President Obama's quite minor change to US gun sales regulations in 2016 has inspired me to write about the state of gun laws in the United Kingdom. We do not have the right to bear weapons, and that distinguishes us from the citizens of the United States,but we can apply for a licence to own certain kinds of gun. I don't believe or feel that my freedom is in any way restricted by this limitation, and I am in no way unhappy with it.
I own an air rifle, a single shot weapon that was for shooting rats. It shoots pellets. This is perfectly legal and I needed no licence for it. I did not need to inform the police of the matter. Britons are allowed to own an air rifle that fires more than one shot, a repeating rifle, without seeking permission. But, there is a restriction, for there is a kind of air rifle that that needs a licence. This is one that is supercharged by a carbon dioxide cartridge.
However, there are limitations as to what I can do. I am not allowed to fire any gun within five metres of a road, and I am forbidden to discharge a pellet or bullet that leaves my own personal ground. Britons are only allowed to shoot any weapon on land for which they have shooting rights. Moreover, if a Briton even points an air weapon in someone's direction it is illegal, and when an air weapon is fired at a person it legally becomes a firearm and the punishment is applied accordingly.
Britons are allowed to own shotguns, if they obtain a licence from the police, who must assess the suitability of the applicant to own a weapon. Applicants with a criminal record or a history of mental problems are rejected. The police determine whether your ability to store the weapon and ammunition is suitable, for it must be a secure metal cabinet, and the gun must be kept separately from the ammunition. The police can check any time they wish, and a few years ago they confiscated the guns of an aristocrat who was found to have a loaded shotgun in the house that was not within its cabinet. Two errors here, a gun improperly stored and kept loaded. The police can confiscate guns if an owner is deemed to be no longer suitable to keep them.
Hunting rifles are permitted, but fewer Britons than Americans need them, as we have less wild land than America does and fewer large animals to be hunted. Deer and wild boar are the only ones. To obtain a hunting rifle you must first have a shotgun licence and the rules for storing both types of gun are the same.
Antique firearms may be owned, but are subject to the same rules as other guns. Those kept by collectors must be rendered harmless, maybe by having the barrels blocked up and/or firing mechanisms de-activated.
When being transported in a public place a gun must be in a safe container and unloaded.