Gun Laws in The United Kingdom

by frankbeswick

British gun laws are extremely tight, and they contribute to the United Kingdom's low rate of gun crime.

In the United Kingdom in 2015 we had twenty four people killed in gun incidents, not counting suicides. This is twenty four too many, but this rate is relatively low compared to some other countries. Of course, criminals will always attempt to obtain guns whatever the law says, but the limitations on the supply of guns means that they cannot easily acquire them and often have to smuggle them in from Eastern Europe. There are limitations on the kinds of gun that an individual can own.

Image courtesy of zorandim75

Legal Weapons

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.My freedom is what allows me to flourish, and I have flourished quite well without the possession of a firearm.

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. 


Forbidden Weapons

There are guns that we may not own. 

Handguns [pistols]  are illegal, full stop. The reason is that they are no use for hunting or pest control and are mainly for personal use against humans, and they are easily concealed by people who want to use them for ill-purposes. This ban applies both to firearms and air pistols. The sport of pistol shooting has had to base itself on the Isle of Man,a crown dependency not in the United Kingdom, where rules are laxer than they are here in the U.K. A special exemption had to be made for the Olympic games.

Also illegal is a sawn off shotgun. This is a gun with a deliberately shortened barrel that makes it easier to conceal and spread its shot more widely. It is a favoured weapon of armed robbers and has no use for hunting or pest control whatsoever. Possession of one is an arrestable offence.

Any kind of automatic or semi-automatic weapon is forbidden to members of the public. This is because it has more power than is necessary for hunting in this country and is primarily a battlefield weapon that has no place in civilian life. Obviously, machine guns fall into this category. 

Forbidden are converted replicas. These are guns originally designed to be dummy weapons, but criminal gun dealers have the ability to convert them into working weapons. They belong only in the criminal world,so there is no way that they can be legal. They are probably not even safe for the one who fires them, as badly converted ones might explode when fired. 

I  do not believe my life is made less  safe or free than would be the case if I were allowed such weapons. I have no  need to hunt large prey, and have never taken part in the sport of shooting either skeets , which we call clay pigeons, or game animals of any kind. I have never fired a gun in anger, and have never needed to. I hope that I will never have to. 

Updated: 02/17/2018, frankbeswick
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frankbeswick on 10/03/2017

The pointless shooting in Las Vegas was as the president said evil. But I ask the question: why did the man need ten rifles? Even for hunting, while you might need different ones, ten is excessive. Furthermore, the police say that Paddock had altered them to fire automatically, but why is it possible to purchase rifles that can be thus adapted?

frankbeswick on 06/29/2016

I did discover that the assassin of the member of parliament had a weapon that was homemade.He bought the plans to construct it from some of his contacts among American right wing extremists. There is no way of preventing such malice, though such weapons are always illegal.

frankbeswick on 06/24/2016

Carrying a firearm depends on the situation. I cannot carry one as only military and police in this country can hold such right. I think that the situation in the USA is such that humans can be oppressed by gun laws.

Sgolis on 06/24/2016

I read that British law is similar to Canada, they can own a firearm but they can only use it in their home or property, they do not have the right to carry. I have no problem with applying for a license to get a gun, nor do I have a problem with mandatory gun handling and safety certificate requirement, BUT I do not want my right to carry taken away from me in the USA

frankbeswick on 06/17/2016

Some of you might have heard of the recent assassination of a British member of parliament by an alleged right wing extremist [16th June 2016. ] This innocent female was shot with an illegally held weapon that had a shortened barrel, so it is also an illegal type of weapon. Gun laws have no control over this, but even had the victim been permitted a gun,the assassin took her by surprise and gave her no chance.

frankbeswick on 06/13/2016

The Isle of Man is a state subject to the crown whose foreign affairs are controlled by the UK, but it makes its internal laws, so its gun laws differ from the UK's gun laws. The same state of affairs could arise in Jersey, Guernsey and Sark, in the Channel Islands, which like the Isle of Man are crown dependencies and not part of the UK.

candy47 on 06/12/2016

Thanks for answering all my questions about gun laws in the United Kingdom.

frankbeswick on 02/04/2016

The European Union does not make gun laws,which are the responsibility of national parliaments. Gun laws were not delegated to the European Union by any of the treaties on which the EU is founded. An interesting anomaly is that the Isle of Man, a UK dependency, is not in the EU, so when the UK banned pistol ownership, pistol shooters moved their guns to the Isle of Man and commute to shoot, and this is legal.

Hunting accidents by shooting are rare, though there are some accidental shotgun shootings. I know of no one being killed accidentally by a hunting rifle. Most hunts kill by having the hounds surround a fox until one shotgun is used to kill it quickly. Deer shooting is carefully controlled by the estates that allow it , and I know of very few fatalities

DerdriuMarriner on 02/04/2016

frankbeswick, Does the existence of the European Union make it easier or more confusing to enforce country laws regarding gun control?
Twenty-four is low for so many parts of the world even though I'm surprised that even that many deaths occurred in the United Kingdom. Do you know how many -- if any -- fatalities or injuries occur during hunts?

blackspanielgallery on 01/08/2016

I remember a few years back when I worked in New Orleans they had over 500 in a year. I got the "Score" going to work. The demand for guns is that so many people have them others want to protect themselves. I heard something on the news today about 45 in one day in one city. I am not certain if they were shot or actually died. On the positive side, it seems to be groups killing each other over drug turf, and does not often involve others. Many who are killed have been arrested for killing someone else, let out, and the other person's friends find them. Enjoy your peace.

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