30 March, 2010 – The British Government will shortly call a general election; it’s generally expected to be called on April 6th and to take place on May 6th, because that is the date of the local elections.
Unlike the last couple of elections, this one will actually be a real contest for reasons that are too obvious to state here. The real question is what should shooters do this time around?
Labour have undoubtedly been the most anti-gun government for decades, as I suspected they would be when I created the banner at the bottom of the page. The list of all the anti-gun laws they’ve put through Parliament is pretty long, starting with the Firearms (Amendment)(No 2) Act 1997 that banned .22 pistols. This was followed by laws such as the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 that banned airguns like the Brocock air cartridge guns and raised the age limit for legal possession and the even more onerous Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006, that banned “realistic imitation firearms” as well as raising the age limit for possession of an airgun again, required airgun dealers to be registered, banned mail order sale of airguns and so on. Not content with all that there is a Bill in Parliament right now called the Crime and Security Bill which would also introduce a secure storage requirement for airguns, plus there is a consultation on new controls on de-activated firearms.
In short, they’re no friends of shooters. The problem is that the tories aren’t either. Under Thatcher there was the Firearms Act 1982, which banned many types of imitations and the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988, that banned most types of pump-action and semi-automatic rifles while also introducing registration of shotguns. Also there was the handgun ban in the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 under the Major Government. David Cameron, the current leader of the Conservative Party, has already stated he does not want to see the handgun ban repealed.
The Liberal Democrats don’t appear to be particularly friendly towards shooters either, although they do tend to represent constituencies in rural Scotland and the southwest where gun ownership is the most common. However they haven’t formed a Government since the Firearms Act 1920 so generally it’s not that important what they think. The Scottish nationalists also appear to be vehemently anti-gun and are currently lobbying for a ban or licensing of airguns in Scotland.
So what to do? Well we need to bear in mind that not all Labour and Conservative MPs follow the party line. For example there are Labour MPs such as Austin Mitchell, Frank Cook, Kate Hoey etc. who have lobbied quite hard against the anti-gun line of the Labour party.
Basically, you should contact the leading candidates in your constituency and find out where they stand – make it clear your vote depends on it.
Personally I think that a minority Conservative Government would probably be the best outcome for shooters, as they will need a lot of support to be able to govern and they may reach out to shooters in that event. Devolution of firearm law-making power to the Scottish Parliament is also something to quiz candidates about, as this is something that will be decided pretty much immediately after the election.
No doubt if you’ve been following the press you have read about the Government plans to tighten the Dangerous Dogs Act in various ways, due to the misuse of so-called “attack” or “assault” dogs by thugs. Various figures have been given for the number of dog bites treated at hospitals and any sort of tragic story is being trolled through the tabloids, etc. It all sounds familiar doesn’t it? There is little doubt in my mind that without a serious change in culture the UK could well end up having a Cat De-clawing Act on the books.
Been awhile since I’ve done one of these editorials, but an important piece of legislation passed last year in Ireland, the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009. It sounds innocuous, but nothing could be further from the truth. Basically this Act was intended to clean up the mess created by the Criminal Justice Act 2006, not the least of which was the wording of “restricted firearms” in the 2006 Act, which was intended to be a way to prohibit firearms, more or less, but that didn’t turn out the way the Govt. intended.
This Act provides for the Minister of Justice by statutory instrument to prohibit certain types of firearms; creates a massively complex system of prohibiting realistic imitation firearms with some exemptions that require licensing; prohibits “dynamic and practical” shooting sports; provides for a staggered introduction of the three-year licensing term; grandfathers owners of handguns and bans new applications except for air pistols and .22s in rare circumstances (potential Olympic team members and the like, basically).
Bear in mind this is all in addition to the new provisions introduced by the 2006 Act, as detailed here.
Don’t move to Ireland, to cut a long story short. Although I suppose at least it is still technically possible to own an actual modern handgun for target shooting in Ireland, which is more than you can say about Great Britain (excluding the handful of Olympic hopefuls who have been given prohibited weapons authority so they can dry-fire their pistols).
A recent multiple shooting at a supermaket in Finland with a stolen 9mm pistol has prompted a commission set up by the Govt. there to call for a ban on semi-automatic pistols, this also follows two school shootings using .22 semi-auto pistols.
There are about 200,000 legally owned handguns in Finland, about the same as in Great Britain prior to the ban – except that Finland has a population 9% the size of Great Britain. Not surprisingly, with that level of gun ownership the coalition Govt. is split over implementing such a ban. Two rather obvious problems with it is that it would be barking mad in a country where collectors can legally own machineguns (not to mention revolvers), the second is that a lot of problems have been highlighted with the licensing system, which in many locales still involves a lot of paperwork with gun registration records residing in filing cabinets. It’s rather hard to collect guns in when you’re not sure who owns them.
“A lady can carry a revolver hidden for self-defence in many more ways than a man, owing to her draperies affording more places for concealment. Cloaks, capes, etc., make good hiding-places for a revolver; inside a muff is about one of the best places; and a small revolver in the right hand, inside a muff, that hand hanging down by the side, is ready for instant use. As ladies often carry their muffs in this way, it does not arouse suspicion. It is very important for ladies to protect their ears when shooting.” – Walter Winans, p. 218, “The Art of Revolver Shooting”, pub. 1901.