What Are The UK’s Gun Laws? They Are Generally Much More Strict Than In The United States
Following Saturday night's terror attack in London, President Donald Trump set off a firestorm of criticism over the weekend and into Monday when he tweeted about the incident and said, "Do you notice we are not having a gun debate right now? That's because they used knives and a truck!" But Trump's summarization of the situation ignores one simple fact: that the United Kingdom isn't having a "gun debate" over this, in part because it has stricter gun control laws than the United States. What are the U.K.'s gun laws? They are certainly more stringent than most here in the U.S.
In short, Newsweek explained back in June 2016 that the United Kingdom views firearms as dangerous weapons first, and that "Gun ownership in the U.K. is a privilege, not a right." That sort of statement would likely make the most ardent of NRA supporters lose their minds if it was accepted as national policy in the U.S.
The Atlantic confirmed that British law has tight restrictions on guns and gun ownership. That publication reported that if someone wants to buy a gun in the United Kingdom, they must apply for permission, and explain their reasoning for wanting to have a firearm. They also have to produce references to their "mental stability and good character."
In addition, according to the Atlantic, if someone wants to buy a gun in the U.K., they have to prove that their weapons will be stored safely. Plus, "Weapons that fire bullets...may only be used only in pre-approved places," and the article gives a shooting range as one example.
In late 2010, the BBC also wrote about how strict gun laws are in the U.K. In article in November of that year, writer Dominic Casciani unequivocally stated that, "The U.K. has some of the toughest gun control laws in the world. If you want to own a gun, it is very difficult to do so."
But as a direct result of those tough regulations, the Atlantic reported that "firearms offenses of all kinds have tumbled from 24,094 in 2004 to 7,866 in 2015." So in a little over a 10-year period, firearms offenses in the U.K. dropped by the thousands.
Newsweek confirmed that in the United Kingdom, firearms offenses now make up a small proportion of all recorded crime — less than 0.2 percent, in fact. The publication also noted that only specific types of firearms can even be licensed there. For example, "low-powered air weapons are not licensed in England and Wales unless they are of a type declared specially dangerous by the Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) Rules 1969," but even then, the sales of that type of weapon are restricted.
The Atlantic made particular note of the record the U.K. has on gun violence associated with terrorists, since Trump pointed out that gun safety is not a big part of the "debate" over what happened in London on Saturday. Writer David Frum wrote that "In only one of all the completed and attempted Islamic terrorist atrocities in the U.K. since 9/11 did the killers even carry a single gun." And in that case, the "90-year-old Dutch revolver" was so beat up, the attacker didn't try to use it.
So it's fairly clear why there isn't a gun debate going on right now in regards to what went on in the London Bridge attack: it doesn't make much sense to debate gun safety when your country already seems to have a handle on it.
Newsweek went on to lay out just how difficult it is for any person or group to obtain a firearm certificate in the United Kingdom, proving why the "gun debate" there is mostly a resolved one. The publication reported that organizations, like "target-shooting clubs, museums and firearms dealers," have to apply for licenses if they want to possess or utilize firearms. And anyone who's been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of three years or more can't possess a firearm or any ammunition at any time — including antiques.
Plus, once you have a gun in the U.K., that's not the end of the process. The BBC reported that police chiefs can take away certificates if they feel that the holder "can no longer be trusted." The outlet reported that in 2008-2009, nearly 1,300 certificates were revoked.
Can you imagine if that were the case in the United States? If the US had such strict gun regulations, and police officers could deny you the responsibility of having a firearm certificate if they felt it was no longer safe for you to possess it?
The "gun debate" is one we're still having in the United States because gun violence is still a major problem in this country. And despite what Trump may tweet, we are still having it, because incidents like the shooting in Orlando Monday morning keep happening. And they will continue to happen if we don't get control of gun safety.