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 01/18/2024

A shot gun can be used for hunting vermin. You have to prove to the police that you are a fit and proper person to own a gun. If you have a shotgun licence you can apply for a rifle licence, but this does not extend to automatic weapons. An air rifle is permitted without a licence, but not one with a gas cartridge to power the shot. A sawn off shotgun is never permitted to anyone.handguns of any kind are not permitted. Antique weapons are permitted in museums and collections,butnthey must be disabled.

DerdriuMarriner on 01/17/2024

The first paragraph to the first subheading, Legal weapons, advises us that eastern-ponders, unlike western-ponders, historically do not have the right to carry weapons.

The British Isles nevertheless allows one to apply for the right to carry a "certain kind of gun."

What might that kind be and what purpose -- hunting? -- might warrant its legal use?

frankbeswick on 02/23/2018

In my time working sometimes in secondary schools in rough East Manchester I have had at times to confiscate weapons, such as machetes, but never have I wanted to carry a fire arm and never needed to.

Veronica on 02/23/2018

As a British teacher of nearly 39 years, I would never ever use a gun or indeed carry one in class or anywhere else. In UK we can not carry arms and have very very little gun crime.

Also our schools are like fortresses and no one can get in except through the shielded office. The schools are surrounded by high fences and inside they have electronic key pads or scanners on corridors and doors. Quite right too.

frankbeswick on 02/23/2018

As a retired teacher I am aghast at the suggestion that teachers should be armed. I would never have wanted it. Leave that sort of thing to police and the armed forces, and my wife, still a part time primary teacher, feels the same.

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.

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