Another scapegoating at hand


27 November, 2008 – Yes, it was too good to be true: as reported here, the return of handguns in the Republic of Ireland seems set to be very short-lived.  For those of you not keeping track, handguns were seized in Ireland in 1972 and held in police custody until 2004 with infrequent visits from their owners, until it became clear that such a policy was not going to survive scrutiny by the Irish courts.

As a result 1,500 or so handguns were returned to their surviving lawful owners, and since 2004 a few hundred extra handguns have been licensed.

It was clear the Irish Govt. did not look upon this development favourably with the enactment of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which among many changes to the Firearms Acts in Ireland contained a particularly fuzzy provision allowing certain firearms to be classed as: “restricted”, and requiring applicants to apply to the Commissioner of the Garda rather than just the local Superintendent for a Firearm Certificate.  Obviously one would presumably need a very good reason indeed to convince the Commissioner to grant an FAC for a restricted firearm.

Earlier this year, after a General Election caused various delays, the Minister of Justice finally got around to issuing a statutory instrument defining what a “restricted firearm” would be and essentially it is this:

1) Any handgun, except air pistols using .177″ air pellets or .22″ rimfire pistols, providing they are designed for ISSF competition;

2) Any rifle, except air rifles, most .17″ and .22″ rimfire rifles (provided the magazine doesn’t hold more than ten rounds) and centrefire rifles that are single-shot or “repeating” (this appears to exclude semi-autos) up to 7.62mm calibre, that are at least 90cm long and don’t resemble selective-fire rifles;

3) Any shotgun, except shotguns with a barrel at least 24″ long that hold three rounds or less of ammunition and which do not have a pistol grip or folding, detachable or telescoping stock; and

4) Any sound suppressor, except those designed for use with rimfire rifles.

Also defined as “restricted” would be various types of ammunition, including handgun ammunition (except .22″ rimfire), shotgun slugs and sabot ammunition.

Now this sounds bad, and it is, because it essentially wipes out all IPSC competition in Ireland.

The only bright spots in this SI are that some types of pistol would remain legal and also some rifles up to 7.62mm would be legal (in the past centrefire rifles were limited to .27″ calibre).  To date the implementation of this SI has been held up.

However, just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did, as shown by this press release weighed down with hyperbole.

I have to say of all the press releases I’ve ever read from Govt. departments over the years, this is by far the most stupid.  Note this comment for example:

My concern is that unless strong and decisive action is taken the number of handguns could grow exponentially and our firearms regime would equate to that of countries such as the United States. Today we have 1800 legal handguns – in three years time that number could exceed 4,000 and rising.

Bear in mind Ireland already had an extremely restrictive licensing regime for firearms that grew more restrictive still with the Criminal Justice Act 2006 as detailed here.  More handguns are typically sold every day in the US than are currently legally owned in Ireland!  Many gun clubs had already spent considerable time and money getting their facilities into compliance with the 2006 Act, only to find now that the guns they use will be banned.

Perhaps more tellingly, Home Office statistics seem to indicate there are between 15,000 and 16,000 handguns legally owned in England & Wales under the various exemptions to the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997.  This works out to roughly 30 handguns per 100,000 people (and this figure excludes muzzle-loading guns, blank-firing guns and air pistols).  In the Republic of Ireland the figure is 40/100,000 and that figure includes blank-firing guns, muzzle-loading guns and air pistols!  In other words the ownership figure per capita of actual modern, working handguns is probably roughly the same in Ireland as it is in England & Wales, and the ownership of handguns for target shooting is banned in England & Wales!  One can hardly refer to the likelihood of a “Dunblane type incident” given that reality, or the threat of theft.  In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if the ownership rate is actually a little bit higher in England & Wales at present.  Even if the number did increase to 4,000 it’s still a very small number, far less than the 12,000 or so legally owned in Northern Ireland.

The only bright spot in that fantastically ill-informed press release is that it does appear a few people will still be able to get pistols if they’re good enough to be on the Olympic squad, and it talks vaguely about some sort of “grandfather” clause for current owners under a “radically tightened” licensing procedure.  A procedure that has been very tight since the 1920s and which has already been “radically tightened” many previous times, most recently in 2006.  It is hard to see how it could be made much tougher.  Psychometric testing perhaps?  Higher licensing fees?  Day-long lecture on the evils of gun ownership by some badly misinformed politician?

If you’re still wondering where the scapegoating comes in, it’s due to the fact an innocent person was shot dead by a gang in Limerick and the Minister is using this as a reason to ban handguns.  What that crime has to do with the legal ownership of a tiny number of handguns under a very strict licensing regime is hard to fathom.

The US elections

As much as we may all hate to admit it, Federal elections in the US always have an impact on gun owners around the world because half the privately-owned guns in the world are in the United States.  Thus the gun industry caters to them and if anything happens to that market it affects us all.

To cut a very long story very short, it is clear that Obama is no friend of gun owners and even if he were, the US Congress has tilted towards the anti-gun viewpoint.

The difference between Congress this time and what happened when the Democrats controlled the White House and Congress back in 1993 and 1994 is that there are enough Democrats still around who remember that they lost control of Congress to the Republicans in 1994 in large part because of the passage of the “Brady Bill” (which instituted a waiting period and background check on handgun sales) in 1993 and the “assault weapons” ban in 1994.  This law banned a variety of semi-automatic firearms and “large capacity ammunition feeding devices” that held more than ten rounds of ammunition from import and manufacture.

I suspect the most we can expect legislatively from the new Congress in the near future is for the “assault weapon” ban to be reinstituted (it expired in 2004), except this time it will have no sunset provision.  It will probably be tightened up slightly as well, to include component parts of banned guns and magazines.  Re-instituting the ban is seen as being politically safe because President Bush said he would sign a bill to re-authorise it.  I doubt American gun owners will agree that it is politically safe however.

I think it is worth re-hashing the history of the “assault weapon” issue here because it is important to understand just how utterly stupid and pointless the whole thing has become over the years.

These bans first started in the late 1970s, either because governments were worried about private individuals having what they saw as military weapons in their possession, or because someone had used one in a crime.  Good examples are the Hungerford massacre in 1987, which led to a ban in the UK, or the Stockton schoolyard shootings which led to a State ban in California in 1989, as well as a US federal import ban the same year.  Other examples around the same time include the Hoddle Street shootings in Melbourne, Australia and the Montréal Polytechnic massacre.

The problem with all of these laws is that there has never been any real agreement as to what an “assault weapon” actually is, in its broadest sense it is merely a weapon you can assault someone with.  Here are some examples of laws passed that have been described as bans on these guns, and what actually happened as a result:

  1. After the Hungerford massacre, the UK banned all semi-automatic and pump-action rifles excluding those chambered for .22 rimfire.  As a result, shooters (especially after the handgun ban in 1997) took to shooting variations of guns like the AR-15, M1A, Mini-14 and so on that were either chambered for .22 rimfire cartridges, or which had straight-pull bolt-action mechanisms;
  2. After the 1996 Port Arthur shootings in Australia, the Federal government convinced the States to ban all semi-automatic rifles and shotguns and also pump-action shotguns.  As a result, lever-action shotguns are now very popular as well as pump-action rifles;
  3. After the 1989 Montréal shootings in Canada, various laws were passed, culminating in a series of Orders-in-Council which banned lists of firearms after they had been determined to be “non-sporting” using a hugely complex points system developed by the Dept. of Justice.  As a result, many semi-automatic rifles were not banned (including the Mini-14), the AR-15 was put in the same category as handguns, magazines were limited to 5 rounds for semi-automatic long guns and banned guns were either collected in or “grandfathered” depending on how many points they got on the test.  Shooters in response either gravitated towards guns that were excluded from the ban, or used new models of gun that came out after the ban;
  4. After a mass shooting incident in 1990, New Zealand banned “military-style semi-automatic” firearms.  This law basically said any semi-automatic firearms with a list of certain features (such as a folding stock, flash hider, magazine capable of holding more than 7 rounds of ammunition or more than 15 rounds of .22 rimfire ammunition) would be banned from manufacture or import and current owners would either have to modify their guns to remove the banned features or else get a new type of licence which further restricted their possession;
  5. “Assault weapon” bans became en vogue in the US after the Stockton schoolyard massacre and various States and localities embarked on bans – these either consisted of a list of banned guns, or a list of banned features, or a combination of both (as happened with the Federal ban).  Federal law and regulations were changed in 1989, 1990, 1994 and 1998 to restrict the import of certain types of firearms and parts into the US.  The plethora of differing laws and the number of shooters in the US led to what can only be described as a deluge of different firearms coming onto the market: guns with their names changed, guns with certain features removed or altered, guns manufactured domestically to avoid import bans, or guns with domestically manufactured components for the same reason, etc.

The main thing to draw from just these examples (and there are many, many others) is that there is absolutely zero consensus on what an “assault weapon” actually is.  No-one has much of a clue.  Back in the mid-1980s it was possible for a firearm expert to say in a highly qualified way what a definition might be (usually a selective-fire rifle, but that went out the window because no-one believed a semi-automatic only AK-47 was not an “assault weapon”), but there was always another expert who would say: “Ah, but that definition excludes this.

The past twenty years of legislation and innovation have simply blurred a blurred line to the point that no-one can with any confidence say what on Earth an “assault weapon” may or may not be.  There used to be a few ground rules, such as that it was selective-fire, semi-automatic or at least had a detachable magazine, but all that has gone out the window.  There are AR-15s, AK-47s, etc. that are bolt-action, pump-action, even lever-action or single-shot.  AR-15s with fixed magazines.  AK-47s that use shotgun ammunition.  And of course none of these guns say anything like: “AR-15” or “AK-47” on them and generally the major parts are not interchangeable with them.  There are even airguns that have been given the “assault weapon” moniker.

Basically what it boils down to is that an “assault weapon” ban is a gun ban, pure and simple.  It’s a gun ban designed to make some people who own guns not as worried that their guns may be banned, but the reality is that no two such bans have ever banned the same guns.  Basically what does get banned is completely arbitrary and bears no relationship at all to what degree of threat there is to public safety, or how often such guns are used in crime.

It also appears that politicians are largely out-of-touch with gun owners; they often go on about how your hunting rifle or shotgun will not be banned by them, while completely failing to understand that military and civilian firearms have always had a similar design philosophy and today’s modern sporting guns are not that different from today’s modern military and police guns.

For those of us who know a lot about guns, “assault weapon” bans have a Luddite feel to them.  An attempt to ban a type of technology some people don’t like the looks of, which cannot be accurately defined in legislation because really it’s an emotive issue rather than a clearly defined one.  Really it’s the same sort of mentality that has led to cultures banning certain kinds of books or certain kinds of clothes.

And that’s why these bans will never work and are totally pointless, because human beings are by nature inventive and will always find a way.  In the meantime, all the politicians have achieved is to convince a lot of people to go out and buy guns they never would have bought otherwise!

“Necessity, who is the mother of invention.” – Plato

Obscure things you should know about

January 7th, 2008 – In this case the rather obscure but very important (if you’re a gun owner) European Firearms Directive.  Although the Directive has been on the books since 1991, most gun owners still only seem to have a passing familiarity with it, usually when they think about going shooting abroad somewhere else in the EU and their local licensing dept. tells them that they need a European Firearms Pass.  The Directive was made part of the legislation of the UK via the Firearms Acts (Amendment) Regulations 1992.

The Directive itself was a hodgepodge of various legislation that the then European Community members thought the other members should have, one example being a ban on firearms disguised as other objects (thank you Belgium) or a ban on expanding pistol ammunition (thank you Germany).  The main parts of it that people are aware of in the UK and Ireland (due to the fact the gun laws there are so restrictive that it made little difference to domestic licensing) are the European Firearm Pass, which is required for travel to another EU State (in addition to any permits that State may require) and also the Article 7 authority, which is required for acquisition of a Category B firearm in another EU State (i.e. most handguns and semi-automatic long guns), in addition to any other paperwork that country may require.

Basically, it was a bureaucratic nightmare foisted on the EU, with lots of illogical bits in it and a passport system for guns that has never worked because it is not pre-emptive, and countries such as Ireland and the UK still require separate import permits.  One of the most glaring problems was the total lack of information sharing between States.  For example if you used an Article 7 authority to buy a gun in another State, the dealer was supposed to give it to the local authorities, who reported that to the national authorities, who then reported that to your national authorities, who then reported that to your local authorities, so they knew that you had bought a firearm.  Which, oddly enough, given the complexity of it, never actually happened…

The Directive has been under review now for some time, and all this led to was a recent amendment to make the EFP and Article 7 authorities published in the 25 official languages of the expanded EU.  However, the Directive itself came to public attention because of a recent school shooting in Finland.  Finland itself had opposed a fairly obscure amendment to the Directive that would prohibit minors (under 18) from possessing firearms for sporting purposes without adult supervision.  After the shooting, the Finnish Govt. made the momentous decision to change their mind.  Or rather some bureaucrat somewhere took some heat and shrugged his shoulders and crossed off a minor agenda item for Finnish MEPs, most likely.  Somewhere in the media furore, the fact that the shooter at the school had in fact been 18 years old, and only qualified for a Finnish gun licence under current Finnish domestic law because of his age, was lost.

Regardless, the amendments to the European Firearms Directive moved up the agenda of the European Parliament slightly and the amendments were recently passed as follows:

  • imitation firearms that can be readily converted into working firearms will be treated as firearms (already the case in the UK);
  • sound suppressors will be treated as firearm components (already the case in the UK and Ireland);
  • the definition of parts subject to control will be made clearer;
  • a rather wishy washy definition of ammunition has been adopted, which basically says ammunition is ammunition if the member State says it is;
  • tougher controls on dealers, primarily that they must keep their records forever and be subject to background checks;
  • arms brokers may be made subject to licensing and registration;
  • the European Commission will come up with a EU-wide de-activation standard for firearms that makes sure that they are “irreversibly” inoperable;
  • member States must have a registration system for firearms and the records must be kept for at least 20 years;
  • gun users must be at least 18 years of age, except for sporting uses where the person is supervised by someone aged 18 or older or the use is at a gun club;
  • the European Firearms Pass will be the “main” document for people moving around the EU with firearms (originally this was going to be pre-emptive but has been watered down);
  • internet transfers of firearms must be “strictly controlled” (they already are, this is a response to media misinformation);
  • small arms and ammunition lots must be marked, preferably in compliance with the CIP proof treaty (which most EU States already do);
  • firearms subject to authorisation (i.e. Category B firearms) can be acquired using a multi-annual licence, previously granted (hmm… sounds like a firearm certificate) – this was apparently done to clarify the permit procedures (and they’ve failed miserably);
  • the setting up of a proper information sharing system between member States so that the EFP and Article 7 authority system can actually work as originally intended.

And various other bits and pieces.  As you can see it is very vague in many areas and I don’t envy the job of the Home Office and the Irish Dept. of Justice when they try and figure out how to put it all into a statutory instrument. However this is just the preamble to the stuff you should be worried about, and this time I’ll quote from the Directive:

Within four years from the date of entry into force of this Directive, the Commission shall carry out research and submit a report to the European Parliament and to the Council on the possible advantages and disadvantages of a reduction to two categories of firearms (prohibited or authorised) with a view to better functioning of the internal market for the products in question, through possible simplification.

What they’re talking about here is getting rid of Category C (firearms subject to registration, mainly sporting long guns) and Category D (single and double barrel shotguns mainly) from the Directive and making everything subject to individual authorisation, which essentially means FAC controls on shotguns in GB.  And:

Within two years from the date of entry into force of this Directive into national law, a report shall present the conclusions of a study of the issue of the placing on the market of replica firearms in order to determine whether the inclusion of such products in the present Directive is possible and desirable.

The Directive gives two years for it to be incorporated into national law, so in fact this is a four-year thing as well.  How replica firearms could fit into this Directive is anyone’s guess at this point.  Note also that the Directive mentions nothing about antique firearms, although one of the main problems pointed out with the Directive for many years has been the lack of a proper definition of an antique. Anyway, prepare for more mind-numbing legislation shortly.  The Home Office plans on getting these changes into law in the UK by the end of 2009.  

De-activated firearms

The new Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, has been quoted as saying she wants to ban de-activated firearms, preferably by including them within the definition of a “realistic imitation firearm”, as defined in the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006.  The Act prohibits the sale, importation and manufacture of realistic imitations, but not the simple possession or the transfer of them.  Reading her comments more carefully gives one the impression that she is talking about the pre-October 1995 de-activated firearms that are in circulation.  Firearms de-activated between July 1989 and October 1995 were subject to a less stringent standard, or more accurately, submachineguns and automatic rifles were, as the changes made in respect of other types of firearm were minor.

The changes were made in 1995 due to several instances of reworked SMGs showing up in serious crimes.  However, due to the change in the standards, pre-95 SMGs and automatic rifles now command very high prices among collectors.

Much of the press about these comments is the typical nonsense, saying it takes “minutes” to convert them and there are 120,000 in circulation, etc.  There are about 120,000 deactivated firearms done to the 1989-95 standard in circulation, but the majority of them are not SMGs.  Despite the changes to the standard made in 1995, there is no indication that automatic rifles have been successfully re-activated, much less used in crime, although there have been a few successful prosecutions of people who have fiddled with them but not completely restored them to working order.

Whatever your views on de-activated firearms, the general idea to include the pre-95 guns in the definition of a “realistic imitation firearm” seems rather odd because clearly they cannot be manufactured or imported.  Doing this would only ban the sale of them, and it would still be entirely lawful for criminals to possess or transfer them.  The only real effect would be to render collections of them worthless, which means collectors would likely be less careful about storing them, and how would that enhance public safety?

A more logical approach, suggested in these editorial pages previously, would be to ban people convicted of serious criminal offences from possessing any type of gun (except perhaps toy guns).  Can someone explain to me why a convicted criminal should be allowed to lawfully possess a realistic imitation firearm or a de-activated firearm?  I’ve been waiting for an explanation from the Home Office for many years and I’ve yet to get one.

“I should have shot him if he had shot me through the brain.” – Andrew Jackson, May 30, 1806, after his second asked him how he had managed to shoot and kill Charles Dickinson after Dickinson had shot him in the chest during a duel.

Out of ideas and out of time


April 1, 2007 – Nothing indicates quite clearly how intellectually bankrupt the Government now is on the subject of armed crime in our society than the recent fiasco involving statements made by Tony Blair.

Responding to public concerns over a recent spate of shooting incidents in London, Manchester and elsewhere, Mr Blair made one gaff after another on a BBC breakfast TV show.  First he stated that the age limit for being subject to the mandatory 5-year sentence for possession of a prohibited firearm should be lowered from 21 to 18.  Unfortunately, section 287 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 already says that, and the Conservatives were able to make political hay out of the Prime Minister’s gaff at apparently not being aware of major provisions of legislation his own Government is responsible for.

The second gaff the PM made was to announce a “review” of firearms controls, without apparently being aware that the Home Office is already conducting one.

And then the PM fell back onto tired old rhetoric about gun crime “summits” and the usual platitudes.  Unfortunately for the PM, this time virtually no-one finds any of it credible.

It’s the same old rubbish we’ve heard many times before, which is why laws like the Criminal Justice Act 2003, Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 and Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 exist.

The Met police chief, Sir Ian Blair, then destroyed his own credibility by pulling another tired old idea out of the hat, i.e. a call for a gun amnesty.  The Home Secretary, John Reid, appeared non-committal.  Probably a good idea as his career will outstrip that of either Blair.  Or there is the remote possibility he is aware of his department’s own guidance to the police, which says:

25.5 Anyone surrendering an illegally held
firearm should be questioned discreetly with
a view to establishing its history but, unless
circumstances exist to give serious cause for
concern as to its provenance (for example,
if it appears to have been stolen), the
person handing it in should not be pressed.
The emphasis should be on creating an
environment in which people hand in illegally
held firearms.

What this basically means is that there is a permanent firearms amnesty going on all the time.  That the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police appears to be unaware of this is rather worrying.

The real picture

Home Office statistics on firearm-related crime paint a mixed picture, and it is possible to pull things out of them in isolation that support the view that gun crime is not as bad as it was, or alternatively, that it is getting worse, by picking on whichever category you want.  For example, armed robbery is up, while firearm-related homicide is down.

However, to draw any conclusion its necessary to look at the complete picture, which of course no politician is going to do, especially on national TV, unless its overwhelmingly positive, which it isn’t.

What we see if we look at the statistics in total is that the most serious types of armed crime are indeed going down, such as homicide.  On the lower end of the scale, such as offences involving the use of airguns, the statistics are relatively static.  However, it is the middle tier of offences where things are getting worse, such as armed robbery.

This gives us a mixed outlook.  There are various theories that fit these statistics.  My own theory is that the use of firearms in the middle tier of offences is slowly broadening, and that is supported for example by the increasing use of firearms in robberies on public highways.  This is not a good long-term sign, because although the total number of offences is still relatively low, the broadening of various categories of offence indicates an increasing reliance on the use of firearms in crime generally.

Also, firearm-related homicide is such a rare event it’s difficult to draw any conclusion on one year’s worth of statistics.  Injuries caused with firearms are however down, but this is a small drop after several years of sharp increases.  I wonder whether part of the drop in homicides could be attributed to the fact that hospitals and ambulance staff are simply becoming more skilled at dealing with firearm-related injuries?

Suffice to say however that there is no strong indication that any of the legislation in the past few years has caused any sort of massive impact on armed crime.  Which is why we are now being treated to all sorts of politicians and policemen going through the motions with the same tired old rhetoric.  They are, quite simply, out of ideas; but then that was obvious years ago.


France has recently amended their firearm laws in an intriguing way – to allow people “who are exposed to serious risks to their security” to have a Category 1 or 4 firearm for personal protection, (meaning basically a handgun).

The motivation for this has been to safeguard against terrorist attacks.  It is similar to the provisions that exist in Northern Ireland, where it is possible for someone who is at risk of terrorist attack to obtain a firearm certificate for one pistol for personal protection.

France has had for many years a tightly circumscribed provision that allows people to have a Category 4 handgun on their own property for personal protection, but being allowed to carry a handgun around, and a military calibre one at that (Category 1) is a new phenomenon.

I have argued unsuccessfully for some time that Great Britain needs a similar provision, but it always seems to fall on deaf ears.  I have never understood (and neither have many Northern Irish politicians) why a person who is able to qualify for an FAC for personal protection in Northern Ireland should suddenly not be deemed fit to even possess a handgun, let alone carry it around with them, when they set foot in Great Britain.  Do terrorists not travel?

In this era of terrorist attacks by radical Islamic fundamentalists, it does seem odd that a provision equivalent to the new French law does not exist in Britain.


Calls for an airgun ban in Scotland, mainly by those on the far left, continue.  The cynical view of this is that the sponsor wants to divert attention away from his allegedly seedy personal life, however there is more than that to it, with victims of crime also calling for a ban.

The Scottish Government has so far resisted calls for a ban, for two simple reasons – the Scottish Govt. doesn’t have the power to enact local firearm legislation, as this is reserved to Westminster.  The second reason why is that they don’t want to ask because it would be politically embarrassing and patently wouldn’t work, because it could be easily evaded by simply crossing the border to acquire an airgun.

However, if you live in Scotland, it would be wise to contact your MSP to protest against calls for tighter airgun regulations.  If for no other reason than the large amount of legislation that has been passed at Westminster the last few years.

The “Violent Crime Reduction Act”

Last, and by no means least, is the pending introduction of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 which contains many firearm-related provisions.  I will update the legal section when the regulations under the Act have been finalised, but the Act will come into force during 2007.

On Friday April 6th various firearm-related provisions will be commenced: 

  • enhanced application of mandatory minimum penalties to firearm-related offences; 
  • the new offence of minding a firearm; 
  • the requirement for dealers in air weapons in GB to be registered (note: this is only a limited commencement of these provisions to allow time for dealers to become registered, before the rest of the provisions relating to mail order bans, higher age limits, etc. is brought in); 
  • the requirement for transfers of primers or primed cases to be made only to people who hold a firearm or shotgun certificate, an RFD or who are otherwise exempt.

There is also lots of new firearms legislation in the Republic of Ireland, in the shape of Part 5 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006.  However the Dept. of Justice is still trying to figure out how to implement the various provisions, so I shall update the legal section at the relevant time. 

“Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.” – Mayor Marion Barry of Washington, D.C., at a time when the city had the highest per capita murder rate in the US.  Washington also has the highest per capita rate of handgun-related murders in the US, despite banning handguns in 1976.  Only one firearm-related homicide has been committed in Washington with a firearm other than a handgun since 1976.


More legislative nonsense


4 June, 2006 – The Violent Crime Reduction Bill continues through Parliament, and will likely be enacted before the summer recess.

Some of the sillier provisions in this Bill that would have affected shooters have actually been removed, such as the ban on deactivated firearms and the requirement to show a firearm certificate before acquiring a reloading press.  However, it still contains various nasty provisions, such as the very broad prohibition of: “realistic imitation firearms”.  This will largely outlaw airsoft guns, although ones currently in circulation will be legal to possess and transfer by gift.

The problem of course, as I’ve previously described, is that due to the widespread ownership of these guns, hardly anyone will be aware of the prohibition, and if those people then attempt to sell their airsoft guns, they will be liable to prosecution.  The Government has made a small concession to airsoft enthusiasts, that being that dealers will be allowed to import them for the purpose of making them not look realistic (presumably by changing their colour) prior to sale.

One hopes the Home Office will make a more serious effort to explain this prohibition to the public at large than they have with previous prohibitions, such as the prohibition of self-contained air cartridge guns, which was met with 10% compliance – at best.

The Bill also contains a provision requiring the age limit for the legal purchase of airguns to be raised to 18 and also imitation guns (which presumably includes water pistols and many toys) will have an age limit of 18 imposed for their acquisition.  How raising the age limit for airguns from 17 to 18 will make any difference is unclear, and the Government are more than happy to say that, contradicting their own consultation document which suggested that age limits be made more consistent.  So when this Bill is enacted, a person will be able to buy a shotgun or a rifle at a younger age than they can an air pistol or air rifle.  Yes, very logical, I don’t think.  Dealers in airguns will also need to be registered with the police, as it the current case with other types of firearm.  The main upshot of this is that mail order sales will be prohibited.  At one fell swoop, this will wipe out a large chunk of the gun trade.

And just to illustrate how stupid this legislation is, there is nothing in it that prohibits people convicted of serious offences from possessing a realistic imitation firearm.


A recent racially-motivated killing in Belgium by a self-confessed fascist teenager has led the Belgian legislature to vote nearly unanimously to enact the pending gun licensing bill that has been languishing for some years now.  The teenager in question had purchased a rifle from a dealer, and under current Belgian law, the dealer issues the licenses for Category C and D firearms (most sporting long guns) rather than the police, who are simply notified of the sale.  The passage of this law predictably led to a rush of people buying guns before the new licensing provisions come into effect, so I’m sure that will make everyone a lot safer.

The new licensing law is very invasive, and allows the police to interview the neighbours of the applicant, requires frequent license renewals, limits the number of firearms a person can own, etc.  It’s based on Dutch law, and we all know how intolerant and illiberal the Netherlands are.  When it comes to guns, anyway.  I should note that it’s entirely possible the teenager in question would still have been able to get a license.

The real problem with the law however is that it has now been rushed through without proper consideration, and this leads me onto my next point…

South Africa

The South African Government rammed a heavy-handed piece of legislation down the throats of South African gun owners in 2000.  It was doomed to failure due to the hugely bureaucratic nature of the law, which the already stretched South African Police Service couldn’t hope to cope with.  This was made worse by the very short periods that licenses were valid under the Firearms Control Act.

Since the law came into effect, very few licenses have been issued as SAPS is swamped with paperwork, and the situation has rapidly descended from a state of chaos into a frank admission that they can’t meet the requirements of the Act.

After consulting with gun owners, the Government decided to scrap the relicensing requirements of the Act and simply proceed with an audit of guns owned by licensees.  However, they then decided that they could face civil action by people issued new licenses who had been forced to dispose of some of their guns without compensation because they were unable to obtain new licenses for them (the new Act imposes numerical limits on the number of guns licensees can own).

So, the Government is going to proceed with the relicensing provisions of the 2000 Act, but the new Amendment Bill introduced into Parliament will extend the validity of most categories of license, and create a much longer transitional period that will end in 2009 for the new licensing provisions to be brought in.

Hands up everyone who thinks that SAPS will be able to complete this massive bureaucratic undertaking by 2009?

As I suspect the Belgians will shortly find out, it’s easy to vote for “gun control” – but putting it into practice without wasting huge amounts of police resources that could actually be used to catch criminals is something else.  Hmm… which leads me onto my next point…


The new Conservative Government in Canada is coming under pressure from gun owners to scrap the hugely costly gun registry, which came into being as a result of the Firearms Act 1995.  Originally it was expected to cost $2 million, but with on-going costs it’s probably topped $2 billion by now.

The new Government has pledged to scrap the registration of so-called: “non-restricted firearms”, i.e. most sporting long guns, which make up more than 90% of the firearms owned by Canadians.  However, it is the gun owner licensing provisions that make up most of the cost of the system, and it’s not clear what will happen there.  So far the Government has merely proposed handing it over to the RCMP to manage instead of the Dept. of Justice.

Many gun owners in Canada were hoping the law would return to the pre-1995 situation, but this was always unlikely.  Some of the more hated provisions of the legislation, such as the prohibition of handguns with a barrel length of 105mm or less, magazine capacity restrictions on pistols and semi-automatic rifles, etc. seem destined to stay, at least for now.


The national target shooting associations in the UK, the National Rifle Association, the National Smallbore Rifle Association and the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association have announced their intent to merge into one organisation that will be called the “National Association of Target Shooting Sports”.  I can think of better names frankly, but this is a huge step in the right direction of strengthening the shooting sports in this country.  It will allow for a co-ordinated national strategy in many areas, including the political one of course.

Shame they didn’t do it twenty years ago, but better late than never.

“A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercise, I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body, and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks.” – Thomas Jefferson in a letter to his nephew, 19 September, 1785.


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).

Coming to their senses, a bit too late

The Minister for Defence has recently been quoted in the press as saying that the SA80 will be replaced in 2006, “two years earlier” than the planned replacement date of 2008 – in fact according to the MoD, it was due to be replaced in 2020.

This change of heart has come about due to faults reported with the new A2 version in Afghanistan, mainly that it doesn’t work properly at high altitude or in dusty environments.  In reality I suspect the torrent of abuse hurled at the MoD by the press about the latest defects in the weapon has finally kept the bureaucrats up one night too often, and they want their headaches to cease.

2006 is the planned date for the end of the upgrade programme currently underway; what this means in essence is that shortly after arriving back from Germany our upgraded SA80s will be chopped up and sold off as scrap!  What an incredible waste of taxpayer money, and it could all have been avoided if they had instead decided on replacing the SA80 last year, instead of this year.

The problems will also be compounded by what seems an almost inevitable conflict with Iraq in the near future; once again, British soldiers will be fighting in the Iraqi desert armed with substandard small arms.  The only bright spot on the horizon is that the issue of the Diemaco C8 Special Forces Weapon (the L119A1) is underway to the special forces, equipped also with the Heckler and Koch AG36 (L17A1) grenade launcher.

Heckler & Koch must be laughing themselves silly as they are the prime contenders to supply the replacement weapon in 2006 (the G36), although FN with the F2000 and Diemaco also have a chance of being chosen.  (Diemaco especially, if more of their guns have to be acquired for use in a war with Iraq).

(Postscript: after I wrote this, the MoD announced they would be keeping the SA80 after all, despite the fact the Minister of Defence apparently doesn’t like it, click here.)


Shooters in France were extremely lucky; the planned legislation that would have banned a great many guns failed to win consent due to a procedural matter that could not be resolved before Prime Minister Jospin had to leave office.  The decree had to be considered by the Sports Committee, who would have certainly rubber-stamped it, but because they could not meet on a Sunday, the decree could not be signed by the next day, the day the Government was dissolved.

The new right of centre Government in France is taking a different approach.  Instead of calling for guns to be banned they have instead indicated that they plan to completely overhaul the licensing system for firearms, bringing many types of firearm that are currently not licensed within a new licensing system, to replace the archaic one that has existed since 1939.  They have been given motivation by the attempted assassination of President Chirac, by a man armed with a .22 target rifle of a type that is not licensed currently (although the purchaser must have taken a competence test first).

Shooters in Germany were also lucky, after the shootings in Erfurt things looked very grim, however a new gun law that had already passed the lower House the same day of the shootings was amended to increase the age limit for the grant of a license for a handgun to 21; to introduce a requirement that an applicant for a license provide information from their doctor that they are not mentally ill; and also a ban on shotguns with pistol grips was included.  This last one sounds worse than it is, as many German states already interpreted the current law as banning them.  The main problem for shooters in Germany are the restrictive provisions in the new gun law that existed prior to the shootings at Erfurt.

Northern Ireland

Finally, after years of waiting, the Northern Ireland Office have released a draft of the new Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order, which you should read in conjunction with the explanatory document.

Essentially the Order incorporates some of the changes in the licensing procedure introduced by the 1997 Act in Great Britain (but handguns and expanding ammunition are still legal); exempts airsoft guns and deactivated firearm from licensing (with some wrinkles that need addressing); moves appeals to county courts (previously heard by the Secretary of State) and contains some fairly weird provisions that need to be removed, such as the redefinition of a firearm component to include “any magazine” and also the extension of ballistic testing to air guns and shotguns.

The explanatory document doesn’t even mention the change in the definition of a firearm component, even though in my opinion it’s the biggest change in the law.  Many collectors of magazines will run afoul of this requirement, it will require the variation of at least 10,000 firearm certificates and it also completely defeats the idea of removing deactivated firearms from licensing control, because anyone will be able to buy a magazine by buying a deactivated firearm!

Other major changes include the idea of a competence test performed by a dealer, which contains so many problems it’s difficult to tackle here, the main ones being that many dealers simply aren’t competent to give safety testing, don’t have the time to do it and do not have a suitable firearm to give the test on!

Another problem is the new visitor permit requirements that are copied from the law in Great Britain but won’t work properly in Northern Ireland because of the large numbers of visiting shooters from Ireland.

Many shooting organisations have already pointed out that the age limits in the draft Order are extremely restrictive, it will be completely illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to even touch a firearm, other than a deactivated firearm or an airsoft gun!

If you live in Northern Ireland I suggest you make a submission – the contact details are in the explanatory document.

Armed Pilots

Legislation in the United States that will allow a test programme whereby up to 1,400 commercial pilots can be trained and then carry handguns in the cockpit of their aircraft seems certain to become law in the near future.  It has cleared both Houses of Congress with substantial majorities, and is supported by the Administration.

What is still unclear, as I posed last October, is how this will work when a US pilot flies into foreign airspace, and more importantly from the American perspective, how this will dissuade hijackers of an Air France or British Airways aircraft, whose pilots will still be unarmed, and whose planes can still be crashed into a US skyscraper.

The Home Office have provided me with one answer – they will grant authority for airlines to have firearms in the cockpit, however this raises more questions than it answers, because pilots themselves cannot get that authority and it appears to me as though the pilots will be armed with their own personal firearms, not firearms owned by the airlines.

I’ll be interested to see how they figure this one out!

The March

Don’t forget the Countryside Alliance march on the 22nd!

“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.” – Walter Winans, “The Art of Revolver Shooting”, p.219, 1901

ACPO, again

ACPO, again

I don’t think there has been any one piece of earth-shattering news in the past few months, however, I thought it was time for an editorial because several small things have happened that are noteworthy.

New guidance on firearms law

The new Guidance for Police has been published, and you can read it by clicking here.  There are many noteworthy things in it, however the main point to be made is that shooters were successful in convincing the Home Office that the number of rounds that should generally be allowed for a target shooter per calibre is 1,000; with larger limits for those who use .22 rimfire.  This is an improvement upon the original suggestion of 500 rounds.  My personal view is that the 1,500 limit suggested in the 1969 guidance appears to have worked well for several decades, so why change it?

The other main point is that the number of “uses” per year, recorded by your club, per gun, should be at least three before warning bells start tinkling in your licensing officer’s head, as opposed to the proposed six times, in order to substantiate your “good reason” for wanting a rifle or muzzle-loading pistol for target shooting.

US clamps down on foreigners with guns

As I speculated in the last editorial, there will be fallout from the attack on the World Trade Center, and the bad news is that it is going to become substantially more difficult for foreigners in the US to own or even use firearms.  The actual new regulations aren’t that much different, it’s just that they’re taking them more seriously now and new measures have been thought up to make the regulations enforceable.  There are more details elsewhere on this website by clicking here.

The meat of it is that if you want to visit the US with your guns now, you must have an import permit, and those take a couple of months to get.  The picture as regards even renting a gun at a shooting range in the US is very murky, it’s not clear whether even this innocuous activity is still legal.  Final regulations will be issued in May, and pressure is being brought to bear to make them as reasonable as possible, given the circumstances.

The SHOT show

I’ve done a review of the SHOT show that you can read by clicking here.  Given all the hassle at the airports it is amazing that anyone showed up, in my opinion!

ACPO strikes again

ACPO (the Association of Chief Police Officers) have once again demonstrated that they are no friends of shooters with a misguided attack on Brocock, the importer and manufacturers of air cartridge pistols.

ACPO apparently based their stupid press release on a comment of an employee of the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), to the effect that 50% of all recovered handguns were Brocock air cartridge revolvers converted to fire live ammunition.  Later, (much later, after the press had all stuck their oars in) it became apparent that NCIS had been seriously mistaken – their figures in fact show that of recovered firearms converted from other items, six out of thirteen recovered firearms were converted air pistols, and of those a proportion were converted Brocock guns.  These thirteen guns comprise only a fraction of the total number of firearms seized however, and in reality the converted Brocock guns amount for no more than 4% of the total guns seized, and in all likelihood an even smaller percentage than that.

Several important questions need to be answered, first of all, why were NCIS so incredibly mistaken about their own statistics, and why did an NCIS employee open his mouth with the press watching and cram his foot into it?  Why did ACPO respond with a knee-jerk press release, essentially libeling Brocock, without checking the facts first?  And what exactly are two public organisations funded by taxpayer money doing, spending taxpayer money to create a massive amount of hysteria over virtually nothing?

We can be sure of only one thing: a lot of criminals who previously didn’t know how to illegally make a handgun now do, and the people responsible for the advertising campaign for how to do it are NCIS and ACPO.

They must face sanctions as a result of their reckless irresponsibility, and writing to your MP with the above details is an excellent place to start.

Overheard at the SHOT show:  “The gun went civil service on me.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means it won’t work and you can’t fire it.”

Disarmament hasn’t worked in England, but no-one admits it

By Jeffrey R. Snyder

Values are not derived from facts, and do not “follow” from facts. Thus, a correction in a person’s state of knowledge by the addition of new or correct facts does not, presto-chango, alter a person’s values. For this reason, one can never “win” a gun control debate by replacing or correcting the opposition’s false facts with true facts.

The facts are not why anti-gunners believe what they believe. In fact, the facts are often merely justifications for what they want to believe. At best, new facts may lead a person to re-evaluate his values, but, even then, the facts do not determine the values. 

Consider as a case in point the fact that the English press is beginning to learn that the universal pistol ban enacted in 1997 following the Dunblane massacre has not delivered the country from gun crimes. And consider the reaction to this news. 

In an article titled “Britain’s Tough Gun Control Laws Termed Total Failure” appearing in the May 3-16 issue of Britain’s venerable Punch magazine, Peter Woolrich writes:

“Four years after the Dunblane massacre, Britain’s tighter gun laws have failed completely… There are now an estimated 3 million illegal firearms in the UK, perhaps double the number of four years ago, and the only effect the knee-jerk political reaction that led to the Firearms (Amendment) Act of 1997 has had is to shut down legitimate gun clubs. 

“The new research suggests that in some areas a third of young criminals, classed as those aged 15 to 25 with convictions, own or have access to guns ranging from Beretta sub-machine guns to Luger pistols… ‘There is a move from the pistol and shotgun to automatic weapons,’ says Detective Superintendent Keith Hudson of the National Crime Squad. ‘We are recovering weapons that are relatively new– and sometimes still in their boxes from eastern European countries.’

“Home office figures soon to be released will show that, overall, armed crime rose 10 percent in 1998…” 

Additional Proof

The article goes on to favorably quote Bill Harriman, a spokesman for the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, who criticizes the current legislation for focusing on the law-abiding instead of being directed at illegally-held firearms. The article further pointedly notes that “…the government had plenty of evidence at its disposal to realize that simply banning certain types of weapons is ineffective. For example, fully-automatics have been prohibited since 1937, but it has not stopped criminals from using them.”

Now with these facts, the author could go in at least two directions. He could use this information as the beginning of an examination of whether gun control is a valid or effective means of securing reductions in crime, for example, by questioning whether it ever can in fact succeed, or whether it imposes too high a price on the law-abiding. Alternatively, he could take it as evidence that not enough restrictions have yet been enacted. 

At this point we are on pins and needles! What, oh what, will our British author do? What direction will his values or his “knee-jerk response” take him? 

The article concludes by examining existing loopholes and inconsistencies in the current law, such as the fact that it did not control access to ammunition and permitted persons who could not acquire or own pistols to acquire and own shotguns, and criticizes the “laxity” of the Dunblane legislation.

It quotes the Home Affairs Committee recommendation that “…the time is now right for Parliament to address the entire issue and produce an completely new Firearms Act. Any lesser step will be insufficient.”

Nowhere does the article argue that new legislation could or should re-establish pistol ownership by law-abiding members of shooting clubs, let alone raise the issue of whether people have a right to the means to self-defense. 

Knee-Jerk Response

One of the interesting, and revealing, things about the article is its seemingly tough criticism of Parliament for a “knee-jerk” political and ultimately ineffectual response, which, the article implies, Parliament should have known would not work.

By sheer coincidence, my wife and I were in England at the time the Dunblane legislation and report were being considered. The English media and populace were absolutely rabid for the banning of pistols. Leaders of sportsmen’s clubs who appeared on television, wrote op-ed pieces or lobbied Parliament to defend the rights of law-abiding citizens to own and shoot pistols for sport– self-defense is a taboo subject– were simply savaged in the papers and on television.

Often the strongest and angriest criticism was that, by resisting the proposed ban, the country’s pistol owners were not respecting the grief of the parents whose children had been massacred! 

One would never know any of this reading the Punch article. The way it is written, one would think the poor English people were blameless in the outcome, patiently sitting by expectantly, and hoping merely that the experts in Parliament would protect and serve them well. And then, lo and behold, the bumblers simply did the most expedient and easy thing.

Sure, a “complete ban” sounded good, it played well on television, but ultimately– and they should have known this– it would prove ineffectual. And now, now, things are worse. By George, this time, they better get it right!

Refusal To Charge

And this refusal of the author to charge the people with their own stupidity and cupidity, this refusal of the people to own up and take responsibility, is symptomatic. In the end, the article exhibits the same response as the original response to Dunblane. We bear no responsibility for ourselves; we take nothing upon ourselves. Government must do something to protect us.

Close those loopholes, clamp down further. Evil still works unencumbered, and you, our protectors, must stop it. 

It is this underlying “knee-jerk” reflex, this utter and childish dependency of the individual and society upon government, this learned helplessness, this presumption that the individual cannot act, that only the state can act, which is the reason for the prohibition on pistols.

This valuelessness of the individual, this timidity, this rejection of personal responsibility, is why mounting revelations of the ineffectualness of gun laws lead only to demands for more and more restraints, and why the facts prove powerless to change men’s minds. It is not information that is lacking. It’s that there’s no there there.

This article was originally published in American Handgunner magazine and is reproduced with permission.

Sam Cummings: “I am not personally an enthusiast of the M-16.”

Sen. Stuart Symington: “In Vietnam they are enthusiastic because of the weight.”

Cummings: “The World War Two carbine was a useless weapon… Everybody loved it because it was light, but it was a dog.”

Symington: “Why is it a dog?”

Cummings: “Ballistically.  You can have a hatful of the cartridges in your stomach and still live long enough to blast the man who fired at you.”

Stenographer: “He’s right!  He’s right!  I was in the Battle of the Bulge and I shot a German six times with a carbine and he was able to shoot me!”

– US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, 1967

Law and disorder

The new year begins with yet more evidence that the handgun ban was a futile waste of time, courtesy of Criminal Statistics for England & Wales.  The latest edition covers the period from March 1999 to March 2000.

To cut a long story short, there has been a sharp increase in firearm-related offences, especially with handguns.

There is however a lot of interesting stuff in these statistics. For example table 3.12 indicates that 142 handguns were stolen from residential premises 1999-2000. As very few handguns can be legally kept at home now and this figure is not dramatically lower than years when they were legal, it supports the argument shooters made that most stolen guns were illegally held to begin with.

Also, table 3.10 on locations of armed robberies.

Robberies at banks and building societies have fallen, no doubt because of target hardening, but offences on public highways and at shops have increased sharply.

The figures in 3.13 show that there are a lot of prosecutions for illegal handgun possession, you can see this because from 1997 (when handguns were banned) the offences under Section 1 fall sharply and under Section 5 they rise sharply.

Table 3.8 indicates that there were no fatal injuries caused with an airgun in the period 1999/2000, which doesn’t lend support to the calls for licensing them.

The figures in table 3.6 show that shotguns and handguns were about as equally dangerous when fired, which totally blows the Home Office position out of the water that they presented at the Dunblane Public Inquiry in 1996 that handguns are more dangerous than shotguns.

Table 3D shows clearly that the overwhelming majority of homicides committed with firearms are with illegally held firearms (but not broken down by type, unfortunately).

I’m sure there is more that can be extracted from this information.

For what it’s worth, my opinion is that the rate of firearm-related crime is rising because of the complete shambles the Government has made of the Metropolitan Police. Moving members of the flying squad out to “share their experience” has not worked and efforts aimed at stopping armed criminals appear to be dropping off.  Looking at the figures that accompany these statistics I was struck by the fact that the decline in firearm-related offences appears to bottom out in 1997 (when Labour came to power) and then rise sharply.

Essentially what shooters have been saying has now been proved beyond doubt, i.e. that the handgun ban was politically motivated drivel intended to encourage voters to vote for Labour, backed up with limp-wristed so-called “criminology”, which has now for all intents and purposes collapsed under the weight of the outrageous lie we knew it to be.

ACPO again

The taxpayer-funded police thinktank, the erroneously named: “Association of Chief Police Officers”, has submitted evidence to the Firearms Consultative Committee that .50 BMG calibre rifles and long-barrelled revolvers should be banned using an order under Section 1(4) of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988.  This section allows the Secretary of State to make an order, subject to approval by Parliament, to ban firearms if they were not available in significant numbers prior to the Act and are “specially dangerous”.

Obviously handguns of any type are not specially dangerous as clearly shown by table 3.6 of the statistics referred to above, and how anyone could claim that a revolver fitted with an 18-inch barrel is any more deadly than an ordinary revolver is beyond me.  Long-barrelled revolvers have been around since the 1880s, so it seems unlikely an order under Section 1(4) could be legal.  ACPO are apparently in a mood because we found a way to carry on shooting handguns despite the ban.  That there are other ways to do that if long-barrelled revolvers are banned doesn’t seem to have occurred to them.

The use of .50 BMG rifles in armed crime in Great Britain is non-existent, and in Northern Ireland they have been used on rare occasions but only with armour-piercing ammunition that is prohibited in the UK under Section 5(1A) of the Firearms Act 1968.  That they are powerful firearms is beyond question, but “specially dangerous” with ordinary lead or mild steel core ammunition?  Not really.  In any event, there are only two ranges I know of in GB where they can be shot by civilians, which makes it next to impossible to show a “good reason” to own one.  This is a solution searching desperately for a problem.

Haven’t ACPO got anything better to do than harass responsible shooters?  They would be better named the Association to Create Petty Offences!

I strongly urge you to write to the FCC at the Home Office, 50 Queen Anne’s Gate, London, SW1H 9AT to protest this pointless attempt to destroy perfectly legitimate target shooting sports.

The SA80 saga continues, unfortunately

You really have to wonder about what goes on in Whitehall sometimes.

Not content with throwing away £100 million on the handgun ban, the Ministry of Defence wants to get in on the action by throwing away £80 million on a refurbishment effort for the L85A1 rifle and L86A1 Light Support Weapon that will entail sending 200,000 of them over to Heckler and Koch in Oberndorf, Germany, to be completely rebuilt.

So many parts will be replaced under this refurbishment programme that it is actually simpler to list the parts that won’t be replaced: the sights, the trigger mechanism housing (sans buttplate and pistol grip) and possibly the upper receiver shell, although that is open to question.  Everything else, barrel, bolt, gas system, furniture, even the magazines, will be replaced to give us the L85A2 and L86A2.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and suggest that the guns won’t be better afterwards, but you have to wonder at the logic of going to such great lengths to essentially replace 200,000 guns with 200,000 unproven guns, when there are plenty of other alternatives.  It would have been much easier to simply have bought the H&K G36 assault rifle off the shelf.  In talking with the MoD it became apparent to me that they don’t even know what the G36 is, despite City of London Police being armed with them!

That the SA80 is despised by the troops is patently obvious, going merely by the response to my review of it on this website.  Whether an expenditure of £80 million will restore confidence in it is doubtful.

It is utterly apparent that my views are shared, albeit privately, by pretty much anyone else in the MoD likely to ever have to shoot a gun in anger.  Want proof?  The MoD has recently acquired some £2.2 million plus worth of Diemaco C8 SFW carbines and C7A1s for special forces troops, this is in addition to the C7 rifles already used by grenadiers with M203s.

Now, if we’re going to arm the units of the armed forces most likely to see action with a completely different small arm, why not arm all of them with it, especially seeing as a Diemaco rifle is actually less expensive than the refit will cost?

You might care to make this point in a letter to your MP.  He or she will probably be fobbed off with some stupid letter from the MoD saying that information on special forces is classified, this is an absolute cop out and you should let your MP know that.  This is one time when shooters can stop a complete waste of taxpayer money and we should do it, now.

New guidance on antiques

Those nice people at the Home Office have come up with new guidance on antique firearms held under the provisions of Section 58(2) of the Firearms Act 1968, if you have Adobe Acrobat Reader you can click here to read it.

The march in March

Time to don your best slogans and march through London, yes it’s time for the next Countryside Alliance march.  I know some of you might not like fox hunting much but believe me, what’s left of shooting is next up for the chop if we sit here and do nothing.  Plus it is a way to let the Government know that handgun shooters will not be forgotten after we were scapegoated in 1997.  More information is available on the Countryside Alliance website.

Oh yes, and have a Happy New Year!