Your chances are higher if you’re from a country where not many people apply (UK would likely be one), but they’re still pretty low and you cannot reliably predict if or when you’d win it. If your plan is to immigrate “eventually”, it might be a good option (but note that if you win, you’ll have to immigrate fairly quickly, because the offer expires if not used). But for any serious plan with a schedule, it’s not an option.

  21. I think the purpose of this article is to surprise the reader what guns you can own in Britain and that guns are less than all but illegal.

    • +1
      It’s an unfortunate mentality on this website that anyone who posts a message contrary to the echo chamber is immediately and thoroughly trashed by the usual suspects. This fellow posted an informative article about what gun ownership is like in the UK, and is soundly thrashed for his efforts. Was he embracing those regulations? Not really. Was he promoting them to those of us in the US? Heck no. Do we have to like the laws that he is subject to? Decidedly no. But how about we respect the writer for his effort and show some appreciation for his contribution?

      If this site truly is The Truth about Guns, perhaps the supposed “Intelligentsia” who reside here might be interested in occasionally reading facts, rather than relying on supposition. How many writers are willing to contribute information of a useful nature, if they know they’ll be immediately shouted down by a mob?

      • By and large, I don’t think he got ‘trashed’ or shouted down. I think we as Americans recoil at being ‘subjects’ and at the amazingly repressive laws of which he speaks of being ‘not that bad’. I would rather die free than live like that. And our Forefathers felt the same way apparently. I don’t think that it’s anything personal with him. The Brits are our friends and closest allies, but man… that sounds AWFUL! To most freedom-loving Americans, the idea of a ‘Socialist Monarchy’ is almost as repulsive as a Nazi Police state. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t respect them. They feel some pride in their Monarchy, and I can dig that. But to me, it just sounds like one giant case of Stockholm syndrome!

      • Hey Defens,

        Thanks – no worries, I don’t feel too bashed…!

        Sure, I guess there’s not much I can say in reply to somebody telling me I’m a slave. I mean, I may not enjoy all of the same rights as you guys do but I’m pretty sure that my situation falls well short of slavery. So I have tended to ignore those comments, and similar.

        That being said, several people have either engaged a bit more usefully, or indeed have said “ok, I didn’t know that before, thanks” – which was the main point behind me writing this.

        So, thank you for falling into the intelligent and useful commentator bracket! 🙂

        • “I don’t feel too bashed…!”

          Please keep writing; we need the info so we appreciate our rights more.

          Eventually the Assault-PotG folks will make you sub-come!

      • Hi Wiregrass,

        If you believe we are limited to .22 bolt action then:

        (1) you aren’t aware of what we can own, and
        (2) you didn’t actually read much of my article…!

        But yes you’re absolutely right that the restrictions we have right now do very little to prevent occasional mass shootings.

  22. They certainly have some content subjects over there.

    I’m glad my forefathers fought a war to liberate us from that mindset.

  23. You’re a slave. Polish the turd all you want, you’re still a slave. We are across the pond, too, but it’s starting to look like something might be done about it(not via voting).

  24. What I got out of reading through all of those regulations and rules is this. Only rich people in England are really allowed to own guns. This bit is very telling:

    The applicant must also show that they have a “proper place” to use the weapon – which in practice means either a club, or their own/a friendly person’s land of reasonable size.

    I doubt there are many lower or even average income British people who own a lot of land or belong to an expensive gun club. “Proper place” indeed. Change this to “proper people” and it all makes sense. The rich, ie, politicians caved to public pressure to ban handguns and make it extremely hard for the average Brit to obtain a weapon, but they knew darned well they themselves didn’t want to be subject to these rules so they found a way to write themselves out of them. It’s sort of like how rich white liberals here cry “Celebrate Diversity!” from behind their gated communities.

    • Hi Bill,

      That’s a common misconception, but it’s still wrong.

      The largest group of shooters in the UK is rural working class.

      Then middle-class club shooters, and then in distant third place the genuinely rich/posh.

      Average shooting club fees are around £75 / $120 for the year. That’s pretty much within any working adult’s budget. And as far as I can see by looking at US retailers online, we pay a premium on guns but it’s no worse than we pay for electronics (eg. Apple, where they just switch the $ to £ and keep the number the same). And ammunition is usually a bit cheaper here, I have found.

  25. I was taken with this sentence: “we don’t face the personal threat levels that make defensive pistol ownership worthwhile.”

    Really. Women don’t get raped in the UK? Banks don’t get robbed? Homes don’t get invaded?

    If you spend your life defenseless, all a thug needs is some ability to hurt you, and they can coerce you into giving them what they want. Resist, and they can crack your skull with the same crowbar they used to pry open your door. Any nation that denies its “citizens” the best self-defense tools available (handguns) is tyrannical by definition.

    • “we don’t face the personal threat levels that make defensive pistol ownership worthwhile.”

      You don’t?

      Definition: ‘Assault’ means physical attack against the body of another person resulting in serious bodily injury; excluding indecent/sexual assault; threats and slapping/punching. ‘Assault’ leading to death should also be excluded.

      Rate/100,000 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009

      USA 294.9 288.2 290.5 291.8 286.4 276.1 262.2
      England/Wales 862.8 967.3 1,013.7 939.4 832.9 769.9 729.8
      Scotland 1,232.5 1,584.9 1,542.8 1,655.1 1,545.9 1,545.7 1,487.2

      (I pulled these numbers a couple of years ago for something I wrote, and they do change slightly from year to year, but the overall trends are identical). Sorry for the lack of formatting. WordPress. An HTML table might have worked, didn’t try it.

      • A fair point well made.

        We face a massively lower likelihood of an attacker also being armed with a gun, which is more accurately what I meant, and what I should have said.

        Of course we face a threat from other forms of assault, and I personally regret that we are not allowed to possess guns for self defence.

  26. With apologies to W. S. Gilbert —

    Ah, take one consideration with another –
    A British shooter’s lot is not a happy one.

  27. It sounds pretty bad to me. You basically are told what you can and can’t own because of other peoples irrational and fears and psychotic utopian fantasy. And you say it ins’t that bad? What about when they decided certain types of media or news should be restricted or controlled because they don’t see you have a need or a proper place to use it..what else can they do? Seems they have pretty good precedent and “it isn’t that bad.”
    I am glad you can still shoot as long a they approve of your pastime and how you exercise it,
    but I am sorry, it you guys have been pretty well subjugated on the firearms issue.

  28. I walked into a donut shop with my daughter the other day, and there were two guys sitting at one of the tables, one of them with a pistol on his side. Neither the customers at the other tables nor the stuff looked like they cared one way or another. One of the staff members was actually chatting with the two guys about his job. I have no idea if the carrier chose to obtain a carry permit for some reason, but he doesn’t need one in this state, for either concealed or open carry. That’s freedom by my standards, what you say about the British guns laws is just too far down the wrong path to qualify.

    And here is a mandatory read on the subject:

  29. Uh yeah… That’s pretty bad my friend. I realize that you don’t know any better, but you are not free sir. As you say, you are a subject of the Queen. With all due respect, we recoil at that notion. We are subjects only to God (or not, if we so choose). Hell that makes California sound like a bastion of freedom. Man, I feel like breaking out a flute and ripping off a nice “yankee doodle dandy’ after reading that. I understand you are our friends and our closest allies, but man oh man, you guys sounds like you have Stockholm syndrome over there.

  30. Hi, to the several posters re: my article…! A couple of clarifications, or responses to yours:

    I don’t think of myself as an apologist. I was born only two years before the centre-fire semi-auto ban, and was thirteen when pistols were banned. I would’ve opposed both bans more effectively had I been in a position to do so, and as a better informed adult I use my (limited) influence to argue for their repeal.

    Tyler from AR: you’re right, it is a cultural thing. But sadly the culture here is strongly anti-gun…!

    The TOTAL NUMBER of Brits licensed to own rifles or high capacity shotguns is only 141,775 – out of a population of about 65 million. Even if you add Brits licensed to own shotguns to that figure (and ignore any overlap, which I’m guessing is pretty large) the total number of licensed owners of ANY kind of firearm is only 722,428.

    That works out as about 0.01% of the population.

    Polls consistently put the general public as believing strongly that all private ownership of firearms should be banned: last accurate poll that I know of was 67% in favour of a total ban!

    So, in the face of those figures:
    • 0.01% of population own guns
    • 67% of population want a total ban

    …I’m actually pleasantly surprised that successive governments have not caved in to the obvious (misguided!) will of the people.

    WS in SC: it has literally never been a right in Britain to own guns.

    I’m not saying that’s a good thing – it isn’t. But I am saying that, since it isn’t a protected right, and since the public in general is strongly against private ownership of guns, successive governments have taken a surprisingly sensible view (eg. they haven’t banned all guns, despite a large majority wanting them to do so).

    You’re right that murder alone isn’t a good measure of violent crime. Do I personally feel that the right to bear arms and to use them legitimately in self defence would benefit us? Yes, absolutely I do. However I’m in the 0.01% minority who have even attempted to arm themselves, and somewhere approaching three quarters of my compatriots disagree with my right to do that. Sad but true.

    I am absolutely NOT promoting gun control, or saying that the UK has got it right. I strongly agree with 2A in the States and do what little I can to further that agenda here.

    All I’m saying is that:

    1) there are gun owners in the UK who share the views of most folks here on TTAG,

    2) our rights (or permitted activities, to be more accurate… sadly) are actually more threatened by our fellow citizens than by our government, and

    3) although the government keeps tabs on who owns guns here in the UK, in fact they don’t make it as hard as most people think.

    Point (3) is the crucial one. If we are to improve the situation here in the UK we need to increase the gun-owning population from 0.01%

    And we are never going to do that with a hostile public who believe that gun ownership is prohibitively difficult and dangerous.

    God bless America, and God bless the Second Amendment – seriously – but also thank God that so far British governments have continuously NOT caved in to a public that wants to ban all guns…!

      • Hey MeRp… Thank you – major face palm.

        700k / 65m = 0.01 or 1%


        My point is the same though: gun owners are a small minority, and we’re lucky that the large anti-gun majority have not (so far) shut us down completely.

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective. Regarding “…but also thank God that so far British governments have continuously NOT caved in to a public that wants to ban all guns…!”, I’d argue that the one true function of government is to guarantee equal rights for all citizens. Your neighbors’ intolerance is reflected in the current state of antigun laws. Even without a full ban, your rights are violated. As it stands, your govt has failed you, a “minority” citizen, by incrementally caving to the discrimination demanded by the majority citizens.

      • Al, I sort of agree but not completely.

        Owning guns has never been a “right” in English law – unlike the U.S. Constitution which defines that right in the Second Amendment.

        In that sense, I don’t think it’s quite right to say that my government has failed to protect my rights (as a gun owner) by caving in to the majority.

        That would be kind of like me saying that the US Government has “failed to protect the rights” of drug users, because they have gone along with public opinion that allows some drugs / bans others.

        There is no constitutionally protected right to own drugs. Some are legitimately ownable with no paperwork (Tylenol), some need paperwork (prescription drugs), and some are plain illegal (coke, meth, etc.).

        In just the same way, absent a constitutionally protected right to bear arms in the UK, some are:

        Legal with no paperwork
        • Airguns under 12ft/lb

        Legal with paperwork
        • shotguns
        • .22lr semi auto
        • bolt action centre fire

        Illegal except for government agencies or other very specific uses:
        • machine guns
        • semi-auto centre fire
        • handguns

        The key issue is the fact that there is no such thing as a “right to bear arms”, and never has been.

        I’m not saying that’s a good thing – it isn’t.

        But that’s why I don’t feel that my government has failed me; I feel that it has protected me reasonably well from the paranoia of my fellow citizens.

        • Our rights are not given to us by our governments, they are natural rights which exist as long as we are freemen. Whether or not a government restricts the rights of its citizens depends on many factors, but the mark of a truly free society is a government that restricts as few rights as possible. One difference between the US and UK govt, is as you say, the 2nd Amendment, which is a promise from the US govt to its citizens that it will not violate our right to own and bear arms. However, it is important to note that whether the govt restricts the right to own and bear or not, it is a natural right. That is the perspective I’m coming from when I say the UK govt has failed you. It has chosen to violate your natural right at the whims of your neighbors. You are not a truly freeman because of both the hoplophobia of the majority and the failure of your govt to protect what is naturally yours.

        • “whether the govt restricts the right to own and bear or not, it is a natural right.”

          AI, everything you write is true. Unfortunately, I think we PotG harbor a certain sort of complacency (probably not quite the right way to describe it) that just because “our Creator” and our Constitution are on our side, our liberty to KBA will survive. I think we need to recognize – from history and the remainder of the world – that our liberty to KBA (together with most of the rest) dangle by a thread.

          Our founding fathers remarked (in the Federalist papers) that America was almost unique in the world. The kings of the European countries generally denied their subjects the right to arms. Our own history is fraught with laws and court cases where the right to bear arms (especially) have been severely infringed. Restoring a Right-to-Carry is merely a recent phenomena and is not complete with respect to 5 – 10 populous States.

          In my opinion, no right will survive unless at least a majority of voters decide to support that right. Perhaps not a simple majority is enough; a super-majority might be required. E.g., our right to be free of coerced testimony against ourselves is so-supported. If Mirana warnings were not so firmly established a part of our culture the police and legislatures would be rolling-it-back. Freedoms of speech and press are likewise well-supported.

          Freedom of religion, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, takings of property and other rights are not so firmly supported. And so, they are encroached upon unless-and-until the people demand they be protected. (The Kelo decision prompted most States’ legislatures to beef-up State protections against municipal takings.)

          The lesson for us PotG is that it is critical to work with our friends and neighbors to develop a supportive attitude toward the RKBA. Voters must begin to recognize the benefits of an armed citizenry and be disabused of the myths that guns in citizens’ hands will adversely affect public safety.

          In our fight for gun rights – particularly OC – we have to be very careful to portray the most positive and secure an image as we can muster. And yet, if we are to be effective, I firmly believe that we must promote OC. If we remain exclusively in the CC “closet” the public will never acclimate to guns in polite society.

          Although I fear the day – nevertheless – it might come. We might one day be obliged to raise the militia in defense of the 2A. Should that dreaded day ever come, it is especially on that day that the support of a super-majority of the public will be more essential then ever. Tyranny would not long stand-up to a militia backed by the non-armed public. It would stand much longer if the militia were NOT supported by the non-armed public.

        • Just wanted to add to my previous comment that the natural right I’m talking about isn’t the right to own dangerous metal objects. The natural right is the right to protect oneself and one’s loved ones. It is also the right to use the most efficient means to do so. Therefore arms for protection could mean guns, knives, swords, etc. but typically won’t include bombs and heavy ordnance. Now self protection against tyranny is something altogether different, imho, and I’m not going to open that can of worms.

        • “. . . typically won’t include bombs and heavy ordnance. Now self protection against tyranny is something altogether different, imho, and I’m not going to open that can of worms.”

          Yes, that is a can of worms. And yet, it is important not to discount it. That can appears in the opening clause of the 2A; it was moved from Madison’s draft – after the specification of the right – to its surviving position at the beginning. While stylistic, I think that move tells us something. What it tells us – in my opinion – is that the founders raised the “ceiling” on the purpose of arms to the highest possible level.

          Had they not so raised the ceiling “reasonable men” might have argued that the RKBA would have some “reasonable” limits such as hunting or personal self-defense. It might rise to the level of community defense; or, defense of one of the several States. However, without such a clause, one might reason that the intention of the RKBA would never have been intended to allow the People to rise-up against the Federal government. No such reasoning is plausible given the opening phrase of the 2A.

          “Bombs and heavy ordnance” is an issue we must be prepared to discuss; I don’t think we should shirk it. There are many ways to approach it. One is to say that the RKBA is somehow limited to weapons that could be used for self-defense; weapons that can be aimed at one or a few assailants. Another is to say that the RKBA is limited to what a man could carry by himself. I see NO point to conceding any such limitation at the outset. I see very little in my reading of the history of the Revolutionary and Constitutional period to suggest that there was any such consensus on limitations; why should we suddenly make academic concessions today? What good would concessions do?

          The extreem argument is that we must declare ourselves as to whether the 2A protects the right of the citizen to keep a nuclear bomb. I refuse to hold hostage the discussion of practical rights to some purely academic question. Would Princess Leia have a right to bear a light saber? Until we answer these questions my wife and daughter may not bear a revolver in the streets? Nonsense!

          Instead, I think we can take a position that we acquiesce to the NFA’s provision for “destructive devices”. If a citizen wants to make pipe-bombs for his amusement he is at liberty to do so; albeit he can be obliged to register such artifacts and pay a tax. If a ski-resort operator wants to keep a howitzer to protect his slopes from avalanche risk he is at liberty to do so; with registration and tax.

          We can reserve the right to challenge such registration and tax provisions on “destructive devices”. E.g., the $200 tax per bomb/shell is onerous. Nevertheless, the magnitude of impingement on the readiness of the militia is not so great as to make such registration and tax a major concern. Circumstances might change. We may need to take-up this issue at a later date.

          To illustrate, the doctrine of infantry warfare has substantially discounted the role of the submachine gun and assault rifle on full-auto since 1934. It is unusual for an infantryman to fire his M4/M-16 on full-auto. Usually he fires in burst mode. Perhaps, some day, we might see fit to seek a modification of the NFA to reduce the impediments on rifles that fire in burst mode. For the time being, the militia can maintain its marksmanship proficiency with semi-auto weapons.

          Today’s discussion really ought to be on the Right-to-Carry and GFZ. To discuss nuclear weapons, destructive devices, and full-auto weapons is all a distraction from much more important topics of immediate importance to public safety.

          Such a line of reasoning keeps us on-topic with the RKBA which we need to discuss with the non-gun-owning voter. We should not sub-come to the Anti’s rhetorical trick to demand that we first convince the voters that we have a right to nuclear weapons before our wives can carry revolvers. Why should we let the Anti’s take the discussion to such a place?

    • Gun ownership rates are crucial for the survival of gun ownership itself.

      I never followed up on the details, but it appears that after some changes in the permitting system in Massachusetts about 15 years ago, the number of permit holders dropped dramatically. Presumably, there had been enough “soft” gun owners who decided dealing with a tougher system wasn’t worth the bother. And once fewer than 10 percent of the households own firearms, it becomes a lot easier to keep introducing more and more restrictive laws. That’s the key to the “slippery slope” – keep making the permits more and more inconvenient and expensive until you drop the number of gun owners to where the vast majority of the population doesn’t have any personal experience and stake in firearm ownership.

      • This is 100% on the money.

        I replied somewhere else in this thread getting my maths wrong (I said 0.01% of Brits own guns, rather than 1% / 0.01) but you are absolutely right.

        The overwhelming majority – ninety nine percent – have no personal stake in the existence of guns, and only really see them on TV, or when a negative news article pops up.

        Also in this thread several people have pointed out that, since I said that I live on a 300 acre farm, and can shoot, I’m posh.

        Well it happens to be true that I am “posh”, as in an old family, but actually there are more shooters from rural working class backgrounds than any other group in the UK.

        Being posh actually makes me a doubly disliked minority (face palm!) because now the anti-gun majority can say: “look, it’s just these inbred aristocrats blasting cute furry/feathery things to death – FOR FUN”…

        But going back to the posh / working class thing, like I said, most gun owners are from the latter group. Sadly, neither they nor the posh group are influential:
        • Poshos are very unfashionable for politicians: you want to be seen helping the “have nots”, rather than the “haves”.
        • Rural working class are not unionised, represent a small fraction of the total population, and have no central lobbying / coordinating body (eg. NRA) to put the case for their rights

        So when the vast majority of the population is urban, middle-class, and has been brought up to hate guns……. well then, in that context the situation as it is now could easily be a lot worse!

  31. How long would it take before similar laws in the USA were considered “not that bad”. One generation, two maybe?

    • Ask any people of the gun in California, Massachusetts or New York, they hear it from the hoplophobes all the time. It’s been over twenty years since the stupidity went to eleven in California and probably not much less elsewhere.

      Ten round mag cap restrictions, no SBR/SBSs, bullet button, pistol roster, certs, 10-day waiting period, not to mention the fools who think the key to reducing violence in California is to take away guns and restrict ammo sales. And our state senators who run guns while two-facing it in Sacred-tomato. It’s pretty effin’ bad to my eyes.

  32. I noticed that a lot of people here refer the author as an “apologist” or “brainwashed”. I don’t see him saying that he likes, or even accepts, the status quo, just that he deals with it and does his best to keep shooting despite the restrictions. In fact, he even says that he would not have passed these restrictions, if he had had veto power at the time. Lighten up and support your fellow gun owners around the world.

    Also, I think he misconstrues the idea of open carry. Cased isn’t open carry. Disassembled isn’t open carry. Open carry means loaded and holstered (or slung for a long gun). I suspect the bobbies would consider American style open carry “a threatening manner”. I don’t think there’s any state in the US that is more restrictive than the UK when it comes to carrying a gun in public.

    But given that 20% of our states (containing more than 20% of the population) ban suppressors outright, a few of the remaining ban them for hunting, and the rest of us still have to set up a trust (or have an existing one), wait six months or longer, and pay a $200 premium to transfer ownership, I am jealous of him on that point, and only on that point.

  33. Assuming this as positive spin as could be put on the UK’s firearms laws; it sounds like a set of laws of, by, and for Fudds. Sure, it’s “not that bad” compared, to, say, a totalitarian dictatorship, but, it still isn’t very good, at least not for anyone that isn’t purely interested in hunting.

  34. “And given the constraints of a small and crowded island, we don’t have that many places where recreational use of semi-auto ARs would be sensible.”

    That’s just silly. A quick look at the UK in Google Earth reveals quite a bit of open space. The UK has a high population density compared with the US, but it is not evenly distributed. Some areas look lonely compared to the rural area in Illinois where I shoot.

    Furthermore, why does shooting a semi-auto AR require more space than any other center fire rifle? This guy must think a range session in the US resembles a wedding celebration in Saudi Arabia.

    • Hey CentralIL,

      I’ve seen some Middle Eastern weddings, and no, I’m not suggesting that U.S. ranges are like that.

      But the reason I think there are (relatively) few places suitable for AR range in the UK is because we are a small, densely populated island and even the open spaces that exist may be dedicated to other purposes.

      Sure, you could restrict public rights of access in order to create a safe range; or you could farm elsewhere; or you could raise game for seasonal hunting on a different patch of land, or whatever. But you’re pretty much always going to be sacrificing something.

      You are pretty much always going to have neighbours within earshot, and you can pretty much guarantee some of them are going to complain about semi-auto gunfire.

      Plus, given that ~70% of people here think all guns should be banned, it’s unlikely to go unchallenged for long if you start shooting with “scary looking” ARs. I mean hell, there are even states in the U.S. that ban or restrict ARs because they’re “assault weapons” – or so I understand.

  35. Very interesting and thank you for writing this out.

    It does not appears as bad as we popularly assume. Also thank you for explaining how the practicalities of gun ownership differ.

    However – the critical difference in mentality is in the last paragraph. Exactly who WOULD take away your guns? The government, obviously. And you are just one massacre and unfortunate election away from the government taking your guns (would it be hard to lock the doors of an elementary school and kill everybody with a O/U shotgun in England? Of course not). Americans (well, actual Americans) tend to believe that they have some inherent rights when it comes to self-determination and self defense. Different mentality.

    It is interesting you see a role in your government explaining guns to an ignorant public. Half of my family is German and I’ve been there many times. It strikes me that while Americans would disagree with many of the laws and compromises in Europe – civil servants in Europe tend to at least accurately and efficiently enforce and serve the law. Unlike here – our “rule of law” however you measure it seems to be going down the crapper. Interaction with governmental authorities here always feels like a scam.

    • Well, I’m not saying the situation for gun owners is good either…! It certainly is NOT as good as the States, for example.

      On the last paragraph – this is genuinely key, to me. The various governments I have lived through have all, without exception, done things that I strongly disagree with. In some cases with very direct effects on me: for example, compulsory purchase of land for construction.

      But, at least, they have not banned all private gun ownership completely, as desired by a large majority of the population.

      I’m not saying it can’t or won’t happen: another massacre would certainly be a possible trigger. But they wouldn’t be acting against the will of the people, they would after quite a long period be following the will of the people. In fact though, looking at the most recent few (we do have mass shootings here, too) they have mostly been with legally held weapons, and while the media is very quick to say that more restriction is needed, government hasn’t even discussed it. Fingers crossed…..!

  36. If you have always been blind, you don’t know anything else. Note that gun fatalities are counted only after a court conviction. An unsolved murder isn’t.

  37. Interesting read. I could not ever live there. I would have to give up too much. It’s not in my blood…

    • UK gun laws is merely scratching the surface. It’s a country where the government can issue a blanket authorization to stop and search people with no cause (not even “reasonable suspicion” standard) in a certain area to “prevent terrorism”. And, if arrested under suspicion of terrorism, they can detain you without charging you with anything for two weeks. If you have anything encrypted, refusing to divulge the encryption key is punished by up to 2 years in jail; and they’re actively trying to make all encryption that doesn’t have a government backdoor illegal.

      It’s a country where the Prime Minister says things like:

      “We have always been able, on the authority of the home secretary, to sign a warrant and intercept a phone call, a mobile phone call or other media communications, but the question we must ask ourselves is whether, as technology develops, we are content to leave a safe space—a new means of communication—for terrorists to communicate with each other. My answer is no, we should not be, which means that we must look at all the new media being produced and ensure that, in every case, we are able, in extremis and on the signature of a warrant, to get to the bottom of what is going on.”

      and gets considerable public support. It’s like the PATRIOT Act level of crazy is completely normal there.

      • Int19h,

        This is absolutely correct, and deeply concerning. Not addressed in my article as the focus was on firearm laws… But deeply worrying.

        It started with New Labour, under Blair, and while we could have expected a Conservative government to dial back the statist intrusion into citizens’ lives, in fact they have continued the trend.

  38. about 4 states are worse than Canada when it comes to firearms regulation.

    Even NJ and Hawaii don’t come close to the egregious and excessive regulation that the Queen’s subjects are under.

  39. I didn’t see this in the post. Maybe I missed it but what about the part where British police can come in your home unannounced and warrantless to inspect your guns and their proper storage? 4th Amendment much? Oh, that’s right we have the 4th. In an historical note, the Magna Carta was presented to King John at the point of a sword.

    • Well, the current regime in the UK doesn’t have to worry about anything being presented at the point of a sword. They have all the swords. Which is always the real point.

      The serfs weren’t forbidden weapons to reduce the murder rate among agricultural workers.

      When you have the means to resist tyranny, resistance can seem like a good idea – and we just can’t have that!

    • Hey Jim,

      This is a (very!) new development.

      I actively oppose it, as do all of our shooting bodies. And in fact even civil liberties groups in the UK, which normally hate guns, are on side with the shooters in this case.

      It may or may not survive in law. It hasn’t yet been challenged, as far as I know. But I hope that when it is, it’s challenged hard.

  40. The number of knife attacks would lead me to believe there is a legitimate reason to carry a weapon. Sadly you cannot, and further more acts of violence in the form of defense are looked down upon.

  41. This is laughable, you guys are fucking peons. Brits have pretty much tucked in their nuts, put security cameras up everywhere and completely surrendered to the nanny state.

    So you can get a bolt action rifle if you have a place to lock it up and can “demonstrate a need for it”? How many of those requested permits get denied? I bet a lot, especially in urban areas.

    Not to mention nowhere to practice, your fucking olympic team has to fly to Germany to practice for christ sake. Your newspapers recently described the “ammo hoard” of a Scotsman who had 40 or so rounds of 22LR. The horror!

    The fact that you are trying to rationalize it and argue it’s not “that bad” just shows how bad it really is. Whatever happens don’t emigrate to the US, we already have enough liberal nits that think that we can make everyone safe and cozy by implementing laws like yours.

    • Hi Lone Ranger,

      I’m not saying that it’s “not that bad”, and I’m not justifying the current laws in the UK.

      I reckon I was pretty clear in the opening paragraphs of my article (and in the title!) that the law may it be as bad as many people think – but right through I am pretty clear that it’s far from good.

      As I’ve said in response to several others here, unless you have a bunch of illegal ARs and untaxed silencers then you are complying with the law of your land, just as I am complying with the law of mine.

      Doesn’t make you a peon to obey your laws, any more than it makes me a peon to obey mine.

      If you are an outlaw gunslinger then fine, I’ll take that flak from you and I have no comeback. Otherwise I can’t really let the peon/serf/slave thing stand.

      • Gabriel,
        The text of your posting and your follow-up comments speak for themselves. You have simply described the law and your experience of it in the UK. That’s informative and I thank you for this.

        There are altogether too many individuals among us PotG who can think of nothing better to do than jump down the throats of anyone who doesn’t adopt their own absolutist mentality. These people must have learned their intolerance from Progressives.

        The most severe problem I see in your UK system is that you have effective national registration. You have no “ghost guns” or un-trace-able secondary market.

        In the US we have the liberty to make our own guns; and, there are plenty of amateur gunsmiths who actually do make their own guns. We have a thriving market in “80% receivers” for the faint-of-heart and the craftsmanship-challanged. We really like things this way: ‘Come and get’em; IF you can FIND them!’ When CT and NY tried to register their existing inventories of modern sporting rifles they achieved a whopping 5% compliance rate.

        I think our politicians get the picture; they can have our guns just as soon as they are willing to undergo a civil war. That is our system by design.

        The biggest issue we (probably) have to worry about is our 4473 form. When anyone buys a gun from a FFL dealer he has to fill out this form. The FFL has to retain this form for 20 years! More disturbing, when the FFL goes out-of-business, he has to send the forms to the ATF for perpetual storage. Clearly, this is something of a proto-registration system.

        The sole saving grace is that most States do not require a 4473 form when a non-dealer gives or sells a gun to another person. So, much of the existing documented inventory is – or might have – “leaked” into the secondary market with no record keeping. ‘Yes, Officer Friendly, I did buy that Colt 10 years ago; some years later I sold it to someone I met at a bar; don’t recall his name but I assure you he was a Good O’l Boy.’ As long as this lack of paperwork prevails in most States ‘Come and get’em; IF you can FIND them!’

        We Americans are NOT like Brits. We are non-violent and in-the-main willing to observe laws that we understand serve the public good. Nevertheless, we are NOT going to do what our betters tell us when it flies in the face of our sense of our liberties. The problem the politicians and Antis have is the great difficulty in overcoming the text of our 2A. There is not much they can do with “shall not be infringed” and there is nothing that SCOTUS could ever write that would alter our understanding of that text.

        • I wasn’t aware of the 4473 form, and certainly the 20yrs / permanent on handover to BATFE is pretty alarming… But certainly, the lack of record keeping on private sales must have a huge impact in limiting government’s direct knowledge as regards gun ownership.

          A couple of thoughts on your argument that “We Americans are NOT like Brits. We are non-violent and in-the-main willing to observe laws that we understand serve the public good. Nevertheless, we are NOT going to do what our betters tell us when it flies in the face of our sense of our liberties.”

          I assume you mean that you are like Brits eg. non-violent and law-abiding; but unlike in that you won’t do what your betters tell you if it contravenes your liberties.

          If I am correct in that assumption then my main issue is with the notion that many Americans have, that we are dictated to by “our betters”.

          Our government is directly elected by the people, and our Prime Minister has no executive authority (unlike the President). the Queen has no executive authority, and nor do any of the hereditary upper classes. I therefore just cannot see why anyone would think that we in the UK are trampled upon by our “betters”.

          Actually, if anything, our politicians are so scared of their population not re-electing them that they pander excessively to the popular will.

          Labour banned fox hunting despite a very strong opposition in all rural areas, because their voter base is mainly urban and doesn’t understand it: it was a vote winner for them. Likewise, after the Dunblane Massacre in 1997 Labour also banned handguns because polling showed over 80% of the population wanted them banned.

          It would have been a brave government that stood up for the rights of the handgun-owning 0.5% against the wishes of 80%+…?

          The 80% are certainly not my “betters”, and not am I theirs. But they are the majority, and the wind blows their way. I and my fellow gun owners do what we can to promote shooting and increase understanding, but it’s an uphill struggle to say the least.

          “The problem the politicians and Antis have is the great difficulty in overcoming the text of our 2A. There is not much they can do with “shall not be infringed””:

          Absolutely – and you are exceptionally fortunate to live in a country born out of a struggle which made that text necessary. We in the UK do not live in such a country, nor enjoy that constitutional protection.

        • “I wasn’t aware of the 4473 form, and certainly the 20yrs / permanent on handover to BATFE is pretty alarming… But certainly, the lack of record keeping on private sales must have a huge impact in limiting government’s direct knowledge as regards gun ownership.”
          The private sales (better non-dealer sales) was the great safety valve Congress designed for us; and I’m confident it was deliberate. Congress has consistently voted to prohibit any sort of effective national registry and in WW-II provided for confiscation of many goods excepting guns. We are facing a threat of creating UBCs which – as BCs are a huge nuisance – but the REAL threat is incremental paperwork on the majority of the inventory. We need to crank-up our consumption of 80% receivers.

          . . .

          “I assume you mean that you are like Brits eg. non-violent and law-abiding; but unlike in that you won’t do what your betters tell you if it contravenes your liberties.”
          Yes, you are correct.

          If I am correct in that assumption then my main issue is with the notion that many Americans have, that we are dictated to by “our betters”.
          OK, let’s examine this.

          Our government is directly elected by the people, . . . I therefore just cannot see why anyone would think that we in the UK are trampled upon by our “betters”.

          These MPs whom you elect assume the mantle of “your betters” just as our Congress-critters assume that mantle for us. You have a formal nobility that no longer much matters. We have a quasi-nobility of politicos, captains of industry, academics, main-stream-media who are the arbiters of truth and beauty in our culture. These are OUR betters.

          “Actually, if anything, our politicians are so scared of their population not re-electing them that they pander excessively to the popular will.”
          So are ours; but unfortunately, not scared enough. Our politicians attempt to do what ever they see fit and hide behind parliamentary devices so that their constituents never really understand what they are really doing. Unfortunately, our politicians have led their sheep to the slaughterhouse. In many ways, most of our population is as bad-off as most of your population.

          The difference – as I see it – is that we have a much larger fraction of our population who are willing to be pushed to the brink; but not over it. When push comes to shove, . . . well, there is a saying here: “We got the guns, they don’t. Where’s the problem?” Whereas you may have a fraction of 1% with this attitude, we may have 10% – 20% (as a perfectly crude guess.)

          “Labour banned fox hunting . . . .” It would have been a brave government that stood up for the rights of the handgun-owning 0.5% against the wishes of 80%+…?”

          Yes, this is a difference. You have a sort-of-a republic where the principle is “majority rules”. We have a sort-of-a republic where – at least in principle – the Constitution rules. Under Constitutional supremacy it should not matter in principle that 317 million agree to – let’s say – give Marsha Clarke a second go at O.J. Simpson. What matters is that the Constitution bars double-jepardy. It matters not one whit if he were guilty. It matters not one whit what the majority wants. It matters only that we have established a Constitutional right against double-jeopardy.

          That principle notwithstanding, I believe that no enumerated right can withstand a majority opposition. Unless and until a majority is ready to support a right, it is in great jeopardy. Nevertheless, clearly enumerated Constitutional rights carry a lot of sway with a large segment of the American psyche. So, for example, a lot of people may not like guns at all – nevertheless, they will concede that the 2A is controlling. This establishes a back-stop beyond which the Progressives can not push successfully.

          Moreover, when the Progressives pass a law that is deemed too onerous by the resistant among their populations, the American spirit is willing to respond: “We will not comply!” In CO, WA, NY, CT, as recent examples, a majority to super-majority of County Sheriffs have publicly announced: “We will not enforce!” Under such circumstances – i.e., the People and their Chief Law Enforcement officers tell the Progressives that they can take their law – roll it up – and shove it where the sun don’t shine – it becomes evident that there is a limit to the power of the majority to rule.

          “The 80% are certainly not my “betters”, and not am I theirs. But they are the majority, and the wind blows their way. I and my fellow gun owners do what we can to promote shooting and increase understanding, but it’s an uphill struggle to say the least.”

          Under your culture perhaps this is about the best you can do. Under our culture, we have other options. Our culture of constitutionalism gives us options. Our culture of disobedience to the law (see Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, etc.) gives us options. And, finally, our inventory (apparently upwards of 300 million) and ammunition stockpile makes us a force to be reckoned with at the time of our choosing.

          “We in the UK do not live in such a country, nor enjoy that constitutional protection.”
          Hmmmm; you could change that. We did in 1775. Your forefathers did in the Glorious Revolution and at Runneymead.

          As somewhat of an aside, Mexico has an entirely different cultural relationship vis-a-vis the law. Citizens and residents may keep low-calibre arms but are prohibited higher calibre and military-specific arms (e.g., .223/5.56 are banned notwithstanding they are small-calibre). Nevertheless, as a practical matter, there is no effective impediment to keeping prohibited arms in your home. Should you be denounced, the army will simply confiscate the guns. So, a serious “collector” would think little of acquiring and keeping a machine-gun or other prohibited weapon. (I was amused to note a relative’s trophy den where he hung a half-dozen carbines. One was an M1 – a prohibited model. I doubt he was even aware that it was prohibited.) In one State the militia (auto-defenses) go armed – openly – with a mixture of permitted and prohibited weapons; some AK-47 machine guns. Periodically, the army harasses them and jails some; nevertheless, they persevere.

          We have recently suffered a few jihadi attacks on our soil; events that are slowly beginning to resonate with the population here. By historical measure, it seems as though a loss of 3,000 or so innocents is the threshold upon which Americans will wake-up; albeit our ability to maintain concentration on the objective might be limited to 4 years or so.

          You chaps in Briton, plus your brothers on the continent, seem to be farther down the road toward a war of – may I say “civilizations” in the plural? With the paucity of arms in the hands of the People, and nearly all these in rural areas, you won’t be able to respond in-the-moment. Nor will your largely disarmed constabulary be able to provide an initial response in the moment. I wonder what the reaction will be IF/WHEN the SHTF in the EU.

          IF/WHEN our turn in the barrel comes it will not be a pretty site. He who has the initiative has the upper-hand. Nevertheless, we CAN respond – in minutes. In roughly 40 States we can respond without legal impediments. E.g., in PA where OC is virtually unheard-of, the streets could be flooded with OCiers overnight. In places such as MI or MO or TX (to say nothing of AZ and NM) the population wouldn’t wait until dawn.

          No doubt, there would be plenty of innocent blood in the streets resulting from jihadi attacks. Yet, the casualties would be limited by an immediate response. This could not happen in the EU.

        • MarkPA, thank you very much for taking the time to work through my reply in detail.

          I think you’re right on pretty much every point; and indeed from this thread I’d say we are (intellectually) in exactly the same place on this issue.

          Regarding SHTF scenarios: this is why I (along with my wife) took the decision to move our family out of London and into an area we know well, and where we are at a greater advantage. If S genuinely does HTF then sure we’ll struggle, as most people anywhere would, but we will at least have given ourselves every possible chance.

          In fact we were living in London, nearby to the centre of the violence during the London Riots a few years ago. It was extremely scary, and while it didn’t directly affect us, the fact of being so vulnerable made a lasting impression on me.

          If you ever head over this way, sir, I’d be happy to buy you a drink and take you out to shoot what guns we’re allowed to shoot! 🙂

        • Thanks for the invite. I’ve been to London a number of times; sort of on and off. Don’t expect to go again; but will keep you in mind. Likewise, let me know if you come to PA (near Philadelphia).

  42. ho lee shit, I think I might have nightmares after reading that. Thank God King George tried to take away our guns all those years ago.

  43. In the history of Great Britain, English food has killed more Brits than all the civilian guns they ever owned. But the guns are banned while bangers and mash are available without a license.

    It’s a strange, strange world we live in, Master Jack.

  44. Quite a few on TTAG reckon that the UK is a socialist “police state”, intent on eliminating the right of its “subjects” (not citizens) to bear arms, and implementing ever-expanding surveillance programmes and curtailing civil liberties of all sorts.

    Or, you know, anyone who’s ever read the news from the UK. It doesn’t surprise me that you’re trying to claim that the facts aren’t true, it’s quite common for those who live in oppressive countries to cover their ears and scream “LA LA LA! I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”.

    • What facts have I claimed to be untrue?

      Rather than making derogatory comments about others, I have simply tried to give a slightly more accurate and factual portrayal of the law in Britain.

      Do I like it? Not really, no. Do I live with it, and do the best I can despite it? Yes.

      Are you so different?

  45. Thanks for the post! I found it very informative and it dispelled some misconceptions I had about British firearms law. Further, it pointed out the numerous similarities..and differences…between British law & Canadian law, which I have to live within.

    Something worth pointing out to my American Friends here is that while I envy your rights regarding firearms in many ways, there are some aspects of them I have a little difficulty with. I’m completely of a mind that if I am an upstanding citizen & not a criminal, pay my taxes, etc. that it isn’t the Governments job to tell me what I can or cannot do. Sadly, when it comes to guns they can & Do just that. Things have improved somewhat since the dramatic restrictions were enacted in the last decade of the 20th century, but we’re still faced with many impediments.

    Where the U.S. and the U.K. can possess suppressors, with the U.K. appearing to have a leg up in that regard (no tax stamp or months of waiting), we in Canada cannot under ANY circumstance possess one, nor is that argument even on the agenda of our gun rights organizations. While we’re a long way from the U.S. in terms of freedom to access & carry pistols, we’re head & shoulders ahead of the U.K., as we are with rifles of the semi-auto variety. We have a licensing system, one for the purchase, & possession of long arms, and another more restrictive licence for pistols, short barrel centre fire rifles. We have no carry rights…i.e. unless you’re an LEO, handgun carry is effectively impossible. There are some exceptions; trappers can be licensed for carry while trapping and very rarely a non-LEO licence is issued, but they’re scarce. A LEO here must possess the same licence, and off duty they cannot carry legally either.

    Our licensing system eliminates some of the US issues with SBR’s and reduced length shotguns; no tax stamp needed to buy a short barrel AR, you can obtain one easily with a restricted weapons permit, however use is restricted to a range.

    Do I wish we had the ability to carry? With all of my heart. Would I like to have a suppressor or three? You betcha. Can’t do either, but Canada is generally either pro-gun or ambivalent; the anti-gun types are nowhere near as numerous or as organized as they are in the U.S., so maybe some day we’ll have both the ability to carry a handgun and own a suppressor.

    At the risk of being viciously attacked& flamed to death, I really don’t have a huge problem with the licensing requirements here. It forces everyone wanting to own a firearm to take at least a minimal amount of training to pass the exam portion, which I don’t see as a bad thing; you may have lots of people under-trained who own guns, but you don’t see very many gun owners completely devoid of any training either, unlike some parts of the U.S. where the only thing standing between legal gun ownership and anyone with a pulse is having enough cash to buy one.

    One last thing worth noting; if you were to do a careful analysis of gun laws in the Western hemisphere, I think you’ll find more countries laws are aligned with the British/Canadian model than the U.S. model. I’m NOT saying one model is better or superior to another; there are parts of each that I like. Something that does bug me though is hearing depreciatory comments made like there were in this post, suggesting that one place or another were horrible places to live, that citizens were “slaves”, etc. because their country did not have the same gun laws as the U.S.; it’s untrue, it’s not germane to the post in the first place, and I don’t think its beneficial in any way to attack the OP or the nation he lives in because their laws are different that yours. He was trying to clear up some common misconceptions, and did that admirably. I found it very enlightening. It doesn’t make me what to live in Britain, but then the redneck, gunslinger attitude some of the American posters showed doesn’t particularly make me what to live there, either.

    • Wayne – thank you for that, interesting to learn more about the differences between the UK and Canada. I actually didn’t realise that Canada was as permissive as it is (specifically, I didn’t know SBRs and semi-auto centre fire were permitted).

      Good luck with that loosening up! Sadly I think it’s unlikely ever to be de-restricted here… but as per my original post, I hope (and have some precedent for hoping) that it won’t get worse.

      Hell, if it does I might just move to the States despite the posters who’ve asked me not to import my serf-like self (joke).

      Joking aside… I don’t really see how arming oneself as far as possible while living within the law of the land makes me, or any other gun-owning Brit, servile. Unless the people arguing that position are all toting non-licensed full autos, illegal SBRs, and concealed carrying in states that outlaw it. In which case while I might question their judgement I will certainly accept that their commitment to the right to bear arms (and go to jail for so doing) is stronger than mine!

    • The Conservatives will eventually be out of power in Canada – nothing is for ever, after all. What are your expectations as to how your gun laws may change after that?

      • I think the general fear is that when the Conservatives DO fall (hard to believe in Canada, but when Alberta ditched them after more than 40 YEARS, anything is possible), that we will see a regression in the law, not improvement.

        The Conservatives have gotten rid of the Long Gun Registry, thankfully. It’s also been long enough now that the data they still have is so badly outdated it’s of no consequence. There was enough support across most demographics that a re-instatement would be a death knell for the Party trying to get it fired up again. What I do think WILL happen is that the myriad of small changes made to the current legislation will be reversed or toughened up considerably.

        Per capita ownership in Canada is surprisingly high, but the historic reasoning has not changed a great deal for over a century; they are tools to protect one’s livestock from predators. We’ve been primarily an agricultural nation, and you’d be hard pressed to find a farmhouse without a shotgun and a rimfire or small centre fire rifle, expressly for that purpose. Personal defence has only become a serious concern in the last 30 years or so.
        That’s given rise to several pro-gun advocacy groups lobbying for change. There is anti-guns groups but they’re fragmented and not terribly effective. I expect that will change with a different government.

        The biggest issue we face is the RCMP, who through their chief firearms officers in each Province setting down rules arbitrarily. They do have guidelines & legislation they must comply with, but their powers currently are far too widespread and huge inconsistencies in application of law exist from one Province to another. There is work underway by the Conservatives to limit this; lets hope they succeed before they’re voted out

        • To what extent is gun-culture in Canada susceptible to influence by what happens here south of the boarder?

          I can foresee in 20 years or so that a pretty hefty percentage of American adults have carry permits and most of these will be carrying much of the time. Assuming present circumstances continue to prevail – i.e., lawful carriers don’t shoot anyone often enough to warrant discussion – and criminal attacks on law-abiding victims result in victim survival, would that change anything in Canada? Would Canadians demand the liberty to carry?

  46. And…

    “Handguns and SMGs are, with a few very heavily regulated exceptions, illegal for all except LE/Military.”

    …done. Right there, full stop, done.

    What’s the point of being able to easily buy a suppressor if you can’t get what you want to hang it on?

    That’s like being able to buy, oh, shoelaces, but you’re not allowed to buy shoes.

  47. Gabriel Carter thank you for the piece. UK firearms laws are not as bad as I thought, but they are still pretty bad.

    For all of us across the pond think of how far we have fallen before you beat your chest . . . Consider:

    1. Full auto weapons are so difficult and expensive to possess legally its accurate to call them illegal.

    2. We have barrel length requirements for shotguns and rifles and if you do not meet them you fall into Title II land. You can own them legally but w/ permission like this guy does.

    3. Silencers and explosives can be had but infringed and permission must be had.

    4. For the most part you cannot buy firearms directly through the mail or over the internet.

    5. GCA restrictions on ammunition composition.

    6. GCA prohibiting certain persons from lawfully possessing a firearm.

    And that is just at the federal level. There are myriads of state and local laws governing weapons (not just guns), ammunition, and accessories. You used to be able to buy explosives and cocaine over the counter in this country. You could “blow” off steam legally in 2 ways in one afternoon 🙂 Our current situation makes our exceptionalism seem not so exceptional.

  48. The homicide rate in the UK may be low, but not any lower than it is in 97% of the USA. The UK does seem to have a lot of ‘accidents’ though. I saw a documentary about this called ‘Hot Fuzz’.

  49. So OP you admit you can’t carry a handgun in the UK for self defense? Thanks for playing and proving that brit gun laws are as bad as we think they are and that brits are slaves.

  50. Thank you Mister Carter for this article. I’m sorry that you get so much bad responses to it. You’re not a slave, like me, and we in Germany have similar rules to yours.
    What the US people here don’t get and don’t seam to understand is the vast difference in culture. Across Europe gun ownership is more or less seen as a privilege, not a right. That difference comes from different histories with guns in general.
    It also seams easier to understand (at least for me) the different points of view from the European perspective. Do I think some Americans are gun crazy? On this and other sites on the Internet sometimes yes. Do I understand or at least try to understand their perspective? Yes, I do. Do they (the Americans) try to understand our point of view? Judging from the comments on this article and comments on other articles here, not really.
    Are guns fascinating? Hell yes. Do I have to own one? No, why should I? The nearest police station is less then 5 minutes away, if the police officers want/have to get here fast, they can. Also I don’t hunt or shoot as a sport.
    Do violent crimes happen here? Yes, they do. Do I fear for my life/health daily, because I don’t carry a gun or a knife around? Not really, opposed to most Germans, we really do love our fears and to complain allot.
    Now to some statistics: Which violent crime rate is higher US or Germany? Answer: US, higher manslaughter/murder rate , higher rape rate and the list goes on. Which country fears more that a violent crime occurs? Answer: Germany. As I said before, we Germans love our fears.
    Is there an anti-gun movement? For both countries that would be a yes. Is in Germany a strong public opinion pro or anti gun? Not really in either way, at least not that I can say, opinions from others may differ. (Here I write opinions, because I don’t have data to back this up)
    Why I can understand the differences more? I don’t really know the answer to that, but I can guess. I get the fascination firearms hold and I get that the US has a different history with them, to have other laws on that subject. I also get that some Americans feel the need to arm them selfs, against human or beast. They have other distances there, so that at least in some places help can really be far away. Also from personal experience of my nephew you seem to have less police officers on the streets, no matter of the size of the city.

  51. Thank you for your very informative posting about the UK’s gun laws. We should use the points we can. E.g., “Even the Limey Brits welcome silencers”. “Even the Brits don’t make an issue of magazine size for rifles.”

    As to: “You can use any level of force and any means available to you, provided that your actions are “minimum, reasonable and proportionate”. . . . [I]f somebody charges at you with a knife and you happen to have a loaded rifle or shotgun to hand, then…you should be in the clear.” Can you site cases to support this opinion (you wrote “should” not “would”.)

    I’ve inquired of several British expats and they uniformly have told me that you can not use a gun in self-defense. They might be mis-informed and you might be right. However, I have read of one case of a farmer with a licensed shotgun who used it to kill an intruder; he was sentenced to prison.

    Once you develop a country of hoplophobes you will have a bench and jury pool of hoplophobes. The black-letter law may speak to a right of self-defense; nevertheless, the judgement might still be that the intruder did not have a large enough club to justify shooting with a 28-gage shotgun.

    Is there any evolution in the sentiments of Brits? Are enough Brits concerned about Islamic and criminal violence to press for loosening of the gun laws?

    It’s my understanding that non-lethal violence from criminals is soaring in the UK; so much so that the constabulary is forced to cook-its-books to try to minimize public recognition of the problem. It seems to me that the threat of physical violence is so close to the risk of lethal violence that the two really ought to be equated as nearly one-in-the-same. Why should I take confidence in the gentility of a criminal who uses the smallest tire-iron to separate me from my money or womenfolk?

    • Hey MarkPA, thanks for your post and your thoughts.

      I’ll try to cite a few cases regarding the (slowly!) improving situation / case law on self defence.

      First though I need to put the record straight on the farmer you refer to (“I have read of one case of a farmer with a licensed shotgun who used it to kill an intruder; he was sentenced to prison.”)

      Tony Martin had suffered several burglaries at his farm, and eventually decided enough was enough. He set up an effective ambush and, using an ILLEGALLY held 12ga., shot the two burglars – one of whom died. He went down for murder, appealed, and it was reduced to manslaughter with mitigation: he served three years, which is about the same as the surviving burglar did. I don’t know about you, but personally I feel he got away fairly lightly given the law of the land (which I am not necessarily defending)…?

      Anyway, back to the case law. I’m not aware of many cases involving guns. Likely because (a) there aren’t that many and (b) they are required to be kept locked and secure, and any hint that you’re keeping one “for” self defence is a no-no. However there are other cases, not involving guns but still consisting of deadly force, where the courts have quite strongly upheld the rights of the homeowner:

      1) Law Commission report on Partial Defences to Murder (2004): basically, the general guidance to judges is that absent any truly exceptional circumstances, battered wives, abused kids, victims of kidnap etc. should not go down for murder, if at all, because of the mitigating circumstances. The same report also guides judges to sentence on the basis that a homeowner is likely to be acting in fear, up to and including fear for their life, when responding to an intrusion – and therefore may well be justified in using deadly force (though obviously it will, again, depend on the exact circumstances).

      2) Crown Prosecution Guidelines on Self Defence (2012) are very clear that it is lawful to act in reasonable self-defence, even if the intruder dies as a result. However, prosecution could result from “very excessive and gratuitous force”, such as attacking someone who is unconscious. For instance, the CPS decided not to prosecute one woman who snatched a baseball bat from an intruder and smashed him over the head. Had the woman continued to beat the man to a pulp, after he had already fallen and posed no threat, that would probably be considered as unlawful. As a contrary case, two brothers whose shop was robbed caught the robber and kidnapped him; then put him in a pit and burned him to death with petrol. They’re in jail… and rightly so.

      3) Andrew Ferrie 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, and 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.

      Basically, I wouldn’t want to be the one testing it in court (!) but if it ever were to go that far I’m reasonably confident that I, as a responsible and moderately well trained firearms user, would have acted in accordance with the law – even if that went as far as DGU.

      But let’s be honest, whilst I’m absolutely prepared to go there if needed (it’s my job to do so if needed, when overseas…) I’d still obviously hope never to be in such a position, and therefore do what I can to mitigate the threat before it gets to that stage.

      • Quick edit to my post above, specifically regarding Labour losing power:

        The Conservative Party, in power now, is significantly more pro- the rights of the individual than the more left-wing Labour Party.

        While there is a separation between the judiciary and government, nevertheless the government influences the ‘flavour’ of he law to an extent. For example, MPs (members of parliament, not Military Police!) may lobby on behalf of a constituent, and in this sense the current Conservative government has already shown itself to be much more strongly on the side of the homeowner or other victim who actually stands up for him/herself.

  52. So you proved it was every bit as bad as I thought and in some cases worse. Also, you lied about a few things about self defense. What about the guy who defended himself against three (or was it only two – doesn’t matter) giants wielding pipes and tire irons trying to beat him to a bloody pulp (yes, I said bloody). He used a shotgun. Since the “college students” were only twice his weight/size and wielding blunt weapons, the guy is in prison for life for protecting himself and his wife from CERTAIN AGONIZING DEATH. His duty was to die in agony and allow his wife to die in agony. I can’t fathom the level of evil you must have to apologize for that.

    • Hi BluesMike…

      Bit strong to call me a liar. I might (might) have been wrong, but if so then it was in good faith.

      Extending a bit more courtesy to you than you did to me – could I please ask for a bit more information about this:

      “the guy who defended himself against three (or was it only two – doesn’t matter) giants wielding pipes and tire irons trying to beat him to a bloody pulp (yes, I said bloody). He used a shotgun. Since the “college students” were only twice his weight/size and wielding blunt weapons, the guy is in prison for life for protecting himself and his wife from CERTAIN AGONIZING DEATH. His duty was to die in agony and allow his wife to die in agony.”…….?

      I can’t find any information about that particular case – not that I’m calling you a liar – but since the law of the UK is very clear that protecting yourself (or anyone else) from “CERTAIN AGONIZING DEATH” makes deadly force in self defence completely legitimate, I am concerned at the miscarriage of justice that may have occurred. So please, point me to a source for this and I’ll campaign to get the guy out.

      Finally, to your conclusion: “I can’t fathom the level of evil you must have to apologize for that.”…

      Well, I didn’t apologize for it and would not attempt to do so. If the guy has gone to jail for defending himself and his loved ones from certain agonising death then a horrible judicial error has occurred, and I sincerely will do anything I can to raise awareness of this and reverse that miscarriage of justice.

      If however you’ve described something which did not actually happen… then I’m still not apologizing for it because I don’t for a second believe that a case with those specific facts would (even in theory) result in a conviction of the gun owner for a legitimate DGU.

  53. I recommend everyone who is a gun owner or wants to know why the 2nd amendment was written into the US Constitution, please read Joyce Lee Malcolm “To Keep And Bear Arms “. 1994. It is a history about the English gun laws and why the founders put the second amendment into our Constitution. And it gives the 17th century definition of the word arms it is not the same arms definition of the 21st century we see.

    Thanks for the UK gun article. It will be a great reference for my library. I still have better firearms civil rights than the English. Good luck to them as their knifes are taken or should I say “requested ” to be turned into a government collection office.

  54. They will lose what they have sooner or later:
    One person sitting in a tower with bolt riffle (long range mass killing device), I love how they don’t have room for 223, but do for his 308?!?!?
    22 lr is deadly, especially out of a rifle, just wait for that one to show up in the news: FYI, there was a gang shooting in Chicago high school a few years ago where the gunman killed two and wounded one with a single 10 round magazine in a Ruger Mark pistol. Remember seeing it in the news at first as a school shooting, but when the details came out the news papers dropped it like a stone.
    Someone saws down a shotgun and uses it to kill an armed cop and then uses the cop’s gun on a crowd.

    • Hi Binder – just wanted to correct one misunderstanding in your post:

      .223 is readily available, as is (in principle) anything up to .50BMG or larger specialist calibre – with good reason and a safe place to use it.

      What is NOT allowed is any of those calibres in semi-auto: semi is restricted to .22lr only.

      I know very well that .22lr is a deadly little round. That’s precisely why I have a MP15-22 as being the most all-round capable and closest thing we can get over here to compare to a full bore AR.

      And then there’s the .308 when you really need to reach out and touch something…

      • I was trying to be subtle. Your argument that “we don’t have that many places where recreational use of semi-auto ARs would be sensible” , I just don’t get. When we shoot 3 gun (semi rifles, shotguns and pistols oh my) we almost never use the 300 yard rifle range. Also you realize what you call “recreational” is NOT determined by you, but what you have access to. And you WILL lose what you have sooner or later. How long do you think you will keep any semi 22 rifles after there is a MP15-22 on the front page of The Times after a rampage. And don’t even get me started on why you even bother with a AR-15 want to be. I know you find it fun, but unless you are you are using them for training, they really have the aura of a Fiero-Ferrari kit car with the GM four banger still in it.

        • Hi Binder, thank you for taking the time to come back to this thread.

          Sorry – I misunderstood you (“don’t have room for”), thought you meant in terms of public acceptance etc., rather than literally.

          Of course there is technically space to shoot full bore, but the main issue is – as I’d interpreted your comment – public acceptance. Shooting ARs for fun, as opposed to using them in your role as an LEO or member of the Armed Forces, would definitely get a strong negative reaction from the majority of the public. That was my point on recreational.

          And as to why I own a MP15-22… As per my article, I’m a security contractor and I work mainly (but not exclusively) in Afghanistan. When there, nine times out of ten my long gun will either be an AK or an M4. So having a rifle at home that closely matches the handling, ergonomics and functionality of my “work gun” makes sense for practice drills. The tacti-cool thing is a not relevant. If I used a Lee Enfield at work I’d have one of those at home.

          As a complete aside… the MP15-22 is actually a nice little gun. Real tack-driver out to 100yds, easy to maintain, reliable, light and easy to carry all day. Not comparable to a real AR, but as a workhorse .22lr I have no complaints.

      • I’m curious whether you guys have “constructive possession” laws wrt firearms, and to what extent they permit loopholes.

        For example, your S&W 15-22 is not a real AR in terms of how it’s made. But you could have a real AR with only the BCG and the magazine swapped – everything else, including the barrel, stays the same – that would then become a .22 LR gun. Would it be counted as a .22 semi-auto, and thus legal?

        Now imagine that you would also get one of those “lever release” ARs. These things, as I understand, have normal AR bolts, it’s the bolt hold open that’s modified compared to a semi-auto AR, right? And, of course, you’d also have normal AR mags.

        So now you’d have two guns, each of which is technically legal to own, but which can be used to produce a highly illegal semi-automatic assault weapon of mass murder, complete with ultra-high-capacity magazines, in a few seconds, merely by swapping the BCG.

        Does all of the above sound legit, or is there a non-obvious legal obstacle in here somewhere?

      • Oh, and while we’re at it – it actually sounds like that “lever release” AR (I remember reading an article about those things) would rather be the closest that you can get to a real semi-auto centerfire, and with some practice and something like a Magpul BAD release lever, nearly as fast. I bet the lever could be improved even further, say, to be activated by the thumb, to the point where it’s practically no extra time at all.

        Or is there a limit on how fast those things can be?

        • Hi int19h,

          Interesting point on constructive possession. I’m not saying it’s absolutely impossible, but as far as I know it’s a bit harder than it sounds like it should be.

          Yes, in principle you could legally get:
          (1) a .22lr semi-auto AR15 and
          (2) a .223 lever-release AR-15…
          …and then swap the lower of (1) onto the upper of (2) for a semi-auto .223 AR.

          However, the law is written and interpreted as saying that if a weapon has ever fallen into a ‘prohibited’ category it remains prohibited, even if it’s changed to make it apparently non-prohibited.

          For example, you couldn’t import a .223 AR and then put a .22lr drop-in conversion into it, and sell that as a legal .22lr semi-auto. In the eyes of the law it remains an illegal .223

          For this reason, as far as I understand it, the lever-release ARs are actually built from 80% receivers, and I believe (not absolutely certain) that:
          (a) the lower receivers are required to be incompatible with other AR uppers, and
          (b) the uppers are required to be mechanically incompatible with other AR lower receivers

          The idea being to prevent that constructive possession you refer to.

          Now, I’m not a gunsmith and I’m sure that somebody, somewhere, could figure out how to do it. But I suspect it’s very likely that the necessary work would be apparent to any inspection, and so you’d run a severe risk of getting busted, with a mandatory minimum of 5 years to look forward to.

          Therefore, for my purposes, a .22lr AR is close enough to practise drills effectively; ammunition is cheap and plentiful; and it’s legally 100% uncontroversial…!

          But you’re right, with some aftermarket parts and sufficient practise you can (vids can be found on YouTube) fire a lever release AR more or less exactly as fast as a regular one. I guess you just can’t bump-fire it.

  55. “But in fact we don’t face the personal threat levels that make defensive pistol ownership worthwhile.”

    Living and CCing in the Czech Republic, with slightly lower overall murder rate, with much, much lower general violent crime rates, I can only shake my head in disbelief when reading this sentence.

  56. It’s not the gun laws and restrictions that are a deal breaker for me- it’s the institutional idea that your home is NOT your castle. You can be arrested for farking up a douche bag that breaks into your home and attacks you! You can be tried for defending yourself, IN YOUR HOME with a cricket bat from a mouthbreathing chav. And he can sue you! How on earth did that idea, that armless shrug of damp acceptance come to BE?

    We don’t even HAVE castles over here but by gods a MAN’S home is his CASTLE. Texas takes this seriously.

    • Hey Coffee Addict

      I strongly agree with you. It is my personal belief that I should feel full confidence that the law will support me as a homeowner in whatever action I reasonably take against an intruder – whether that’s harsh language or a full magazine depending on what I as the victim of a home invasion feel is reasonable.

      I don’t know for sure, but I believe (and there are judicial guidelines and some recent case law leaning this way) that the presumption under law is shifting more to the home owner’s favour.

      As to being sued by the aggressor, assuming he/she survives – I agree, that really is the final indignity… I had always believed that the U.S. was our litigious cousin, and we were more sensible over here; sadly, we are moving rapidly to a similar state of affairs to that which I understand to be already the case Stateside.

  57. Thank you for writing this. By the way
    I think “Open Carry” is something different than what you think.

    • Hey William, thanks – has been pointed out a couple of times. I do mean the same as you (I believe), but I was really just making a technical point.

      In principle, there is nothing in the written law to say I cannot openly carry a loaded, cocked weapon in public. That is how I would define “open carry”, so if I’ve got the terminology wrong for US usage then sorry for any lack of clarity.

      In practice, unless it’s in a slip or case, or at the very least broken / displaying a chamber flag, you’re likely to be approached first by fellow shooters asking you not to scare the public… and then by LEOs telling you not to scare the public.

      And it’s context sensitive. In the sense that I define it above, I “open carry” in my home area, but certainly would not do so in London or any other city, as most people would freak out…!

    • The article as a whole, or the comment above on open carry?

      Neither is meant to be a positive spin.

      The original article is just what is says in the title: firearm laws in the UK are not quite as bad as many people think. We can still, with restrictions, own and use them – a lot of folk seem to think that there is no gun ownership in the UK, and this article was meant to correct that view and explain the actual situation.

      If you mean the reply on open carry, no, again just a clarification.

  58. What a horrible country-so having a silencer is a big deal? Get some ear plugs. You need to emigrate like Ian Harrison. More and more I appreciate Illinois-which is truly sad…

  59. As bad as European gun laws are, consider that the laws in Africa, Asia, South America, and the Middle East (where enforced) are usually worse. It’s easier to be a private shooter in the UK than in Israel, for example. Why do Americans worship Israeli slaves? Anyway, I thank Providence that I was born in the most gun-friendly country on Earth.

    • Hi Ninemillameetuh,

      That’s basically what I’m driving at – although I haven’t compared the UK to anywhere else in the original article. But you’re right, there are many places where the situation is far worse than in the UK… and very few (if any) where it’s as good as you guys have it in the U.S.

      Even in countries where access to guns is very easy, I’m not aware that anywhere other than the States makes ownership a fundamental right for its citizens.

      Actually, that’s an interesting point and one I hadn’t previously considered. But if the U.S. genuinely is the only country to have that right enshrined, then it (kinda) makes the situation in Britain look a little bit better: even though we have no “right” to bear arms, and even though the majority of the population (~70%) favour a total ban, it is in fact possible to own and use guns privately, with some restrictions.

      I’m not saying the restrictions are a good thing, but absent any constitutional protection I reckon we’re pretty lucky to be where we are…!

      • Mexico’s constitution guarantees a right for citizens and residents to KEEP arms on their own property but NOT to bear them.

        My understanding is that is fairly routine for Mexicans to keep guns in their homes. However, they either (typically) practice very little or not-at-all. A rural dweller is apt to keep and carry concealed (illegally) but has very little budget for ammo. He will shoot a few rounds for practice; maybe shoot a snake; and, shoot if necessary to defend himself. He can’t afford to shoot off a whole box at a time. A city dweller is not apt to pay to join a gun club where he would have access to a range. At best, he might have a friend with a ranch/farm. He could transport his gun (illegally) to the friend’s property and shoot; but that’s generally too much trouble.

        If you have a gun in your home you are supposed to register it; however, if you don’t do so and don’t get into trouble the police will leave you alone.

        Gun calibers are restricted: .38/.380 for civilians for pistols; .30 for rifles.

        • Hey MarkPA,

          Thank you for that – very interesting, I had no idea that Mexico also had the concept of a “right” to own guns (admittedly handicapped because they have no right to carry).

          Seems to me that their situation is actually not MASSIVELY different to ours:

          Absent any prohibitive factors – insanity, criminal record – there is a shall issue presumption for shotgun licenses in the UK, subject to having a safe place to store them. That applies equally in the inner city / middle of the countryside.

          Yes, you still have to have an interview with an LEO and fill in the paperwork, which takes a few weeks to process. But it’s still pretty easy.

          Unlike the Mexican situation we do have a right to carry our shotguns outside of the house – LE may ask to see your permit but have no authority to arrest you if you do not have it / refuse to show it. What they may do under those circumstances is confiscate the gun until you produce the paper to show you’re allowed to own it.

          Anyway, like I said, thank you for that information: I’d be very interested if you or any others here on TTAG know of other countries where there is a “right” of ownership.


  60. I’d like to thank Mr. Carter for personally responding to so many comments in this thread, and doing so civilly and patiently. My own comment was partially born out of researching U.K. gun laws after one Mr. Jeremy Clarkson referenced his AK-47, and so maybe I had a little more pre-existing knowledge than many in the U.S. I still think the article sounds even worse than my preconceptions.

    I used to love working with the RAF more than some of my own countrymen. I was frequently called in as an interpreter, unofficially, and all I can say is, I grew up on Monty Python and Dr. Who. It’s easier to deal with a Cockney accent than Arkansan. The Germans at Red Flag were a close second, but the RAF guys were just the best representation a country could have abroad.

    Though I stand by one thing wholeheartedly, and reading your responses I get the feeling you agree: keep your silencers. I’m going to build my 7.62 AR, with one barely noticeable hiccup (the receiver). After that, I plan on a 1911 project, just to have done it. And any number of these classic gunsmithing projects will possibly be interrupted by my wanting to build a railgun, possibly powered by a hand crank (not out of practicality, just awesomeness).

    • Hi Knightofbob, thanks for the reply – and for your thoughts.

      I did my best to reply to anything I usefully could, with the main aim of setting out as clearly as possible what the position is for us Brits. You’re right, it’s far from a good situation for us, and I guess my key point is that it could (easily) be a lot worse.

      I’m sincerely pleased and proud to hear that you had a good experience with the RAF. For what it’s worth, my contact with US forces has been uniformly great: exactly who I want alongside me when I deploy (and obviously my own countrymen as well)!

      I agree 100% with your final point. If I had to choose between no silencer / ability to build up whatever legal weapon I want, as in the U.S., I know what I’d pick!

  61. Of course, he failed to mention that this is the same government that requires (and citizenry who tolerate) the mandatory licensing of televisions and radio ownership as well. That’s right…you need to get a license from the government and pay a tax to own a television, or face prosecution…and the citizens of Briton seem okay with that too. So that might help put Mr.Carter’s…
    tolerance of Briton’s gun laws into perspective. It’s just another one of those things the loyal British subjects have to do.

    • Hi OneIfByLand1776,

      TV licenses are basically a tax to fund the BBC – ridiculous that non-payment is criminalised, I agree, but it’s not about preventing people from having a TV. If you have a TV that is specifically tuned NOT to receive BBC channels then you don’t have to pay the license… But that’s probably more effort than it’s worth.

      And there is no license required for radios, other than for broadcast on certain bands (which I believe is the same in the States: it’s designed to prevent interference with some crucial channels / bands).

      I didn’t neglect to mention those facts, I just didn’t think that discussion of taxpayer funded television broadcasting / two-way radio licensing was particularly related to firearms law…!

  62. A load of bull and a pathetic view of things. It’s like saying I can have a muffler but I can’t have a car.

      • Genuine question: what’s wrong with the cars??

        As far as I can see we have a higher proportion of European motors than you do in the States (Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen, Peugeot, Renault, Citroen, Vauxhall); lower proportion of Asian motors (Toyota, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Infiniti); and obviously a lower proportion of American cars (Ford, Dodge, GMC, Chevy, etc.) because we get more European stuff. But all of those makes are pretty common: drive around for a day or two and you’ll see all of them for sure.

        We don’t tend to have as many trucks on the road as you guys, but probably more SUVs averaged across the total population – at a guess.

  63. Gabriel, what most of the ammosexuals responding to your article aren’t telling you is that most of them are the dregs and outcasts of our society. They want zero restrictions on firearms because most of them cannot pass any sort of background examination.

    • This is a silly remark from someone who is clueless.

      I’ve met gun owners from all walks of life. Those I see at the range have all passed the smell test as far as I’m concerned.

      There are plenty among us who fancy themselves as experts on Constitutional law albeit they have never read a SCOTUS opinion. Well, it takes all kinds.

      The community of the PotG in America are – without hardly any exceptions – fine upstanding and peaceable people. We don’t acknowledge criminals or those committed to mental hospitals as bona fide members of our community. The Progressives are the patron saints of these latter two classes.

  64. Gabriel, thanks for the article. I have always wondered about the “real deal” in the UK. I would say we have a few states that are as restrictive, or nearly so. As you know, the Second Amendment to our Constitution was inspired by British tyranny (no offense meant to you) around gun ownership, so in a backhanded way, I guess we have the Brits to that “thank” for that.

    Also, we aren’t squeaky clean on gun rights here. I think the Second Amendment is completely infringed, just less so in some states than others. But I do like the fact that I can buy as many handguns as I like, carry them openly or concealed most places, own military-style high-capacity rifles, etc. I have traveled around the world and while the US is not perfect, it is the country most “of the people and by the people” I have seen. It is still generally our country, not the government’s, although there are some who would have it otherwise.

    • Hi JohnF,

      Thank you for your comments – I’m glad you found the article interesting.

      Certainly no offence taken (about us being the root cause of America’s constitution!): it’s one thing which I reckon we can all agree turned out very well!

  65. After reading the post, it’s pretty clear that the firearms laws in the UK are as bad as I thought, or perhaps worse.

    Your homicide rates are not a result of your gun laws. Your rates were substantially lower than ours before any gun control laws were implemented. Nor have I seen any valid studies that indicate that criminals have any difficulty in obtaining firearms of any type.

    Y’all started down the restrictive gun law path back in the 1920 (anarchists and worries about demobbed soldiers) and have ‘progressively’ grown more restrictive. Yet, it can’t be shown that those restrictions have resulted in reductions (over time, as is the only proper way to discuss causation) in the rates of relevant crimes. Evidently you’ve even bought into the false static analysis paradigm.

    Yes, I suppose the UK gun laws could be worse, but that’s damning with faint praise. Your laws are still atrocious, and not socially beneficial.

    • Hi Scot,

      Thank you for contributing to the discussion. As I’ve said a couple of times in this thread, my article was mostly aimed at folk who thought that gun ownership was impossible / almost impossible in the UK.

      You are absolutely right on several points:
      • homicide rates are overall lower and have been so consistently, notwithstanding gun control legislation.
      • there is no evidence at all that criminals have trouble getting hold of weapons.
      • yes the rationale for legislative gun control was (largely) fears of anarchist / leftist insurrection in the 1920s.

      You’re slightly off-beam on one point: I personally haven’t bought into the false statistical analysis paradigm. I disagree with the current laws and I think the reasoning behind them is flawed, but I live within them.

      And I’m not entirely sure that you can say the laws are “atrocious and not socially beneficial”…?

      While I might not agree with them, I am (as a gun owner in the UK) in a minority of 1% of the population. Roughly 70% favour a total ban on private gun ownership.

      Just because I and the rest of the 1% think the law is flawed, the rest of society generally agrees with it or wants to see it strengthened… So I’m not sure that my (minority) views should overturn their (majority) views.

      I really don’t know. Like I said, I personally think the law does not make sense or achieve its aims. But I equally don’t see how I can reasonably require the majority of my fellow citizens to accept my views over their own.

  66. An Arizonan’s View: even our firearms laws have room for improvement.

    AZ is among the very best states for firearms ownership. We’re one of a few states with Constitutional Carry, and there are no state laws limiting ownership of NFA weapons. We have lots of public lands where shooting is legal. I pay $5 for a lane at my outdoor range for as long as I need it. I pay the same for FFL fees on firearms I buy online. Open carry is not altogether common here, but it’s not uncommon either. Well, maybe open carry of long guns, except for at gun shoes where you’ll find plenty of slung rifles for sale by private citizens.

    One shadow cast on the bright freedom we enjoy is that our “No Guns” signs carry the force of law. Also, without a permit it’s not legal to carry in restaurants with a liquor license, regardless of whether you intend to drink. It’s not always easy to tell from outside whether a restaurant serves alcohol, which leaves an opening to accidentally break the law.

    We are also subject to the insane arbitrary regulations of the NFA. ‘Nuff said.

    Otherwise, though, I’d say AZ is not so bad when it comes to gun laws. British law sounds pretty sad to me by comparison.

  67. To me, the biggest problem with UK is not specifically gun laws. It’s the entire political system, which is, to remind, based on the notion of parliamentary supremacy. What this means is that the Parliament can do literally anything, and it is legal. There are no safeguards like the Constitution. There are a few similar narrowly scoped things, but the Parliament can override them at will.

    The same goes for the separation of powers – while in theory there’s a separate executive and judiciary, the Parliament can override or dismiss any decisions of these by a simple vote (as in, they could e.g. literally vote to imprison or execute someone without any charges at all, or grant someone authority to commit any crime with impunity).

    So basically it’s a system with tyranny of the majority (and a simple majority at that!) baked into it from the get go, and the sole formal check on it is the monarch. In practice, of course, they can only get away so much before the people would revolt, but in the absence of properly codified checks and balances, “so much” is actually quite a lot.

    All the rest, such as ridiculous gun laws, surveillance society, extreme police powers, significant restrictions on freedom of speech etc, are all the symptoms of this underlying problem.

    • Hi Int19h,

      You have just summed up – far more eloquently than I could have managed – the problem with our system of government in the UK. It is, as you conclude, a tyranny of the majority.

      That, I guess, is the key ‘take away point’ from my article. The most significant threat to gun ownership in the UK is not the law itself, but far more the people themselves. And, in the absence of clear constitutional protection, individual rights (or even non-prohibited freedoms) are acutely vulnerable to a future ban of public opinion changes.

      It’s why fox hunting was banned despite almost unanimous support from the communities in which it took place; it’s why firearms laws are as they are, despite their lack of effectiveness; and it’s why I’m grateful that successive governments have not dialled the idiocy up to 11 and gone along with public calls for a total ban.

      • Checking a tyranny of the majority is probably an issue that became an obvious issue in our American context than it ever was in the experience of the UK.

        The colonists were often self-exiled because they were non-conformists at home. Once the Revolution had been won the citizens didn’t think of themselves as being part of a single common polity; instead, they thought of themselves as citizens of their own independent small states.

        The issue had to be confronted as the Articles of Confederation were failing and the thought leaders began to contemplate a solution leading to the Constitutional Convention. Somehow, the power of any central government would have to be kept in check and the powers of factions protected. Initially, those factions were thought to largely align with state boundaries. It would be all very well that Marylanders pay for the upkeep of the state-established church; but such a decision couldn’t possibly be imposed across state boundaries.

        I’m unconvinced that there was great clarity of thought about the applicability of the BoR vis a vis the States. It probably would have depended upon the right at stake, the personal interests of the citizen, and the mood of the day. Eventually, SCOTUS ruled that the BoR applied only to the Feds; but, then, the 14A sought to apply the BoR to the States. That lasted until the Slaughterhouse cases.

        Through all this turmoil, it became clear that the rights of minorities would have to be protected against the tyranny of the majority. The principle seemed obvious even if the definition of which minority groups were agreed upon. It was perfectly obvious that the rights of the “small states” would have to be protected against the influence of the “large states”; this, notwithstanding that it was equally clear that it was absurd to imagine there was any notion of rights of any black minority that white men could be expected to recognize.

        Today, our problem is that our nation is divided into two groups:
        – those Americans who are so accustomed to thinking that a (simple) majority rules that they can’t think otherwise;
        – those Americans who understand our Constitutional framework that enumerated rights are to be enforced to protect the minority against the majority.

        We, in the latter group, are naive in taking-for-granted that the Constitutional protection of minority rights will be respected by an obstanant majority. We need to educate them on the Constitutional principle at stake.

        We also need to recognize that “parchment protections” are of little value if the majority will not stand-up to enforce them. The 14A did nothing to protect Blacks (and their white sympathizers) from lynching during and after Reconstruction until – eventually – Northern whites decided that lynching was no longer sufferable.

        A determined minority – as small as 3% – might prevail against a tyranny; however, it is equally clear that that determined minority at the barricades must be supported by a minimum of another 30% standing behind them passing the ammunition, coffee and donuts forward to the 3%. It is because of this necessity of support that compels us to win as many hearts and minds as possible. Though we may never constitute even a simple majority we must be at least a formidable minority.

  68. Gabriel,

    Thanks for an interesting article. It’s always interesting to me to hear how other cultures look at things. Particularly you brits since we inherited our right to arms from you guys but our countries have split so fundamentally in the last century in how we deal with firearms. I’m glad there are still some shooters left.


  69. Gabriel,

    I’d like to offer kudos for your patience in responding and explaining to people the UK reality. I’ve had to explain the other direction more than my share to my EU co-workers and friends – and yes, the occasional article on the Daily “Fail.” (Sometimes, I just can’t resist the latter. Hope you’ll forgive me)

    What people need to understand is that while it’s not a good situation in the UK, it’s still better than much of the rest of the EU and far better than the rest of the world. I don’t think most Americans understand just how unique both our system of government and our enumerated rights actually are.

    Part of the difficulty I’ve found in translating between to two continents is that as similar as we may seem to be, many of the basic assumptions or philosophies are very, very different.

    The big lesson for Americans is to understand just how fragile the recognition of our rights – all of them, not just gun rights – really are.

    • Hi Raul,

      First off – “Daily Fail”, nice! 🙂

      I think you’re absolutely right that it’s key for Americans to “understand just how fragile the recognition of our rights – all of them, not just gun rights – really are.”

      You start from a far better position than we do, in that you have:
      1) Constitutional protection, and
      2) A large gun-owning population

      As such, while I should certainly encourage the PotG in the States not to cede ground on these issues, I’m hopeful that the rights / freedoms enjoyed are likely to endure despite the anti- movement.

      There are, as you say, massive cultural differences between our two allied nations – and it’s that in part which prompted me to write this article. I’ve seen several people on TTAG and have also talked to US friends and colleagues on the contractor circuit who believed our situation is even worse than it actually is.

      So I wanted to set the record straight on that, and also to engage in discussion of the issue on this forum: it’s been a very interesting and enjoyable process – thank you for your thoughts!

  70. “…and for FAC weapons somewhere to use it and a good reason to do so…”
    Governments very rarely think that fighting their oppressive policies is a “good reason”.
    Firearms laws are still established for the same reason the first gun control laws were passed
    in the U.S.- to keep guns out of the hands of slaves.


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