UK’s Gun Laws

I like guns, and I’m not a fan of UK’s gun laws. I think the last two major amendments to the law were stupid knee-jerk reactions to tragedies – the mass shootings at Hungerford and Dunblane – that could easily have been prevented if the existing laws (which were pretty tough anyway) had been properly enforced. British gun laws are strict; there’s no doubt about it.

On the other hand, there’s a difference between strict gun laws and a gun ban, and recently I’ve seen a lot of people saying that the UK has a total gun ban. This isn’t true. In fact, gun ownership in Britain is slightly above the global average; the UN estimate there are 6.2 privately owned guns per hundred people. That’s a fraction of the USA’s 101, or second-ranked Serbia’s 58.2, but it’s ahead of countries like Colombia, China, and India. If you want to own a gun in Britain, you usually can – but there are some hoops to jump through and restrictions on what you can have. What you’re allowed to own depends on your licensing level, and a more permissive license can be hard to get.

No license
Generally, the only guns you can own without a license in the UK are air guns that comply with muzzle energy limits. The maximum muzzle energy is 12 ft-lb for air rifles and six ft-lb for pistols. Anyone over the age of 18 can buy compliant airguns – but if they’re modified beyond the power limit, they become Section 1 firearms and need to be listed on a firearms certificate (FAC).
There’s also an exemption for some antique guns. Until recently you didn’t need a license to own guns that fired obsolete calibers that aren’t made anymore, but that was changed in 2017 after criminals started making ammunition for old revolvers.

Shotgun CertificateA Shotgun Certificate (SGC) lets you own smoothbore weapons with a barrel length of at least 24 inches. That takes in most shotguns, but there are limits on magazine capacity – the magazine can only hold two rounds (plus one in the chamber) and has to be fixed to the weapon. Shotguns with shorter barrels or a detachable magazine need to be listed on a FAC. An SGC can also be used to own smoothbore muskets. Antique muskets can be owned without a license unless you plan to use them; if you also have powder (which needs its own license), you need an SGC. Reproductions always need an SGC. Shotgun certificates are a “will issue” document – unless the police can find a reason why you shouldn’t have one, you’ll get it. You do need to produce character references and have a secure gun cabinet, though, and the certificate has to be renewed every five years.

Firearm Certificate
A FAC lets you own Section 1 firearms. This covers high-powered air guns, shotguns that don’t comply with the SGC standards, any bolt action or muzzleloading rifle and semi-automatic or pump action rifles in .22 rimfire. Every gun you own has to be listed on the certificate, and if you want to buy another, you have to get permission.
You’ve probably noticed that handguns are missing from what you can own. In fact, in UK law there’s no such thing as a handgun – there’s a “small firearm,” which is any gun with a barrel length under twelve inches and an overall length under 24 inches. Some people own conventional handguns with a long barrel and permanently fitted grip extension, similar to a SIG brace. There’s also an exemption for small firearms that aren’t cartridge loaded; this means you can legally own a black powder revolver.

If you want to own any firearm that doesn’t come under Section 1, you need specific permission from the Home Office, and in practice, you won’t get that unless you’re a major collector, arms dealer or private military company.

Northern Ireland has slightly different laws. You need a FAC to own an airgun in the province, but it’s also the only part of the UK where self-defense is legally a valid reason to own a gun – and if the police think there’s a genuine threat to your life you can own a handgun. A FAC for a personal protection handgun is also a concealed carry permit, and some holders are also able to own center-fire semiauto rifles and even fully automatic weapons (usually the H&K MP5K).

There’s no doubt that gun laws in the UK are a lot stricter than they need to be, and despite the country being an island they don’t do a lot to stop criminals getting guns. There isn’t a total ban, though, and if you really want a gun, you can generally get one.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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