The erosion of gun rights within the U.K. happened between 1920 and 1997. What may be surprising to many U.S. LawShield members is that many of the changes to gun rights were implemented with no protest from those who supported gun ownership in the United Kingdom.
My name is Iain McHenry. I am from the United Kingdom; a country that today has some of the most restrictive and prohibitive gun ownership regulations in the world. I’m a veteran of the British Army and I’m Director of Partner Relations at U.S. LawShield.
We need to look at some of the differences between the United Kingdom and United States’ cultures. The U.K. does have a Bill of Rights that guarantees citizens the right to bear arms. But, nowhere in the U.K.’s Bill of Rights, when focusing on gun ownership, do the awesome words “shall not be infringed” appear.
What Happened in the United Kingdom?
U.K. culture instills the belief that the government will always uphold the best interest of its people and always protect them, whereas here in the United States there is more power to the people and to the feeling that the government can be challenged at any time. So, what happened in the U.K.?
World War I had seen events that caused the British government concern. With the rise of Bolshevism in Eastern Europe, the government feared the establishment of armed labor unions and the spread of communism. And with World War I came a vast influx of weapons from the former battlefields coming back to the U.K.
The government then wrote the Firearms Act of 1920, which required the registration of all handguns and rifles. Innocuous at first (especially to law-abiding gun owners with nothing to hide), this became a way to trace weapon ownership, leading to future easy confiscation.
The act also limited ammunition possession per person, and a “valid” reason now had to be given to apply for a firearm certificate. The result was that the 1920 Firearms Act made the constitutional right to own firearms conditional upon the judgment of government officials.
All remained quiet for a few years until the Firearms Act of 1937, which came secondary to the United States’ 1934 National Firearms Act, which was introduced due to the explosion of organized crime as a result of prohibition. Prohibition did not exist in the United Kingdom, therefore, it was an unfounded fear. The act banned automatic weapons and short-barrel shotguns, and the act removed the term “self-defense” as an acceptable reason to apply for a firearms certificate. For the many World War I gun owners who had followed the registration conditions laid down by the previous firearms act, they now had to turn in their weapons to the government.
Three Incidents Changed Everything
Things remained quiet on the gun control front for some years following World War II. Then, three incidents in the ’60s, ’80s, and ’90s, including the murder of three policemen with illegally held handguns and two mass shootings, forced three more firearms acts, which in two cases were driven by public outrage following the media frenzy that followed the shootings. All semi-automatic weapons were banned, as were pistols above .22 caliber, amongst other weapons.
Today, in the United Kingdom firearms must be stored separately to ammunition in secure, fixed-to-the-building cabinets. Only the certified firearms holder may know where the key to those cabinets is held. No other family member is allowed to know. Police must have a floor plan of the house and be able to inspect at any time without infringement. If entry is refused, then the license is revoked and the weapons are confiscated.
Is the United States Next?
Now, do you want that to happen here? The chain of events that I’ve just described has taken the U.K. from a gun-friendly society to a country that has one of the most restrictive gun control laws. As a legal immigrant living here in the United States, it’s an honor for me to be offered the same Second Amendment rights as an American.
The chain of events I’ve talked about shows what can happen; how rights can be worn down gradually, until one day you wake up and have to hand in your guns. I see the anti-gun lobby here in the United States. I read what they propose. I watch what they attempt to do. What concerns me is that they seem to get the upper hand in the media.
The changes will start with common sense ideas and small restrictions, which when added together lead to greater restrictions until nothing is left. It is our responsibility to remain vigilant in the constant fight by others to degrade and destroy the Second Amendment. When it is gone, it is gone.
Like-minded members and Second Amendments zealots need to look to put into power those who will fight to make sure that the Second Amendment remains unchanged without infringement. Those of you here who can vote, must vote for those elected people in the echelons of politics who will strive to keep our right to bear arms unchanged.
If you have any additional questions about this topic, please contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.
The preceding should not be construed as legal advice nor the creation of an attorney-client relationship. This is not an endorsement or solicitation for any service. Your situation may be different, so please contact your attorney regarding your specific circumstances. Because the laws, judges, juries, and prosecutors vary from location to location, similar or even identical facts and circumstances to those described in this presentation may result in significantly different legal outcomes. This presentation is by no means a guarantee or promise of any particular legal outcome, positive, negative, or otherwise.