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Firearms in the UK
Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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Sapper's thread about Lancaster carbines raised in my mind (once again0 the question of firearm ownership in the UK. Yank that I am, I was under the impression that they are very difficult to legally obtain and own, yet while passing through London some time back, I had the fortune to attend a large antique militaria auction and saw enough Martini's and such for sale to arm a small third world nation. They appeared not to be deactivated as well.

How difficult is it to feed the antique rifle and pistol collecting monster over on your side of the pond?

I apologize in advance if some feel that this question doesn't belong in this forum, but to me it relates to weapons and equipment.
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Simon Rosbottom


Joined: 14 Jun 2006
Posts: 287
Location: London, UK
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Being pre-1919 and of an obsolete calibre, Martini's are classed as antiques and are exempt. However, if you obtain ammunition, do not have a firearms licence (and subsequently comply with all the rules on storage and use associated with that,) you will be deemed to have a deadly weapon and the book will be thrown at you.

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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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Thank you, Simon
So something in .303 like a Lee-Metford would not qualify as "antique" since the ammunition is readily available (sort of anyway)? I have to wonder about an item like a Martini-Enfield artillery carbine (.303) or my 1880 MH which was rebarreled in the early 1900's by Greener to fire a rimfire .22. I'm assuming that what you are saying only applies to long guns and an older revolver (something like a single action Colt) would be a different matter entirely? Are there any particular rules on storage aside from those dictated by common sense-- that is, such things as a locking gun cabinet and/or trigger locks? I take it that one can't have live MH ammunition as well as a MH, but is it legal to have deactivated rounds? And how would the authorities view something like a '53 Enfield RML for which the "ammunition" comes out of a can and a mold? Is the license you speak of required for antique rifles? We have over here something called a Curio and Relic license (C&R) that allows one to purchase a firearm that is something of a step between antique and modern. No license is required here for an antique, but there is a background check necessary. Is there any sort of equivalent license over there? Are your firearm regulations strictly National or do you have further local ordinances equivalent to our State regulations? For example, Massachusetts doesn't allow me to carry a handgun through that state even though it's legal to own and "pack" in my own State of New Hampshire and the penalty is VERY harsh (like mandatory five years imprisonment) . Sorry about all the questions, but I've long been curious what the rules are at the source of a lot of my collection.
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Adrian Whiting


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 76
Location: Dorset, England
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Sawubona,

UK law allows an individual to possess firearms, but not live ammunition, without a firearms certificate as antiques, curios or ornaments. In order to qualify the firearm generally has to be either a muzzle loader manufactured before 1939 (reproductions are required to be held on certificate), or breech loaders that utilise pinfire or rimfire (other than .22"RF) systems, or are chambered for centrefire cartridges that are considered to be obsolete. The UK Government produces a list of those it considers to be obsolete.

Accordingly a .577" P53 Enfield rifle (original) would qualify as a pre 1939 muzzle loader, and a .577/450" MHR qualifies as it is on the list.

This exemption from the need for a certificate also applies to handguns along the same lines, for example a percussion 54 bore Adams could be so held. However the list itself is not part of legislation and some firearms chamberede for cartridges not on the list have still been held by the courts to be antiques. Examples of this include Long Lee Enfield rifles in .303" and a Mk VI Webley revolver in .455". However, in our legal system one case is not binding on another, so the fact that one case ended in acquittal does not mean that .455" Webleys can now be sold as antiques. Anyone doing so is likely to still be prosecuted.

In Uk we have three main categories of firearms. We distinguish rifled firearms from smoothbore ones, and these are usually known as "Section one" and "Section two" firearms respectively (referring to the relevant sections of the Firearms Act 1968). We then have a large range of prohibited weapons, known as "Section five". These are not available to the general public. Section five weapons include small firearms (such as handguns), fully automatics, semi automatics (except .22"RF self loading rifles), items which discharge electricity (like Tasers) or noxious gasses/liquids (like Mace) and a wide range of military weapons (missiles and so on). In addition ammunition designed to expand, JSP etc, is only permitted for deer stalking/vermin destruction in UK.

An individual requires a certificate to possess S1 or S2 firearms. These are obtained from the local police after an application process. S2 (shotguns with a limited magazine capacity of no more than 2 rounds) certificates are reasonably straightforwrad. S1 certificates require additional details about the intended use of the firearms to be owned, for example shooting club confirmation of membership.

In UK you need separate permission for each S1 firearm you possess, although they go onto the same certificate. Storage for both S1 and S2 firearms is reasonably straightforward and many shooters use secure cabinets at home.

We have some limited provisions for collectors of historic handguns that do nat fall to be antiques. The collector can either collect them without ammunition (so long as the chambering is obsolete as well) and retain them at storage of their choice, or can collect them for shooting, in which case they have to be stored at one of our very few approved shooting centres for that purpose.

There is a process to possess S5 prohibited weapons, but this requires authority of a Government Minister, the Home Secretary, and is for businesses and similar, perhaps in the firearms trade or involved in filmwork.

We then have a further separate category for air weapons that have energy levels less than 12 foot pounds for rifles or six for pistols where these can be possessed without certificate either. You have to be 18 or older to purchase them and reatilers have to have registered with the police as firearms dealers, as with S1 and S2 firearms.

BB guns and paintball guns are not considered to be lethal and as such are not regarded as firearms in UK. However it is an offence to possess them in public without lawful authority or reasonable excuse (such as travelling to a paintball site). In addition ones that actually look like modern firearms are not permitted to be imported etc into UK, unless for certain restricted purposes, including airsoft skirmishing and reenactment. In order to purchase a realistic imitation firearm you must be 18 and hold third party public liability insurance for the intended approved activity.

We also have a system for deactivated weapons, where if a firearm has been deactivated to a certain standard and has been marked and certificated as such by one of the two UK Proff Houses, then it can be possessed without certificate. This applies to firearms of any section, including five.

We have one national legal framework so there are not the equivalent of your local ordinances. Although the Scottish Government has brought in some additional controls in relation to air weapons.

The UK does not usually permit the possession of firearms for personal protection.

Similar to your description of penalties, there is a fixed penalty in UK for unlawful possession of a firearm and it is five years imprisonment for a first offence. Since our law on constructive possession would also include items you didn't know you had, such as something someone put in your pocket without you knowing, our courts do have leeway on the sentence.

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Hope this assists,
Adrian
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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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Thank you, Adrian. That was lengthy, but comprehensive Smile Your firearm laws, like ours, seem to be a bit convoluted, but that's the nature of the beast isn't it? Chock full of "well, what about this if in the event that...?"
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Simon Rosbottom


Joined: 14 Jun 2006
Posts: 287
Location: London, UK
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Draconian and rightly so in my view although firearms offences are on the increase and are double the number they were only ten years ago. In 2006/2007, there were 755 murders in the UK - 58 involving illegal firearms.

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Dave Colbourne


Joined: 02 Oct 2005
Posts: 46
Location: Barnsley, South Yorks
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Simon Rosbottom wrote:
Draconian and rightly so in my view although firearms offences are on the increase and are double the number they were only ten years ago. In 2006/2007, there were 755 murders in the UK - 58 involving illegal firearms.


Curious fact, that, that the more draconian the firearms laws become, the more firearms offences are recorded. Perhaps criminals aren't deterred by the knowledge that they are breaking the law, hmmm?
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Simon Rosbottom


Joined: 14 Jun 2006
Posts: 287
Location: London, UK
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Then more reson to tighten the law and make the penalties for their use more severe. Similarly, the carrying of a knife. Perhaps why the government will never have a referendum on the death penalty - it would be overwhelmingly supported.

I'd rather our situation than that of the US for instance where there were almost 15,000 murders last year where 10,000 were gun related.

Oddly in Canada in 2007, where guns are also widely available, there were 594 murders of which about a third were gun related (2/3 of these were handguns) and a third knife related. Is it the availability of weapons or the willingness of people to use them?

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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1797
Location: Near Canterbury, Kent, England.
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Simon

I imagine the disparity in population size would not be unconnected, Canada's being about a tenth of the USA's, I believe. However, pro rata, it would see the US is still the more dangerous, at more than double the rate per capita by your figures.

Obviously, as Dave points out, making ownership of a gun illegal doesn't automatically stop it, but I would have thought there was a constant need to close any possible loophole, and every reason to make the ownership or simply the possession of any firearm strictly illegal, with very severe penalties for breaching the law. Exceptions would presumably include properly organised and constituted clubs (we obviously have responsible participants in this forum membership) where security is seen to be watertight; occupations where they might be considered necessary (some farmers) and the armed forces and specially trained police (the latter to be kept to an absolute minimum, in line with the wishes of the population); and, of course, antiques. I imagine this is more or less the situation already?

Presumably membership of clubs and ownership of firearms in the above cases is very strictly controlled already? I don't know what the current penalty is, but I'd welcome the longest possible custody sentence for anyone outside the above categories found in possession of a firearm, whether at home or in public - even for a first offence. We read of certain areas in cities like Manchester or Nottingham being dangerous places for guns, and London for knives (obviously not the only places) but outside these "hotspots", is it a problem? I've never heard of anyone I know carrying a gun of any sort, nor keeping one at home, other than farmers. I'm not even sure I've ever seen a gun shop! Perhaps I've led a sheltered life ...

As for knives, what a mess! Only a few years ago my 10-year old son was thrilled to get a really good pen-knife for his birthday and has since had hours of enjoyment with it - as we all did as children in our day, without a thought of anything sinister. I suppose I'd be expected to make sure he hasn't got it on him before going out these days.

Peter

P.S. Anyone who wants to come and shoot rabbits is welcome in our garden at any time as we are completely overrun by the blighters!
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Firearms in the UK
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