Gun control in Britain passed in stages, beginning just after World War I and continuing in a reactionary fashion with increasing strictness through the 1990s.
When the final stage arrived in 1997, and virtually all handguns were banned via the Firearms Act, the promise was a reduction in crime and greater safety for the British people. But the result was the emergence of Britain as the “most violent country in Europe.”
Britain began placing restrictions on gun ownership after World War I with the Firearms Act of 1920. The passage of this act was emotionally driven, based in part on the public’s war-weariness and in part on the fear that an increased number of guns–guns from the battle field–would increase crime.
The Firearms Act of 1920 did not ban guns. Rather, it required that citizens who wanted a gun had to first obtain a certificate from the government. We see this same stage taking place in various places in the United States now, where a person who wants a firearm has to get a Fire Owner Identification Card (Illinois) or has to be vetted by police (Massachusetts) or both.
Thirteen years after the passage of the Firearms Act, British Parliament passed the Firearms and Imitation Firearms Bill, making the possession of a replica gun or a real one equally punishable unless the owner of either could show the lawful purpose for which he had it. (Sounds like California?) This was followed by the Firearms Act of 1937, which author Frank Miniter says “extended restrictions to shotguns and granted chief constables the power to add conditions to individual private firearm certificates.”
In the U.S., police departments in Massachusetts play the role Britain’s chief constables played and have final say on who can or can’t own a firearm. On July 25, Breitbart News reported that that Massachusetts police were pressing for “sole discretion” on who could own a long gun; they already had such discretion over who could own a handgun. On August 1, they received the power they sought.
Britain continued to issue firearm certificates as World War II set in. But by the time the war was over, the gun control mindset had permeated society to a point where self-defense was no longer a valid reason to secure a certificate for gun ownership.
Guns were simply for sport or for hunting.
In 1987, Michael Ryan shot and killed sixteen people in Hungerford, including his mother. He wounded fourteen others, then killed himself. According to the Library of Congress, Ryan used “lawfully owned” rifles to carry out the attack. Nevertheless, his attack prompted the passage of more laws in the form of the Firearms Act of 1988. This act “banned the possession of high-powered self loading rifles” and “burst-firing weapons,” and imposed “stricter standards for ownership” to secure a government certificate to own a shotgun.
In 1996, Thomas Hamilton walked into an elementary school in Dunblane, Scotland, and shot and killed “sixteen small children…and their teacher in the gym before killing himself.” He brought two rifles and four handguns to carry out the attack. All six guns were legally owned: Hamilton had fully complied with gun control statutes.
The Firearm Act of 1997 was passed while emotions ran high. Gun control proponents push for an all-out ban on private gun ownership, in the much the same way that Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) reacted to the heinous crime at Sandy Hook Elementary by trying to ban approximately 150 different guns.
Yet the Firearm Act did not ban all guns, “but served to essentially prohibit the ownership of handguns in Britain” and to make the acquisition of certificate to possess a long gun an onerous and time-consuming one. Much the same as the onerous and time-consuming process now burdening law-abiding DC residents seeking a gun in the home for self-defense.
And what has been the outcome of passing more laws in Britain to remedy the fact that other laws were ignored or broken? It has not been good.
In 2009, twelve years after the Firearms Act of 1997 was passed, Daily Mail Online reported that Britain was “the most violent country in Europe.” They also reported that Britain’s home figures showed “the UK [had] a worse rate for all types of violence than the U.S. and South Africa.”
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins Reach him directly at email@example.com.