Targeting the right people


February 26, 2006 – Recently released crime statistics from the Home Office indicate that armed crime in England & Wales fell in the most recent reporting year, 2004/05.  Armed crime dropped overall by 5% and armed crime involving the use of a handgun fell by 15%.  This is the first recorded decrease since 1997, and shows that the police focus on armed crime is finally starting to pay off, although the overall rate is still far higher than it was in 1997 and so is the rate of handgun-related offences, despite the utterly futile handgun ban in 1997.  The statistics also seem to indicate interestingly in table 3.03 that the use of converted imitation firearms in crime is not as great as the police and Government have been saying for several years.

However, all is not sweetness and light in my opinion.  Several so-called “targeted” operations have in fact ended up with the arrest and conviction of people who frankly were no threat to public safety, and in many cases they were entirely unaware they had committed an offence.  I have frankly been astonished at the number of e-mails I have received from respectable people who have no criminal records who have been arrested and in most cases convicted of what can only be described as relatively trivial offences.  However, because of recent legislation, (mainly the Criminal Justice Act 2003), they find themselves facing 5-year sentences for possession of a prohibited firearm.

How this all came to pass bears some examination.

Under the Firearms Act 1982, an imitation firearm that can be readily converted into a working firearm with ordinary household tools and without specialised knowledge is treated as an actual firearm for the purposes of the law.  This has always been a serious offence, but it became much more serious with the handgun ban in 1997, because such an imitation firearm (they are usually handguns) became a prohibited firearm, and in 2003 a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence was imposed for the possession of a prohibited firearm.  In addition, the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 also prohibited “air cartridge” guns, meaning mainly the Brocock pistols and rifles that have been sold since the mid-1980s.  Possession of one now without a firearm certificate also makes the possessor subject to a 5-year minimum sentence.

The problem is that over time the goalposts have moved significantly, and most people are simply unaware of the dramatic changes in the law.  The Home Office has done virtually nothing to remedy this situation, as their notifications of changes in the law usually involve sending a few leaflets to police stations for them to stick on their notice boards, putting up an obscure website and maybe notifying Home Office approved gun clubs.  None of which is likely to inform the overwhelming bulk of people who own imitation firearms and air guns of the changes in the law.

The situation is not helped by increasingly restrictive interpretations of the 1982 Act by the Forensic Science Service.  It has reached the point now where almost all blank-firing guns sold in this country since 1982 could be regarded as being: “readily convertible” going by various recent court cases and current FSS guidance.

Part of the reason for the crackdown is because the police have targeted some gun shops that decided to simply import imitation firearms from the continent, either unaware that they failed to meet the standards laid down in the increasingly restrictive FSS guidance, or because the people running the business were indeed in the business of supplying criminals knowingly.  In targeting those shops, the police obtained the details of people the guns had been sold to, and arrested them as well.

In many cases, these people were totally unaware they had acquired something that was illegal, but yet, many of them have been prosecuted, even though it is unclear in some of these cases how this is in the public interest.

A lot of these cases also revolve around a dealer in France who sold guns to people in the UK via their website.  However, although it sounds fishy, bear in mind that at one point that dealer was advertising in UK gun magazines and it was not completely unreasonable for the legally naive purchaser to think he had broken no law by purchasing an imitation from the French dealer – especially given that France is an EU state, which implies harmonisation of the rules.  But unfortunately not in this case, as you were likely to find out if you were one of the said purchasers.

This situation has now reached the point where the courts are beginning to show resistance to the cases being brought.  A judge in Derby was highly critical of the Home Office failing to clearly notify people of the changes in the law regarding “air cartridge” guns when an individual was convicted there of illegally acquiring one.  The fact that it is estimated that less than 10% of people who own these guns obtained a firearm certificate (as required when the law changed) tends to indicate the judge was correct and even the Home Office appears to accept that estimate.

As bad as this situation is, it is set to get far, far worse when the Violent Crime Reduction Bill is enacted.  This Bill contains a prohibition on the sale, manufacture and import of “realistic imitation firearms”.  It’s not entirely clear at this point what the definition of a realistic imitation firearm will be when the Bill is enacted, as it’s still going through Parliament, but it seems likely to include most types of airsoft gun, as well as some realistic-looking toys.  The penalty for violating the law is a maximum sentence of 51 weeks in prison.

So in other words, someone selling a lawfully acquired airsoft gun to their next-door neighbour could potentially get 51 weeks in prison when this Bill is enacted.  If you don’t think it could happen, I’ve got some e-mails to show you…

It is essential that you contact your MP and urge some serious expenditure by the Government on informing people of the provisions of this Bill when it is enacted; and by “serious expenditure” it must include TV advertising and ads in major newspapers and on billboards too.  Failure to do so will undoubtedly result in greater costs down the road as the police are involved in pointlessly arresting people.  In addition, when the police conduct these operations, the focus must be on actual criminal enterprises with serious criminal intent, not on people who are arrested a few hours after receiving a package from what they thought was a legitimate business, or some hapless James Bond fan who simply wanted a replica PPK to bolt over the mantelpiece.

The Olympics

While you’re writing to your MP, it’s a good idea to tell them that repealing the handgun ban would be a good idea.  The crime statistics show quite clearly that it has been completely useless, and it’s clearly no deterrent to madmen going by various terrorist offences since then, not to mention various incidents involving criminals running around with machineguns.

Various shooting organisations have asked shooters to write to their MPs to ask for the Home Office to grant section 5 (prohibited weapons) authority to members of the Olympic squad so they can practice with their .22 pistols.  My personal view is that this is a silly idea, because first of all the average target shooter in this country will never qualify for the Olympic squad, and secondly the Home Office will never grant a blanket authorisation to anyone to possess any sort of prohibited firearm for target shooting because it would set a legal precedent so that anyone could obtain it.  The most they’ll ever do is grant authority for people to bring them in temporarily for competitions like the Olympics in 2012.

Frankly there’s virtually no chance at all that this Government will either repeal the handgun ban or grant prohibited weapons authority to target shooters to possess them, however, making noise about it now puts it on the political agenda and eventually there will be a change of Government, maybe even before the Olympics.  So it’s important that MPs know now that this is an issue with their constituents.


Some of you may be wondering what happened in Canada after my last editorial; to cut a long story short, the Conservatives won, barely (only 40% of the vote, 30 seats short of a majority but more seats than anyone else).  They will not implement a federal handgun ban, although the Government of Ontario still wants one.  Various other thefts of large handgun collections have occurred in Ontario; so many that it beggars belief that there is not some sort of organised criminal activity going on targeting legal handgun owners.

There is a lesson in this for all gun owners.  Make sure you are not followed when coming home from a gun club or gun shop; be careful who you tell about your shooting interests; keep your firearms securely and do not leave them unattended for long periods (one of the thefts in Ontario involved a collector who had been in hospital for several weeks).

“There are not enough jails, not enough policemen, not enough courts to enforce a law not supported by the people.” – Vice-President of the United States, Hubert Humphrey, in a speech in Virginia, May 1, 1965.


Oh, no, Canada!

December 27, 2005 – You know, it’s amazing how stupid Governments can be, especially when they’ve been caught red-handed siphoning off millions of taxpayer dollars into their party coffers.

Such is the dilemma of the Liberal Party of Canada, who currently are running the minority federal Government, headed by Prime Minister Paul Martin MP.  The other main Canadian political parties, the Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois finally lost patience with the Government at the end of November.  This was after a public inquiry came to the conclusion that a Govt.-run “sponsorship” programme, designed to promote the idea of Canada in the separatist-leaning province of Québec, had instead been used to divert millions of dollars of taxpayer funds via a complex system of fraud involving advertising agencies into the Liberal Party coffers in Québec.  Although Martin represents a constituency in Montréal, the inquiry came to the conclusion he probably wasn’t involved in the fraud.  However, the opposition parties decided to call a motion of no-confidence, which they easily won because of the minority position of the current Government.  And thus a General Election had to be called.

Move on to December 9th, and with the Liberal Party facing annihilation in seat-rich Québec and also in much of western Canada, the Prime Minister decided to respond to public concern about a spate of homicides in Toronto by promising a national ban on handguns, in an attempt to curry favour with voters in the large province of Ontario.  And to no-one’s great surprise, this was met with adulation by the Liberal Mayor and Liberal Premier of the province.  Outside the community centre where he made the announcement, things were not quite so rosy, as a local girl pointed out that the ban would not prevent criminals from obtaining guns.  An article appeared in the Toronto Star indicating that one of his own MPs in Ontario wasn’t particularly happy about the idea, and neither was a local criminologist.

Although the Toronto Star predictably editorialised in favour of the ban (with some caveats), the rest of the press editorialised against it for the most part: 

This is laughable – Toronto Sun
It’s hard to fathom how the ban will reduce crime – Globe and Mail
Resources should be devoted to catching real criminals, not meaningless bans – Calgary Herald

What would we have given here in the UK for such editorials when the handgun ban was announced here?  (Which according to the Home Office has not succeeded in reducing armed crime, have a read of the summary on page 31 – and table 2.1 on the next page, particularly the  “all weapons excluding air weapon” part, which shows a steady rise since the handgun ban in 1997 – it had actually been falling prior to the handgun ban).

However, perhaps the biggest indication that the Prime Minister was in trouble before his proposal had even gotten off the ground was demonstrated by provincial governments immediately after the announcement.  The Prime Minister indicated that the ban would work by putting an “opt-in” provision in the Criminal Code that provinces and territories could sign up to: by the end of December 10th, the Governments of Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan had announced that they would not be opting in!  Bear in mind that both British Columbia and Saskatchewan have Liberal Governments.

Even the police have their doubts, as Tony Cannavino, the president of the Canadian Professional Police Association: “disagreed that a sweeping ban on handguns would be very successful in combating urban violence, considering that most guns used in shootings are obtained illegally”, although as you would expect, he welcomed the idea of spending more money on law enforcement activities.

In the face of all this, even the largest anti-gun organisation in Canada, the Coalition for Gun Control appeared to be hedging its bets, as the head of the organisation, Wendy Cukier, indicated that the CGC have taken no position on the proposed ban.

This is perhaps not surprising, when the specifics of such a ban are looked at in detail.

The first problem is that it’s not really clear what impact such a ban would have.  The Prime Minister and the Mayor of Toronto have been saying that: “half” of handguns used in crime in Toronto were stolen from legal gun owners, however this is a misrepresentation of an investigation conducted by the Toronto Police.  According to those statistics, in fact only 16% of handguns seized by Toronto Police were listed as: “stolen”.  The statistics also involve a guesstimate of how many guns seized with obliterated serial numbers originated in Canada; not exactly scientific.  A small fraction were: “too old” to trace, so they probably pre-date licensing laws that were introduced in 1934, or are maybe war trophies that were never declared.  12%, (or a quarter of the guns the politicians say were stolen) are listed as: “not registered”, but not smuggled or stolen.  This probably indicates they are air pistols or antiques or something along those lines.  Even if the guns are listed as: “stolen”, they could have been stolen from dealers, not individual gun owners.

Hardly a convincing statistic, especially as only a fraction of guns used in crime would be seized.  Even the police are not certain that the guns themselves are actually “crime guns”, they are merely listed as: “potential crime guns”.   It really is the vaguest of estimates, based to a significant degree on guess work.  Even if taken as the gospel truth, it still indicates that 52% of seized handguns originated in the United States.  Certainly it cannot be taken as representative of the situation of Canada as a whole, as some anti-gun commentators have tried to do.

Another statistic not receiving as much press comes from a joint task force organised by the Ontario Solicitor General of six regional police forces in Ontario, including the Toronto Police Service as well as Canadian Customs and the US agency, ATF, called “Operation Gun Runner”, which in a nine-month period in 1995 seized 193 handguns from illegal dealers across Ontario.  166 of these were found to have been illegally smuggled into Canada from a wide variety of sources.  Not a recent statistic, admittedly, but in fact the handgun laws in Canada are more restrictive today than they were in 1995.

The second problem with this proposed ban are the physical complexities of actually implementing it.  There are roughly 530,000 handguns in Canada, about 166,000 of which are are already prohibited (any handgun with a barrel of 105mm or less, or .32 or .25 calibre), but grandfathered to their owners (who can transfer them to owners of other prohibited handguns).  There are 183,000 people licensed to own handguns in Canada (compared with 57,000 who owned them in GB – so in other words six times as many owners per capita, roughly).

This figure compares with just over 200,000 handguns that were legally possessed in Great Britain prior to the handgun ban here, about 160,000 of which were surrendered for compensation (the rest were either deactivated, exported or were exempt for various reasons, for the most part).  The handgun ban here cost £97 million back when the figures were tallied around 1999.  Take into account inflation and the much larger number of handguns in Canada, then if you assume 80% of them are turned in for compensation as was the case here, you come up with a figure around $600 million!

That is a gigantic sum of money, and no doubt if spent on traditional crime reduction strategies in Canada would have a far more profound impact.  Evidence of just how out of touch the Canadian Liberal Party is with this reality can be seen in their own press release.  This indicates that they reckon the total cost will be only $150 million – which is less than the cost of our ban even though we had less than two-fifths as many handguns!

However, in his address at the Elmbank Community Centre in Rexdale, Ontario, the PM said that the Government would spend $1.9 million to: “give hope” to the community.  As we would say in Britain; pull the other one, mate, it’s got bells on!

We can only hope that the Canadian people will vote the Liberals out on January 23rd.  Because truly, among hair-brained “gun control” schemes this has to be one of the most stupid ever.

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” – President Abraham Lincoln


Arm the police


November 27, 2005 – The fatal shooting of a police constable in Bradford recently has once again reignited the debate on whether the police should be generally armed with firearms; and once again, the debate reverts back to the old clichés about how doing this will drive a “wedge” between the police and the public, and how the police don’t support doing it, it’s unnecessary, perhaps we need a few more armed response vehicles, arming the police will simply mean criminals steal them from officers, etc.

All of this is complete twoddle and anyone who has ever examined the issues involved knows this full well.  The problem is communicating this to the public and having the political will to do something about it, both of which are quite hard.  We apparently have a Prime Minister who takes “principled” stands when the police say they want 90 days to question possible terrorist suspects, but when it goes against the grain with the police, what we get are platitudes.

So, perhaps it’s time someone made the facts known, although they will remain tucked away on this little corner of the web.

The first fact is that the police actually already are armed, just generally not with firearms.  They no longer carry truncheons; they carry PR-24 batons and CS spray.  Has this caused a “wedge” between the police and the public?  I think not.  What generally causes a “wedge” between the police and the public is when the police are unable to tackle crime that affects the public – and tackling criminals armed with firearms is rather difficult when the police generally don’t have them.  I never hear of anyone talking about a “wedge” between themselves and the police in countries where the police carry guns, including places with similar cultural values to the UK, such as Australia and Canada.

The second fact is that armed response vehicles are largely useless except in response to intelligence-led investigations, or tackling barricaded armed suspects.  Home Office research strongly indicates this.  For example, this study, on page 30 contains the memorable quote that in response to police initiated responses to armed crime, that: “Armed Response Vehicles, although they may have been deployed, were not responsible for any arrests.”  Another Home Office study indicates strongly why this is the case: it takes 10-12 minutes (at best) for ARVs to arrive on the scene of an armed incident.  By this time of course, the crooks are long gone, and have certainly had time to shoot at the first responders if they haven’t fled.  But the most important fact is that when police respond to an armed crime without advance intelligence, with a handful of exceptions that you can count on your fingers, the first officers to arrive are invariably not armed with firearms.  One of the most graphic examples of how this can go wrong was the murder of PC Ian Broadhurst by David Bieber.  Although Bieber was outnumbered by police officers, he was able to kill one officer and nearly kill two others simply because he was better armed.

If you need any further evidence of the uselessness of ARVs, you only need to read this story.  Yep, that’s right, West Midlands Police happened to haul in a suspect involved in shooting dead a PC, and they had no firearms themselves because they didn’t know he was there!

The Police Federation routinely point to a poll that indicated 80% of their members don’t want to carry firearms, so the PF then calls for more police to have firearm training and for an increase in the number of ARVs, a sort of way of calling for the police to be better armed without actually arming them with guns.  Unfortunately, it’s nonsensical as already pointed out.  ARVs are useless, and firearm training without having immediate access to a firearm is also pointless.  Whenever I hear about this poll result, two things always go through my mind – the first is that I wonder how many of the 20% of officers who want to carry guns work in areas where armed crime is common, and how many of the 80% of officers who don’t want to carry them do?  The second thing that goes through my mind is that I’d like to know when health and safety issues were open to being decided by a poll!

Unfortunately there are no statistics on how many guns stolen from police officers are used in crime (probably because it’s so rare), so that’s a difficult question to answer, however FBI statistics indicate that only 8% of officers murdered in the course of their duty in the US are shot with their own guns, and that only 10% of officers who are shot dead are shot with their own guns.  This to me is an argument for better weapon retention training in some police organisations, not that it’s too dangerous for officers to be armed with guns.

The only argument that people opposed to arming the police have that holds any water is that there is no need for the police to be armed generally with firearms.  And they’re right, there isn’t.  The rate of armed crime in most parts of the country simply doesn’t justify it, especially when put in the context of the cost of buying all those guns and the amount of training that would be required.  But, and it’s a big “but”, in some areas of the country, notably parts of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham, Bristol, some of the suburbs of those cities and elsewhere, there is a significant amount of serious armed crime, and in those areas, there is a need for the police to be generally armed with firearms.

So please can they now be armed?  The alternative is that the police in these areas continue to be ineffective at stopping random armed crime and simply serve as human sandbags, which is unacceptable.

More from Parliament

The Violent Crime Reduction Bill continues through Parliament.  It has now passed over to the Lords who have the unenviable task of trying to make it into a workable piece of legislation.

There is some good news for gun owners – under pressure the Government have decided not to include deactivated firearms, antiques, and replica antiques in the definition of a “realistic imitation firearm”, which the Bill prohibits from import, manufacture or sale.  However, airsoft enthusiasts will be in for a tough time.  The Government proposes to allow the sale of airsoft guns and other imitation firearms to continue provided they no longer look realistic.  Primarily this will be achieved by either requiring the imitation to be very small, or a certain bright colour.

One wonders if anyone at the Home Office has heard of black paint; it appears not.  Assuming that imitation firearms are the grave threat to public safety that the Home Office says they are, it’s hard to see how this legislation can be effective because of the huge number of imitations already in circulation and also because of the existence of black paint.  The Home Office Minister responsible for moving the legislation through the House of Commons, Hazel Blears MP, tells us that according to the most recent statistics, the use of imitation firearms in crime has risen 66%.

The problem with this statement is that first of all, a single year’s statistics prove basically nothing, as there is no trend to identify, and secondly, the Home Office’s own research indicates that this figure is dubious because it depends to a large extent on victim identification, or identification by the police.  Undoubtedly in many cases the gun is misidentified, and it’s highly unlikely a victim (or anyone else) can swear to the difference between a “realistic imitation firearm” and a non-realistic imitation firearm, especially if it’s dark, the gun is in someone’s pocket, etc.

However, it gets worse.  The Government have caved into pressure to crack down on air guns, despite stating in their own consultation paper in May 2004 that: “we do not therefore believe that there should be a system of licensing or further restrictions on the sale of air guns”.  Among various provisions, the age limit for the sale of an air gun would be raised to 18 (despite having been raised less than two years ago to 17), dealers in air guns would have to obtain a dealer’s registration (as dealers in other types of firearm have to) and transactions would have to be face-to-face.

Very little in the way of justification has been put forward for any of these provisions so it’s hard to critique the reasoning, in fact Hazel Blears appeared almost proud that she could not present any evidence at all to justify the increase in the age limit for acquisition.  What will happen of course is that a lot of air gun dealers will disappear as they depend on mail order sales.  This will lead to less choice for air gun users, and higher prices, given that you will only have a handful of choices locally where you can buy your new air gun, as transactions will have to be face-to-face.

Other silly provisions include a requirement to show a shotgun or firearm certificate prior to acquiring a reloading press.  Which is even more silly given the context that the Bill also requires a certificate to be shown for the acquisition of primers, making the provisions for presses redundant.

Hopefully the Lords will remove some of this nonsense from the Bill, but whether or not the Commons will accept their amendments is an open question.  Write to your MP and urge him or her to vote for the acceptance of any Lords amendments that do remove these provisions from the Bill.

“No matter how thin you slice it, it’s still baloney.” – Gov. Alfred E. Smith of New York, 1936.


Another pointless prohibition looms


June 18, 2005 – Over the years I have been running this website, I have occasionally received e-mails from irate supporters of the Government, who complain about my portrayal of Tony Blair on this website (especially the tagline, which they appear to especially dislike).

But the beauty of the internet is that very little is ever forgotten, and it’s at times like this I’m glad I did use the tagline that adorns every page on this site, simply because it’s accurate.  [later removed – Ed.]

Under the guise of “violent crime reduction”, the Government, in fact Tony Blair personally – introduced a Bill that among other things will prohibit the import, manufacture and sale of “realistic imitation firearms”.  (You can read the explanatory notes by clicking here.)

What is a “realistic imitation firearm”?  Well, it’s basically anything other than a firearm that strongly resembles a make and model of firearm.  This runs the gamut from airsoft guns to deactivated firearms, to model kits, prop guns and many types of blank-firing gun.  Of course, upon the Prime Minister’s announcement in Parliament on June 8th, these types of gun largely became worthless (or certainly will become worthless) due to the proposed prohibition of sales.  This may not bother the casual owner of an airsoft gun they bought at a model shop for £10, but for people who collect guns in this category, it means they were more or less instantly deprived of thousands of pounds.  Dealers are of course even worse off, unless they manage to shift their stock before the prohibition comes into effect.

One would think for such a Draconian prohibition to come about that something staggering had happened recently involving imitation firearms.  No, not really.  Armed crime has been rising for some time, but it’s unclear exactly how much of it is committed with imitations, as opposed to actual working guns.  Criminologists have long disagreed on this subject.  Home Office statistics for the year 2002/03 indicates 1,815 offences were committed with imitation firearms, however, even the Home Office cautions against the accuracy of these statistics, as they often depend on a determination made by a victim of a crime.  In truth, the general moaning of the police about being called out to deal with armed incidents when someone is found waving an airsoft gun about had more than anything else to do with it.  One could argue the police need to come up with better tactics, as there will still be millions of air guns and other types of imitation in circulation, assuming this prohibition works.

Even if one accepts the Government’s argument that there is a problem, it’s hard to see how legislation that causes dealers to dump their stock at firesale prices is likely to help.  Nor is it clear how much of an impact it could have, given that there is general agreement that there are well over a million (perhaps several million) guns that fall into the category of a “realistic imitation firearm” already in circulation.  Moreover, there is no legal prohibition on such a gun being transferred or being possessed by anyone, including a criminal, mentioned anywhere in the Bill, except for the prohibition of sales.

Yes folks, you heard that right, there is no provision in this Bill whatsoever to prohibit people convicted of criminal offences, even armed robbery, from possessing a “realistic imitation firearm”.  Given this reality it is quite easy to categorise this prohibition as little more than a publicity stunt, which will adversely affect collectors, re-enactors, actors and people pursuing various innocent hobbies to a far greater degree than it will impact on Joe drug dealer.  The Bill does contain a slight increase in the criminal penalty for possession of an imitation firearm in a public place “without lawful authority or reasonable excuse”, but so far this law (introduced in 2003 for imitations) has attracted more attention when the police have used it to harass children playing Cowboys and Indians than for any impact on actual armed crime.

Bear in mind this legislation supposedly addresses exactly what the Government said the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 was for; the 2003 Act contained an increase in the age limit for possession of air guns, a ban on self-contained air cartridge guns, a ban on possession of imitations in a public place, etc.  But two years later, here we are again with yet more silly legislation, which also increases the age limit for possession of an air gun (from 17 to 18), increases the penalty for having an imitation in a public place, and also bans another “bogey man” type of gun.

The cry continues: “The gun law isn’t working – what we need is another gun law!”  Sigh.  No, actually what we need is an attempt to address the social problems that lead to armed crime, rather than criminalising people selling an airsoft gun at a car boot sale.  (Shall we take bets on how much time and money the Home Office will spend on making the provisions of this prohibition known when it comes into force?  I suspect the payout will be on “virtually none”.)

Please, go and see your MP and ask them to oppose the prohibitions contained in this Bill and the increase in age limits for possessing an air gun or imitation gun, and to support any amendments that remove them or provide compensation.  You can contact your MP at the House of Commons, Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA.  If you don’t know who your MP is, you can use this tool to look them up.  If you’re not very good at talking to politicians, this discussion document should give you some ideas what to say, but always make the point that you will be personally affected by this legislation.

“Fortunately, in this country there is no necessity to carry a loaded revolver on a bicycle.  An empty one is sufficient to frighten away tramps, if they stop you on a dark, lonely road; or even a short bicycle pump when pointed at them will scare them off.” – from “The Art of Revolver Shooting”, p. 219, by Walter Winans, 1901.


A voting we shall go…

April 15, 2005 – Yes, it is finally time to go to the polls and choose who we want to govern us for the next few years, and if you’re a shooter, the General Election is the most important election in the country, because Parliament makes the gun laws.

The snag, like the last few elections, is: who do we vote for?

First up are Labour.  These are the people who removed the narrow exemption from the handgun ban for .22 pistols held at clubs, as well as banning “self-contained gas cartridge” air guns, and have clearly by words as well as deeds proven themselves to be no friends of shooters.  Indeed, the Labour manifesto contains pledges for tighter controls on airguns (unspecified, but they’ve already raised the age limit for possession of an airgun from 14 to 17), and comments in Parliament indicate they want tougher controls on ammunition components.  Some of this has been spurred on by the tragic murder of a 2-year old by a yob in Scotland armed with an air rifle (aged 27, I hasten to add, not 16, so the touted effectiveness of the new age limit is proven to be pointless).

Second we have the tories, who are still bumbling around in the political wilderness.  A graphic example of this bumbling being Michael Howard’s address to the Scottish Conservative Party conference, in which he stated that he thought the total handgun ban had gone too far (even though he was largely responsible for it), followed by home affairs spokesman, Patrick Mercer MP, stating strongly to the Scottish press afterwards that the tories have no intention of repealing the handgun ban!  Another example is the Conservative candidate who was de-selected after he had his picture taken holding a rifle (horror of horrors!)  Let’s not forget that the tories were also responsible for the Firearms (Amendment) Acts 1988 and 1997 as well as a raft of other nastiness last time they were in power.

Third, we have the Liberal Democrats, who strangely despite their left-wing bent actually seem (much to my amazement) to be the best on the issue, based on them actually not making as big a stink about the shooting in Scotland compared to Labour and the SNP.  Mainly this is because there are a few libertarians in the party (when they’re not talking about taxing us all to death), and also I suspect because their MPs often represent areas of the country where gun ownership is an issue, such as the south-west and parts of rural Scotland.  The problem is, while their MPs may not have an urgent desire to ban guns, most of their candidates do, because they’re running in urban areas.

And fourth, we have everyone else, who regardless of their stance are very unlikely to win, so are for most intents and purposes a protest vote.  (Yes, I can almost hear my e-mail inbox heaving under the complaints from UKIP supporters as I write this – however, face facts: they’re aren’t going to win.)

So, assuming shooting is a voting issue for you – who do you vote for?  I’m afraid there is no easy answer to this, and perhaps there shouldn’t be, because it gets you involved in the political process.  What you have to do is contact all the candidates in your area that actually have some chance of winning, find out their views, and pick the best one.  Be it Labour, Conservative, or Liberal Democrat (or someone else).  Even if they are all useless, the fact that you phoned or visited and asked will be recalled by the candidate, and that is perhaps one of the most positive outcomes.

Phone them up, be polite, find out their stance and stress that your vote will be based on this issue.

Remember that there definitely will be an entirely new Firearms Bill introduced in the next Parliament that will completely replace the current legislation – so who gets to write it is an important issue. [But, shock, there wasn’t – Ed.]

“I am absolutely certain there will not be a woman Prime Minister in my lifetime… there are no women currently who have the necessary range of experience in Government to perform that role.” – Margaret Thatcher MP, Secretary of State for Education, 1973.


And finally, some good news…

According to the recently released Firearm Certificate Statistics for 2002-03, the number of shotgun and firearm certificates in England & Wales have increased, by 26,450 shotgun certificates and 8,670 firearm certificates.  Whether this is an indication of a new trend upwards in certificates or merely a lot of people scared off after Dunblane returning to the sport is unclear, but anecdotally, I do seem to run into new shooters quite frequently, which is a good sign.  (Although I do think sometimes I am gate crashing a Catholic sermon, as I can’t seem to get quite as excited about shooting gallery rifles as new shooters do – but they have no experience of pistol shooting).

However, this is small potatoes compared to the situation in the Republic of Ireland, where the Gardai (Irish police) have been put under pressure by a couple of shooters seeking firearm certificates for a pistol and a 7.62mm calibre rifle – not allowed under a long-standing (since 1972) policy.  As the court date approached, the Gardai threw in the towel, and have begun issuing firearm certificates for handguns and larger calibre rifles again.  This is absolutely fantastic news for shooters in the Republic who have suffered under the most repressive firearms regime in the developed world for many years.

With the ban on handguns being lifted in Poland a few years ago, it also means that Great Britain is the only jurisdiction in Europe where handguns are banned.  Doesn’t that give you a warm, fuzzy feeling?  Sigh.

The Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) are threatening changes to the Firearms Acts there, however, so Irish shooters are not out of the woods yet.  At the moment the proposed changes relate to penalties for firearm offences and secure storage requirements.

Postcomm Pat and his black & white policy

If it wasn’t bad enough that we have to deal with stupid Government policies, Royal Mail has been moaning to Postcomm (the post regulator) about guns (including toys) showing up in the post.  Being fair-minded people they apparently want to change their carriage policy to ban the carriage of anything even vaguely firearm-related.

This is a truly serious threat to shooters in this country given how reluctant other carriers are to carry these items, and it would really help if as many shooters as possible make submissions to Postcomm about these proposed changes.  Especially focus on relating experiences you may have had with other carriers.  This is our submission.  Don’t delay, as the consultation only lasts until March 14th.

“They’ll have to shoot me first to take my gun.” – Roy Rogers, commenting on the proposed ban of handguns in California in 1982.


The Government wants to know what you think about guns… again

May 13, 2004 – Sometimes I think I could start up a business that has the sole purpose of responding to committees, inquiries and consultations on the subject of firearms in this country, after all, since 1996 there have been the Dunblane Public Inquiry, two Home Affairs Committee reports, the Northern Ireland consultation, the Northern Ireland Committee report, several Firearms Consultative Committee reports and doubtless a few others I’ve forgotten.  The problem of course is that I couldn’t make any money out of it, although I have no doubt there a fair few bureaucrats at the Home Office who do.

So in the interests of having yet another inquiry, the Home Office has published a consultation paper.  The impetus for this consultation was the murder of two teenage girls in Birmingham with a submachinegun, which really should tell you all you need to know about firearm controls in this country, seeing as submachineguns have been prohibited since 1936.  Somehow the Government appears to figure from reading through this consultation paper that possibly banning .22 rimfire self-loading rifles and requiring firearm dealers to have frosted glass in their windows might have some impact on the “gun culture” that led to this tragedy.  Call me a pessimist, but methinks not, somehow…

One only has to look at the two main pieces of firearm legislation introduced under this Government to see what lays in store for gun owners, have a look at the Firearms (Amendment) (No 2) Act 1997 and the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, to see how effective my psychic abilities were when I created the tagline at the bottom of this page [Since removed – Ed].  The ban on Brocock air pistols has been a complete disaster while I’m on the subject, despite estimates of approximately 70,000 such guns having been sold in the UK, police forces appear to have received only a few dozen applications each on average for authority to possess them under the “grandfather” exemption in the prohibition.  I’m sure the rest were legally exported by their owners or handed in.  Much like all the large capacity shotguns were in 1989.

Northern Ireland

The new Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 2004 gives us some insight into how consultations on this subject are handled.  Basically, the Government formulates proposals, puts them into a consultation paper, people respond to the paper, then there is an election, a new Secretary of State comes in, takes no notice of the Government’s original proposals and the responses to them whatsoever, and instead decides to foist upon the public a totally unworkable law chock full of anomalies and other nonsense.  Bear in mind the new consultation ends on August 31st, so there is unlikely to be legislation introduced until after the next General Election.  This means Blunkett is unlikely to be around then, and a new Home Secretary brimming full of ignorance, oops, sorry, ideas, will try to cram them down our throats.

The new Northern Ireland law contains various unworkable provisions, for example the Order aimed to reduce the amount of paperwork the police had to handle, and helpfully allows dealers to perform one-for-one variations for shotguns.  The slight snag is that “magazines” are now classed as component parts of firearms, meaning the PSNI will likely have to call in 10,000+ firearm certificates to amend them, and handle vastly more variation applications each time someone wants to acquire or dispose of one.  And you can now get ten years in prison for simple possession of a Bren gun magazine.  Another bit of the law that will create immense amounts of paperwork are the new visitor permit requirements that are copied out of the 1988 Act.  These make sense somewhat in Great Britain, but in Northern Ireland 99.9% of the people who visit with firearms come from the Republic of Ireland, and simply drive across the border to visit a gun club.  So instead of obtaining a non-resident firearm certificate like they used to, they’ll have to endlessly keep on applying for visitor permits.

Additionally, have a look at Article 6(5) of the Order – yes, you’ll have to find someone to follow you around for a year every time you want to own a new type of firearm and they must already own the same type of firearm.  I’m fascinated to know how or if this will be applied to people who want to have a handgun for personal protection!

What is most fascinating about the Order is that there were several proposals made by the Government themselves in 1998 that don’t appear in the Order, notably in relation to age limits to possess firearms and also the appeal provisions, which were supposed to be moved back to the courts.  Let us not forget that it was no less a figure than the Attorney General who pointed out that the current appeal provisions probably violate Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, but of course it’s so much more simple to come up with a law based on ignorance, er, I mean new ideas, isn’t it?

Ah yes, there’s a business there somewhere.  “Guaranteed Never To Be Listened To Consulting Service” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

“Did you hear what I was playing Lane?”

“I didn’t think it polite to listen, sir.”

– from “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde.

Why gun bans stink

Recently, Parliament enacted yet another gun ban, this time on “air cartridge” guns, i.e. the air guns made by Brocock and a few other companies.  Once again I felt my blood pressure rising, and no doubt my lifespan shortening, but then it occurred to me, why am I getting so worked up, after all I don’t even own an air-cartridge gun?

This was not an easy question to answer, it took some thought.  I am struck by a comment made by Frank Cook MP in Parliament to the effect that the main effect of the handgun ban was to make everyone who owned one extremely paranoid.  Hmm, I think it made a few people paranoid, but mostly I think it made nearly every gun owner, not just handgun owners, extremely cynical about the operation of government.  The people who weren’t made cynical by this exercise I think are mostly excluded on account of the fact that they already were cynical.

Now, if you talk to someone who owned handguns at the time, they will give you a laundry list of reasons why handguns shouldn’t have been banned, and they are explored in some depth in earlier editorials on this site.  However, it is not often put forward that the best reason not to ban them was that it made a large group of decent people immensely cynical about any action the Government takes.  Instead of our believing the Government is there to help us, we believe that it is a group of self-aggrandising bigots whose only interest is getting themselves re-elected on the back of knee-jerk actions taken whenever the Daily Mail and company starts whinging.

To take this observation a bit further, next year the Home Office will conduct a “review” of firearms controls in order to draft a new consolidation Firearms Act.  This all sounds well and good until you realise that the Dunblane Public Inquiry specifically recommended against banning target shooting with handguns, yet it was banned.  The Firearms Consultative Committee has made umpteen recommendations on changes in firearm laws over the years, but perhaps 10% or less of those recommendations have ever been enacted, and only slightly more have ever really been closely considered.  Not only that, but the Home Affairs Committee have done two separate reports on firearm law since 1996, and little notice was taken of those reports either.

Contrast this to the panic over air-cartridge guns.  Little in the way of proof that they actually were a significant threat to public safety has ever been presented.  No-one in the House of Commons even commented against the prohibition as the Bill moved through Parliament.  The police wanted the ban, and hey presto, a wave of the magic legislative wand, and they are now banned.  Note that in the Lords, our supposed shooting representatives actually pushed for a complete ban with hand-in of air-cartridge guns (calling them “evil little guns”), but the Government refused to change a word of it.

It’s not surprising therefore that gun owners view the Government with cynicism when they take not the blindest bit of notice of us, especially when the police (or rather ACPO) can write documentation that is adopted, word for word, into statutory instruments (and I’ve got the proof of that).

In reality the only result of this new ban will be the instant transformation of innocent people into criminals.  There will be a grace period for people to get firearm certificates for their banned guns, and if they don’t get one, they will be faced with the mandatory sentences contained in the new Criminal Justice Act.  As in 1920, how many people will be aware that they now need a firearm certificate for their guns?  Will the Home Office embark on a nationwide advertising campaign to inform people?  Not bloody likely.  Look, I’m being cynical, what a shock!

The Northern Ireland Office takes an entirely different tack to these sorts of things – they simply do nothing, or at least as close to nothing as they can get away with.  Back at the start of 1996 they announced a review of firearm controls in Northern Ireland.  Nearly eight years later, and the new Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order has yet to be implemented.  Most likely it will not be implemented until 2005, so that they can “learn lessons” from the latest Whitehall whitewash that will be undertaken by the Home Office next year.  The review in Northern Ireland, bear in mind, officially ended in 1998.  Then last year there was a consultation paper.  Then the Northern Ireland Committee decided to chip in too.  I didn’t even bother making a submission to that committee, I was so brassed off with the whole thing by that point.  And at the moment, after all this time, the actual proposed Order itself is appalling, it contains so many stupid and unworkable provisions.  Perhaps they ought to get ACPO to write it (or maybe they did).

So anyway, I will dust off, for I think the fourth or fifth time, the same submission I have made before with a few minor alterations, and submit it again to the relevant bit of Government, only for it to be ignored again.  I’ve had more success convincing foreign governments than I have my own.

Bear in mind I never wanted to be an expert on firearm laws.  I only wanted to be an expert on firearms.  But there seems little chance of the Government ever letting that happen.  Instead they will continue on writing endlessly stupid laws, not listening to anyone but various over-bearing police organisations (whose only real interest seems to be that we should all live in a police state), and emotional knee-jerk reactionaries who have been victims of some awful crime because the Government failed to listen to anyone sensible the last time around.  Or, shock, horror, until the Government actually has the guts to say that evil people do evil things regardless of the law, which is why we have courts and police in order to enforce them.

Do I sound cynical?  Yes I do, and so do thousands of other people like me, and that cannot be healthy for a country.  And we will continue to get more and more cynical (and the nutters on the fringes will continue to get more and more paranoid) until the Government actually does it’s job properly and listens closely to the people it is supposed to represent.

And that ladies and gentlemen, is why gun laws stink!

Oh, and have a Merry Christmas…

“I tell you, men, they could not hit an elephant at this distance.” – last words of General John Sedgewick of the US Army at the Battle of Fredericksburg, during the Civil War (learning the hard way that rifles are more accurate than muskets).

More armed crime?

One does not have to read far in the news media from the last few weeks to see that firearm-related offences are a hot topic at the moment.

For example, you can go to the BBC news website, read that article and hyperlink to several dozen others.  People getting mindlessly shot on their way home, people being mindlessly shot in bungled armed robberies, drug dealers seeking revenge on rivals, and so on.

And we can look at the increasing number of offences and see that serious armed crime rose 3% in the last recorded year, i.e. from April 2002 to April 2003.

Now what you might be expecting is for me to point out how serious armed crime is going up, despite all the silly gun laws that have been passed in recent years.  However, there is frankly little point in my doing that, because to begin with, the editorial pages and opinion pages of virtually every national newspaper already reflect this point.

But you see, newspapers have to make out that the sky is falling, because it makes it sound interesting, and the more interesting it is, the more newspapers they sell, and not only that, but it makes the Government squirm and that means even more column inches in the political columns of the same newspapers.  A good example of this squirming is the curious juxtaposition of Home Office officials pronouncing that armed crime is extremely rare and you shouldn’t be too concerned about it (as one minister points out in the above BBC article), which had been preceded by the Home Secretary announcing that armed crime is such a serious problem that new laws are needed as soon as possible.

However the reality that doesn’t sell newspapers is that serious armed crime is actually falling, and has been falling since November 2002, which is why the Government released the statistics early, although you wouldn’t know that from reading the BBC website.  Tucked away on an obscure part of the Metropolitan Police website is this press release, which indicates that the Flying Squad are being extremely effective at reducing armed robberies in London, and remember that armed robberies are the most common serious firearm-related offence.

Now, speaking as a gun lobbyist myself, the lesson I take away from this is that the mainstream media is pretty useless if you actually need factual information, but that aside, the real lesson here is that armed crime rises and falls due to the degree of enforcement of the law, not the amount of laws that Parliament endlessly pisses out that do nothing but aggravate the ordinary person who is as likely to commit a firearm-related offence as they are to sit in a see-through box held up by a crane for 44 days.  Obviously the police need some laws to enforce, but strangely enough, it’s been illegal to commit armed robbery for a pretty long time.

Of course, anyone who has studied the subject objectively for more than five minutes has already learned this lesson, but politicians need a scapegoat, and gun owners are the obvious choice when it comes to armed crime, by and large.  The current scapegoats being lined up are owners of air cartridge guns, but don’t be surprised if owners of imitations, deactivated firearms and air pistols of other types are next.

So to avoid being a scapegoat, we come to the final lesson for the day, and that is to make your MP as fully aware of your unwillingness as you can, because MPs are responsible for this endless nonsense of laws we are subjected to, and if you don’t like talking to your MP, remember there is at least one thing that an MP is even less likely to abolish than the handgun ban, bans on air cartridge guns, etc., and that is Parliament!

Your MP can be reached at the House of Commons, Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA.

“There are idiots.  And there are Congressmen – but I repeat myself.” – Mark Twain

Morges military museum

A visit to the Swiss military museum at Morges:

While in Switzerland recently your intrepid Editor decided to visit the Swiss military museum in the town of Morges, a picturesque town not far from Lausanne.  Approximately half an hour drive from Bière, the museum is a must-see for anyone attending the Tir Fédéral.

The museum covers the whole of the history of the Swiss military, though a large segment appears to focus on the Napoleonic Wars, due to the fact that the French-speaking areas of Switzerland were annexed by Napoleon and many Swiss served in the French Army.

Below are a variety of pictures of the exhibits in the museum:

Pictured above are a selection of rifles showing the development of the Vetterli bolt-action rifle, the first bolt-action rifle issued to any army.  The rifle used a tubular magazine and fired a 10.4mm rimfire cartridge.  Below them is an 1866 Winchester rifle, fitted with a socket bayonet, a rifle used during military trials of the late 1860s.

Pictured above are modern Swiss military weapons.  At top is the SIG 57 assault rifle, chambered for the 7.5mm Swiss GP11 round, originally developed for the M1911 Schmidt-Rubin rifle.  Below that are a number of prototype rifles, the top two being developed by the Bern Ordnance factory and the two below that being the SG541 developed by SIG.  These chamber the experimental 6.45 NSK round.  This round was eventually dropped in favour of 5.56mm, called the 5.6mm Swiss in Switzerland.  This round, the GP90, although having similar ballistics to the standard 5.56mm NATO round has a lead core with a mild steel/nickel alloy jacket.  The rifle at bottom is the SIG 90 assault rifle, adopted in 1986, essentially the SG541 chambered for the GP90 round.  To the left of it are the two current issue service pistols, the elegant and costly SIG A49 9mm pistol (P210) on the left, and the more common SIG A75 (P220) which is replacing the A49.  Both are 9mm.

A selection of Swiss cavalry rifles, from when soldiers rode into war on horses.  At bottom is the Schmidt-Rubin M1889/00 cavalry rifle, of which only 7,000 were made.  However, it formed the basis for the famous K31, the standard rifle in World War 2 and perhaps the best known Swiss rifle.

A rare 1882 7.5mm cyclist’s revolver.  The Swiss Army even today still has a cyclist’s corp.  They serve primarily as an anti-tank unit.  Hence the “mountain bike”, I kid you not!  Note the large lanyard loop on the butt.

A close-up of an early production SIG 90 assault rifle, otherwise known as the SG550.  Having shot (and owned) one of these I can tell you that they are very accurate rifles.  The Swiss are very fond of target shooting and possibly this rifle makes too many concessions to sport, being heavier than most of the competition and being prone to rust.  It also is hard to clean.  However they are exceptionally reliable and robust.

A very rare Swiss contract Gatling gun.  The Swiss are among the greatest pioneers in the area of firearms.  If they haven’t designed it themselves, they will buy it themselves as soon as it hits the market!

The Swiss were also the first Army to adopt the semi-automatic pistol, Georg Luger’s famous Parabellum, way back in 1900.  First deliveries were from DWM in Germany, but later production involved the assembly of DWM parts at the Bern ordnance factory.  When World War 1 cut off the supply from Germany, Bern began making their own Lugers, eventually simplifying the design.  Shown above are the four distinct models, from the first DWM Luger to the last Bern production model.  For some reason the Swiss chose to stay with the 7.65mm Parabellum calibre right up until the adoption of the SIG P210 in 1949.  Note the 7.5mm cavalry revolver with buttstock at the bottom.

The history of the Schmidt-Rubin rifle is in this display case, these examples being based on the original 1889 design.  This was the first successful rifle to use a straight-pull bolt-action mechanism.  The top three rifles chamber the 7.5×53.5mm round, which is remarkably similar to the .30-06 used in the US Springfield and Garand rifles despite being developed more than a decade earlier.  Moving downward are later versions of the rifle chambering the 7.5x55mm GP11 round.  The middle rifle is the M1911 Schmidt-Rubin, standard issue in World War 1.

Swiss weaponry from the World War 2 period.  At the top is the prolific Karabiner 1931 or K31 Schmidt-Rubin rifle, chambered for the GP11 7.5mm round.  Note the sniper model of the Schmidt-Rubin with a remarkably advanced scope for the time.  Swiss submachineguns however were somewhat over-engineered and elaborate, the Swiss having the time to make them as they were not heavily involved in combat during the war, with the exception of shooting down some Nazi Messerschmitts!

A Swiss Maxim gun, chambered for the GP11 7.5mm round.  Maxim guns of course were responsible for a large proportion of the casualties during World War 1.  The Swiss once again showed foresight in their acquisition, though they were neutral during the war.

The history of the Swiss Army knife!  The current issue knife is on the right.  Victorinox and Wenger make this knife, it is called the “Swiss soldier’s knife” and is available at most good cutlery shops.  Note the lack of tools compared to the prolific commercial models, and the aluminium handle, more hard-wearing than the well-known red plastic grip.  The pointed tool at the bottom is not usually found on the commercial knives.  It is intended for puncturing food and ammunition cans, and for scraping carbon off difficult to reach areas of the assault rifle.

A close-up of the SIG P210, known as the A49 in Swiss military use.  Widely regarded as the best (and most costly) service pistol ever issued, and sought after by collectors and target shooters alike.  Note the design of the slide to frame fit, the slide runs inside the frame, a design feature not found on most other pistols, that contributes to the gun’s superb accuracy.  Pistols are given to officers in the Swiss military.

The current issue SIG P220, or A75 9mm pistol.  This gun was developed to replace the A49, which was simply too expensive to make.  The gun was the first to use the chamber wedge method of delayed blowback, which is exceptionally simple and cuts down greatly on the machining necessary to make the pistol.  This design feature has been widely copied, most notably by Glock and Ruger, two of the largest handgun makers in the world.  The P220 itself is a hugely successful design, over two million have been made of the different variations of it.  Another innovative design feature is the slide.  Most pistol slides are simply machined from a block of steel, but the slide of the P220 is made by shaping a piece of sheet metal over a mandrel, and then pinning a breechblock in place, greatly reducing the amount of machining necessary for production of the gun.  Most people will know of the P220 series as Mulder and Scully carry them in the X-files TV programme.

One of the most common things you will find in Swiss homes, the SIG 90 assault rifle.  The Swiss Army comprises 450,000 men who are given their service rifles and who have to complete a minimum of two weeks service each year, serving from the age of 18 until they are 50 (this age will be dropped to 45 soon).  After completing their service, the fully-automatic capability of the rifle is permanently disabled, and the rifle is given back to the former soldier who may keep it.  Soldiers are also issued a comprehensive cleaning kit, three 20-round magazines, and a “corn-beef can” of 50 rounds of 5.6mm ammunition, as well as a bayonet.  Swiss soldiers must practice their marksmanship regularly under the terms of the Obligatory Rifle Shooting Programme.  Switzerland has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world, yet maintains a remarkably low homicide and armed crime rate.

The current Swiss uniform and battle kit.

Swiss Army mobilisation during World War 2.  After some early border skirmishes with the Nazis, the Swiss did allow some German troop trains to cross their country into Italy, but later closed the border.  Although some skeptics believe Germany did not invade as Switzerland was a good place to hide their gold, the thought of attempting to cross the Alps and face the most heavily armed population on Earth at the time was probably a large factor in Hitler’s thinking as well.  Documents uncovered after the war indicated that the Nazis had intended to invade Switzerland.

If you would like to visit the museum, it is located south of the Morges exit from the N1 motorway, between Lausanne and Geneva.  Follow the road signs to Morges town centre, the museum is located at the Morges Chateau.  The museum is open every day from 1:30 pm to 5 pm, except over the Christmas period.  Opening hours are longer on most weekdays and during the summer.

“Shoot twice” – the caption on a Swiss postcard of 1914, depicting a Swiss militia man being asked by the Kaiser what the Swiss would do if he sent an army of half a million Germans against the quarter million Swiss Army.