US v. UK: Gun Laws

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US v. UK: Gun Laws

by Trinity Tedtsen

US v. UK: Gun Laws
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Creator Trinity Tedtsen


After completing my history capstone, I wanted to be able to answer questions about how the United States and United Kingdom gun laws differ and how public opinion in each country compares. Before I began research on this topic, I was unaware how significant the differences are when comparing the US and UK gun laws. This led me to consider public opinion on the issue. Since gun control is such a polarizing topic in the US, I was interested in exploring if the UK had a similar problem when it came to passing gun laws. To complete this project, I had to rely on knowledge from previous history classes and my experience with rhetoric in writing. It was challenging to be a devil's advocate surrounding my analysis of public opinion in both countries.


This project exhibits the differences between gun laws in the United States and gun laws in the United Kingdom as well as analyses of public opinion for and against gun control in both countries. It was occasionally difficult to analyze opinions that differed from mine because it can be challenging to see the other side of an argument sometimes. It has been interesting to compare public opinion in the two countries because they seem to reference each others' policies as reasoning for different gun laws. To complete this project, I relied on my knowledge of rhetoric and persuasive language. When reading the arguments for or against gun control, it was necessary to keep a clear head about what was persuasive and what was fact. I also relied on information from the previous history classes I have taken. These classes provided me with the skills necessary to effectively compare two countries' laws.


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1996 and 2012

On March 13, 1996, in Dunblane, Scottland a 43-year-old man with four handguns stormed into the local primary school killing 16 children and one teacher before killing himself. [1]

On December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut a 20-year-old man shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School with a semi-automatic rifle, fatally shooting 20 children and six adults before killing himself.[1]

The response following these two very similar events could not have been more different. The public outcry from the community in Dunblane spurred political action to ban the private ownership of automatic weapons and handguns on Britain's mainland.[1]The community in Newtown, agreeing only in their grief, could not come to a consensus on what to do about it. There has been no rewriting of gun control laws in the United States.[1] Some ideas involved adding more guns to school in the hands of law enforcement or registered teachers. The second amendment of the United States Constitution has created a gun culture in the United States that is absent in other Western societies.

Gun Culture

The gun culture present in the US is different from other Western societies, a fact many scholars have commented on. In 1968, Richard Hofstadter, an American historian, said: "Americans cling with pathetic stubbornness to the notion that the people's right to bear arms is the greatest protection of their individual rights and a firm safeguard of democracy".[2] When the US Constitution was written, the Founding Fathers wanted to make sure the country could defend itself from powers, like England, that were much stronger countries. Giving the militia the right to bear arms is one way they addressed that concern. It has become a battle cry for some American people who believe they need guns for self-defense. According to Peter Squires, a professor of criminology and public policy, this desire for guns has roots in the "leisure activity" of hunting and the relationship between the sport, masculinity, and skill.[2] During the years of western expansion, hunting was a cultural tradition. Fathers taught their sons how to shoot, who then taught their sons how to shoot and so on. As society progressed, Squires explained, hunting became less of a family tradition leading to a shift in the marketing strategy of firearms manufacturers.[2] The result of this shift was the picture of firearms changing from shotguns for hunting to handguns for "self-defense on the streets" in the eyes of American citizens.[2] This is comparable to the transition in the film industry of cowboys and western films to big city homicide detectives.[2] This can be extended to present-day Hollywood films portraying everything so glamorously on screen. Many films revolve around secret intelligence agencies utilizing guns to save the day. Films about the world's future often include futuristic looking weapons comparable to guns. According to Tom Diaz, the gun industry itself perpetuates American gun culture by relying on the "sepia tint of nostalgia" surrounding "cowboy culture and the western frontier" in many mainstream gun magazines .[2]

Another factor to consider when discussing American gun culture is the number of incidents of firearms violence. Americans turn to violence so frequently as a result of "historical and cultural conditioning" resulting from a propensity to turn to violence in events dating back to colonial times.[2] Twentieth-century factors could include prohibition in the 20s leading to an increase in "gangsterism, mob-violence, and the use of machine guns in criminal activity" and the experience of two world wars and the "uncertain reaction" to perceived defeat in Vietnam.[2] The many studies surrounding firearms violence in the US all seem to draw the same conclusions, more firearms mean more firearms related violence.[2] Handguns are under the most scrutiny since they are not considered a hunting, or leisure activity, firearm. People buy handguns for self-defense, seeing that is what they are marketed for this does not come as a surprise. In their study "Firearms and Violence in American Life" George Newton and Franklin Zimring found, however, “firearms kept at home were more likely to be used against other members of the household" than for self-defense reasons.[2] Firearms were also found to increase the probability of a confrontation becoming violent.[2] With this in mind, it is surprising how popular handguns still are.

US Federal Gun Laws

National Firearms Act
The NFA was enacted in 1934 as part of the Internal Revenue Code. The Act regulated a federal tax on the manufacture, sale, and transfer of certain classes of firearms.[3] Currently, the Act imposes an excise tax and registration requirements on narrow categories of firearms including machine guns, short-barreled shotguns or rifles, silencers, mufflers, and specific firearms described as "any other weapons" that follow specific guidelines and which have a different tax placed on them.[3] The law also required the registration of all NFA firearms with the Secretary of the Treasury. The NFA was enacted by Congress as an exercise of its authority to tax, its underlying purpose was to curtail transactions in NFA firearms.[3] The making and transfer tax was set at $200 and has not changed since 1934.

Federal Firearms Act
The FFA imposed a federal license requirement on gun manufacturers, importers, and anyone selling firearms.[4] It also required licensees to maintain customer records and made the transfer of firearms to certain classes of persons, i.e. felons, illegal. The FFA was repealed by Gun Control Act of 1968 and has been partially reenacted by subsequent acts.[4]

Gun Control Act of 1968
The GCA reenacted and expanded upon prior acts and repealed the FFA. The legislation imposed stricter licensing and regulation on the firearms industry and established new categories of firearms offenses.[5] The Act included the provision of prohibiting the sale of firearms and ammunition to felons and certain other prohibited persons from the FFA.[5] It also established minimum ages for firearms purchasers and a requirement that all firearms have a serial number on them.[4]

Firearms Owners' Protection Act
FOPA, enacted in 1986, amended the NFA definition of silencer by adding combinations of parts for silencers and any part intended for use in the assembly or fabrication of a silencer.[4] The legislation added provisions that legalized sales by licensed dealers away from the location shown on the dealer's license if at a "gun show" within the same state. FOPA limited the number of inspections of dealers' premises which could be conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms without a search warrant and prevented the federal government from maintaining a central database of firearms dealer records.[4] The act also loosened the requirement for what constitutes "engaging in the business" of firearms sales for purposes of a federal license and repealed several key Public Safety provisions originally enacted by the GCA. It eliminated the requirements that dealers keep sale records of ammunition transfers and that sellers of ammunition be licensed and lifted the ban on interstate transfers of ammunition to unlicensed purchasers.[4]

Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act
The Brady Act was established on November 30, 1993. The Act affected amendments to the GCA originally imposing a five-day waiting period for law-enforcement to review the background of a prospective handgun purchaser before a licensed dealer was entitled to complete the sale of a handgun to that person.[6] The waiting period only applied to states without an acceptable alternative system of conducting background checks on handgun purchasers.[4] The purpose of the check is to allow law enforcement time to confirm that the prospective buyer is not a prohibited purchaser before the sale is completed. The five-day waiting period has now been replaced with an instant check system which can be extended to three days if the results of the check are not clear.[4] People who have a federal firearms license or a state issued permit to possess or acquire a firearm are not subject to the waiting period requirement [6]. As more states enact "shall issue" concealed carry permit laws, the category of persons exempt from the Brady Act increases. In 1998 the Act became applicable to shotguns and rifles.[4]

Federal Assault Weapons Ban
The first AWB was a subtitle of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The legislation formally codified 1) the manufacture, transfer, or possession of semi-automatic assault weapons and 2) the transfer and possession of large capacity ammunition feeding devices.[4] It banned 19 types, models, and series of assault weapons by name and any semi-automatic firearm with at least two specified military features coupled with the ability to accept a detachable magazine.[4] However, it only banned the transfer and possession of assault weapons and large capacity feeding devices manufactured after the date of the ban's enactment. The AWB contained a sunset provision declaring that it would expire 10 years from attachment.[4] Congress allowed the ban to expire on September 13, 2004. [4]

Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act and Child Safety Lock Act
The PLCAA and CSLA provided the gun industry with immunity from most tort liability.[4] The PLCAA also prohibited a "qualified civil liability action" from being brought in any state or federal court and required immediate dismissal of any such action upon the date the PLCAA was enacted.[4] A "qualified civil liability action" is a civil or administrative action or proceeding brought against a manufacturer or seller of firearms or ammunition, or a trade association that has two or more members who are manufacturers or sellers of firearms or ammunition for relief, if the action resulted from the criminal or unlawful misuse* of a qualified product by the person or third party with certain exceptions.[4]
The CSLA, adopted as part of the PLCAA, made it unlawful for any licensed importer, manufacturer, or dealer to sell or transfer any handgun unless the transferee is provided with a secure gun storage safety device.[4] It also immunized any person who possesses or controls a handgun from a "qualified civil liability action." The CSLA defines a "qualified civil liberty action" as a civil action for damages resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse* of a handgun by a third party is: 1) the handgun was accessed by another person who did not have the authorization of the lawful possessor; and 2) at the time the handgun was accessed it had been made inoperable by the use of a secure gun storage or safety device.[4]

  • *Unlawful misuse is defined as conduct that violates a statute ordinance or regulation.[4]

National Instant Criminal Background Check System Improvement Amendments Act The NICS Improvements Act provided financial incentives for states to provide to the National Instant Background Check System information relevant to whether a person is prohibited from possessing firearms, including the names and other relevant identifying information of people adjudicated as a mental defective or those committed to a mental institution.[7] The NICS Act also change the standard for people deemed to be "adjudicated as a mental defective" or "committed to a mental institution" by a federal agency or department.[7] The act authorized the attorney general to make grants to states for use in establishing and upgrading their states' ability to report information, including mental health information.[7] In order to be eligible for the grants, the state must implement a "relief from disabilities" program that meets the Act requirements.

State Laws for Concealed Weapons

US Map Concealed Carry.jpeg


Gun Control

Saying the United Kingdom has much stricter gun laws than the United States is an understatement. The laws themselves are not the only difference. Before Dunblane, the UK had very little gun violence related research, unlike the US which had a "wealth of... evidence" regarding gun control policy[2]. Dunblane was the first event of its kind in the UK, contributing to the immense public support for the handgun ban that followed.

UK Firearms Laws

The Firearms Act of 1968 is the primary source of gun control laws in the UK. The Act has been amended many times and provides for weapons sorted into the following categories: firearms, prohibited weapons, shotguns, air weapons, and imitation firearms.[9] Certain categories of individuals are prohibited from obtaining a firearm or shotgun certificate either completely or temporarily. Those absolutely banned from obtaining a certificate are anyone sentenced to any form of custody or preventative detention for three years or more.[9] Anyone sentenced for more than three months but less than three years cannot possess firearms or ammunition for five days after their release.[9]

A firearm is defined as "a lethal barreled weapon of any description from which any shot, bullet, or other missile can be discharged".[9] This includes 1) any prohibited weapon, lethal or not, 2) any component part of such a lethal or prohibited weapon, and 3) any accessory to any weapon designed or adapted to diminish the noise or flash caused by firing a weapon.[9] The question of whether an item is lethal barreled is a question of fact and is determined by a court established test. This test pertains to if the weapon can cause an injury from which death might result and does not include the maker's intention.[9]

Firearm and Shotgun Certificates
Applications for firearm certificates must include a completed application form as provided by the Firearms Rules, the names, and addresses of two people acting as referees who must be residents of Great Britain, of good character, and have personally known the applicant for at least two years, and four passport-sized photos, one signed by the applicant and one signed by the referee.[9] The application form is 10 pages of questions ranging from age, address, and type of firearm to personal history and experience with firearms. The referees are used as confidential character statements. They are expected to answer, in detail, questions about the applicants' mental state, home life, and attitude toward guns.[9] The local chief officer of police may grant a firearms certificate if they are satisfied the applicant is not prohibited by the Firearms Act. The office must be satisfied that the applicant is fit to be trusted with the weapon, has a good reason for possession, and the applicant's possession does not pose a danger to public saftey.[9]

Applications for shotgun certificates must include a completed application form as provided by the Firearms Rules, four passport-sized photos, one signed by a referee that is a "true likeness of the applicant", and a signed statement by a referee that the information contained in the application is correct and that they know of no reason that the person should not be allowed to possess a shotgun.[9] The person providing the signed statement must follow the same guidelines as the firearms certificate referee, but also be a member of Parliament, justice of the peace, minister of religion, doctor, lawyer, established civil servant, bank officer, or person of similar standing.[9] The chief officer of police can grant the certificate for the same reasons as for the firearms certificate.

Medical Requirements
There are also medical requirements for firearm and shotgun certificates. The applicant must sign a release that allows the police to obtain the applicant's medical record from his or her doctor.[9] The police check for signs that the applicant would be unfit to possess a gun. these signs are typically evidence of drug or alcohol addiction or signs of a mental disorder.[9] Police can also ask social services about the applicant if it is relevant to the application. The police may access this medical information at any time, including after the certificate is approved, until the certificate is no longer in circulation.[9]

If an application is approved, there are certain conditions involved in owning a firearm. A firearm certificate is specific to which types of firearms the applicant is allowed to have and how many. It also details the quantities of ammunitions the certificate holder may purchase, acquire, or possess at one time.[9] A certificate can also detail how the weapon(s) can be used. Conditions of the certificate specify the firearms must be kept in a safe and secure space when not in use to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing the weapon.[9] It is also required that loss or theft of the firearm be reported immediately. When certificates are approved or denied based on if they can be stored safely, it is taken into account who might have access to the firearm other than the applicant. This includes family members and associates who pose a threat to public safety. If someone has access to the firearm- including keys for the secure storage where the firearms are kept- who poses a threat to public safety, the certificate will be denied.[9]

Duration of Certificates
Once granted, firearm certificates have expiration dates. The typical period for a firearms certificate is five years, but they can be revoked earlier if the certificate holder is: 1) a deemed a danger to public safety or to the peace, 2) "of intemperate habits", 3) of unsound mind, 4) unfit to be trusted with the firearm, 5) prohibited from holding a firearm under the Firearms Act, or 6) no longer has good reason for possession.[9] A shotgun certificate can be revoked if the chief officer of the police is satisfied they the holder is prohibited by the Act from possession a shotgun, or if the individual poses a danger to public safety.[9] Each case is judged separately, based on the sole holder and/or any associates who have access to the secure storage area of the weapon. An applicant can appeal the denial of a certificate to the Crown Court.[9] The court will exercise an administrative function to determine if the chief officer of police was correct in denying the certificate. Both police and applicants have complained about the process. The police believe their decisions to deny have been overturned without full consideration and applicants have found the process too expensive to ascertain it as a possibility.[9]

Prohibited Weapons
It is an offense to possess, purchase, acquire, manufacture, sell, or transfer prohibited weapons without the written authority of the Defence Council or Scottish Ministers. Any conditions can be attached to any authority permitting ownership to ensure a prohibited weapon is secured and will not endanger public safety.[9] Prohibited weapons include:

  • military style weapons,
  • firearms disguised as any other objects,
  • any firearm that shoots two or more missiles without repeated pressure on the trigger,
  • any self-loading or pump-action rifle,
  • any firearm with a barrel less than 30 cm or a total length less than 60 cm,
  • any self-loading or pump-action smooth-bore gun that has a barrel less than 20 cm or a total length less than 40 cm,
  • any smooth-bore revolver gun,
  • any rocket launcher, or any mortar, for projecting a stabilized missile,
  • any air rifle, air gun, or air pistol that uses a self-contained gas cartridge system,
  • any weapon designed or adapted for the discharge of any noxious liquid, gas, or other thing,
  • any cartridge with a bullet designed to explore on or immediately before impact,
  • any ammunition containing or designed to contain noxious liquid, gas or other thing,
  • any ammunition capable of being used with a firearm of any description, and
  • any grenade, bomb, or rocket or shell designed to explode on or immediately before impact

with certain exceptions for air weapons, muzzle-loading guns, firearms designed as signaling apparatuses, .22 rim-fire cartridges, 9mm rim-fire cartridges, and launchers or mortars designed for pyrotechnic purposes or as signaling apparatuses.[9]

Imitation Firearms
A permit is required to own a realistic imitation firearm that "has the appearance of being a firearm" or can be "readily convertable into a firearm" according to the previous definiton of firearm.[10]


Proponents of Gun Control


Gun control is a much-debated topic in the United States. Most everyone has a strong opinion regarding the subject and are willing to defend that opinion to other citizens. Former Supreme Court Judge "[John Paul] Stevens believes that the authors of the Second Amendment were primarily concerned about the threat that a national standing army posed to the sovereignty of the states—as opposed to homeowners’ anxiety about violent felons—he thinks the best way to fix the situation is to amend the Second Amendment". [11] Amending any law, let alone the Constitution, is a huge undertaking. It is unlikely that Stevens's proposed amendment become law anytime soon, but nevertheless he would change "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed." to "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the militia shall not be infringed". [11] This change makes it clear the amendment refers only to citizens serving in the armed forces. In 1776, it was clear to the Founding Fathers that the right to an armed militia would protect the country against the government becoming a dictatorship. Proponents of gun control in American believe this amendment has been taken out of context to create a well-armed populace rather than a well-armed militia.

"'When I got my concealed-carry permit,' the man in the audience continued, 'one of the questions I had to answer was, 'Are you a fugitive from justice?' The rest of the crowd laughed. 'I asked the sheriff, does anyone ever answer yes to that?' And he said, 'You'd be surprised.' But I think we need more regulation'". [12] This story comes from a legal gun owner in the US. He brings up the point that regulation often involves the judgments of police officers to determine who can legally own a gun. This means someone who could be denied a gun in Maryland may be able to get a permit in Vermont. More regulation could create a more unified system that is less dependent on different individuals judgment.

"The idea that the constitution is no longer amendable and somehow objectively stands as an incontrovertible truth is nonsense".[13] This opinion comes from a UK citizen, but brings up a good point regarding US gun control. Many people turn to the 2nd Amendment to defend their right to own a gun. It has become a sort of battle cry for opponents of gun control. As simple as it sounds to someone unfamiliar with the process, amending the Constitution is a rightfully difficult thing to do. It requires the support of two-thirds of the Senate or two-thirds of the states in order to propose the amendment. Ratification of the proposal requires three-fourths. Gun control is not supported enough to garner those levels of support.

"One failed attempt at a shoe bomb, and we all have to take our shoes off at the airport. 31 school shootings since Columbine and no change in the regulation of guns".[13] Another quote from a UK citizen. People have made sarcastic comments regarding the number of people who would have to die at one incident in order for the United States to finally change their gun laws. The highest I've heard in passing conversation is somewhere near 87,000. This hyperbole shows how polarized gun control is in the US. If someone can believe wholeheartedly that citizen owned guns are not useful in decreasing violent crimes, why can't anything get done about it? The answer is simple, nobody can agree on what to do. Federal gun laws in the US constantly repeal and replace each other, or have to have sunset clauses to generate enough support. After 9/11, massive reform took place at airport security throughout the world, the US included. It raises the question of why the US can rally around airport security improvements and not gun security improvements. Too many citizens believe guns are a necessary part of their lives.

"Brits seem to have a real fascination with gun culture in America. (I don’t blame them – so do I.) But that fascination turns quickly to disbelief - disbelief that there could be any merit to living in a society with guns proliferated everywhere".[14] This quote comes from an American citizen who was living and working in the UK. It brings up a foreign opinion about American gun control or lack thereof. Countries with laws much stricter than the US don;t understand why guns are still such a big part of the culture in the United States. Part of the problem is how difficult it is to get anything done regarding gun laws. Elected officials are constantly worried about being reelected. This means they don't want to vote for any bills that could alienate them from their constituents. Americans don't seem to understand increased gun control does not mean you have to get rid of every gun you own. Gun control laws can be passed without infringing upon the rights of American citizens.


It is not common to come across information regarding proponents of gun control in the UK. This is because the UK gun laws are already so stringent that nobody feels the need to fight for them. People, however, still have an opinion about them. "People on the streets of London... largely reacted with confusion and disbelief when the subject of legal gun ownership was approached".[15] This quote is from a news article regarding public opinion surrounding gun control in the UK. It shows how different opinions about gun control are in the US and the UK. In the US, gun control is an extremely politicized topic. In the city of London, people don't have to worry about whether or not the next person they pass on the street is holding a gun. It is normal to not own a gun and unusual to own one. The UK doesn't have an amendment giving its citizens the right to bear arms. You have to have a reason for wanting to own a gun, and self-defense is not good enough. This doesn't seem to upset many people in the more urban areas of the country. "After all, as a Brit, [the Constitution] doesn’t apply to me, and I find I have more than enough rights to get by on a daily basis".[13] This quote, from a British citizen's blog regarding changing US gun laws, shows that he is happy with the gun laws present in his country. It is unclear if he lives in a rural or urban area, but nevertheless, it shows how normalized gun control is in the UK.

Opponents of Gun Control


"For a significant minority of Americans, firearms represent individualism, independence, and self-reliance".[11] This quote argues why it would extremely difficult to amend the Constitution. Although it describes a minority, that minority is simply the far-right group against gun control. Changing the rights of Americans requires support from three-fourths of the people. "An awful lot of those people, the vast majority of whom obey the law and pay their taxes, like their guns and intend to keep them".[11] There is simply not enough support to change the 2nd Amendment, indicating the majority of American people want to maintain their gun ownership.

"Guns 'equalize' the playing field regardless of physical strength and 'psyche out' violent perpetrators who might be more willing to attack their victims if they knew they were unarmed". [16] This quote comes from the blog of an American citizen living in England. She is arguing the purpose guns serve in the US, something she believes many UK citizens don't seem to understand. This argument relates back to feeling safe and being capable of defending yourself. It is also arguing criminals are less likely to attack you if they know you have a weapon to use against them.

"Morally, it is the inalienable right of honest men and women to own guns for any reason they choose— hunting, collecting, and above all, self-defense".[17] Coming from an opinion post on the Forbes website, this quote shows some Americans believe gun ownership is a moral issue. They consider it immoral to take away other people's guns if they haven't done anything wrong. People in the US feel safer when they have a gun in their home for protection, whether they actually need it or not.

"Cities with stringent handgun bans—New York, Chicago, Detroit, Washington, DC—suffer from high rates of handgun crimes".[17] This is another point opponents of gun control raise. What's the point of increasing gun control if cities in the US haven't had success in decreasing handgun related crime rates? This relates back to feeling safer with a gun. Even if you take away the guns of honest citizens, criminals will still find ways to get them. People believe this will lead to more crimes rather than less because people won't have a way of defending themselves.

"The Founders understood that the last line of defense against a government moving toward dictatorship is an armed citizenry able and willing to defend their rights and their lives".[17] This quote argues why the 2nd Amendment should be applicable to the public and not just the military. A government run military would not be helpful in deterring the government from descending into a dictatorship. This argument supplies a reason as to why popular support is in favor of keeping the current version of the amendment. Although some people believe they don't need a specific reason for owning a gun, many relate it back to defense. Defense against home invaders, defense against violent criminals, and defense against the government should it be necessary.

When confronted with the topic of school shootings, an opponent of gun control said this: "Two things must be done to protect schools: 1. Add more armed, trained security guards 2. Institute a policy of 'designated defenders' ".[17] This shows the somewhat popular opinion of increasing the presence of guns on school grounds to increase the capability of defense. If schools are advertised to have trained gun owners in them, criminals will think twice about trying to attack there. It is notable, however, many school shootings are a result of many factors including poor mental health. Knowledge about the presence of guns on school property might not be enough to deter someone who is mentally unstable.


Just because the UK has extremely strict gun laws doesn't mean the whole country is in agreement about the issue. "'It's frustrating for me that when you tell someone you own a gun you're instantly labelled a weirdo. It's like a secret society,' Callum Long-Collins explains from a gun shop in Botley Mills, Hampshire".[15] This quote comes from a BBC magazine article titled "The people who want the UK gun laws relaxed". For people in more rural areas of the UK, guns are a part of everyday life such as pest control on farms or for shooting clay pigeons. It is more difficult for opponents of gun control in the UK than in the US to have their opinions heard because such strict laws already exist. It is harder to undo and rewrite gun laws than it is to prevent them from becoming laws in the first place.

"'[For most people] in the UK, you only see guns being used by the police or in video games. People aren't going to know the procedures and the application process,' [Long-Collins] says".[15] This quote is an answer to a question regarding any worry about guns falling into the wrong hands in gun control laws are relaxed. Since the application process for a gun is so lengthy and complex, it is doubtful that anyone would attempt, or even know how to attempt, to get a certificate for a gun for illicit purposes. Although, it must be noted criminals have ways of getting guns that don't involve the legal process at all.

"'Criminals are, I think, laughing at us at the moment,' he says, seemingly reluctant to speak openly while on camera. 'They know a lot of people are scared to do anything offensive in their home because of the repercussions'".[15] In the US, if you shoot someone breaking into your home, you can plead self-defense as a reasonable defense. In the UK, the laws regarding prosecution after shooting a home invader are very different. you are allowed to use reasonable force to protect yourself. Reasonable force, however, is a difficult term to define since there is a large range of types of home invasions. Some people believe a weapon would be helpful in feeling safe in their homes.

"[Rifle instructor Alan] Warren claims [massacre] incidents were the fault of poor police checks rather than the guns being legal, and that the perpetrators should never have been granted a licence in the first place".[15] Two of the most stringent gun laws in the UK came after two separate massacres, one using semi-automatic weapons and one using handguns- both legally held. Public support of gun control laws skyrocketed after these two events, leading to the ban of both handguns and semi-automatic weapons. It is difficult to determine why the two individuals responsible for the attacks were able to receive certificates for gun ownership, but some people believe the knee-jerk reaction of banning the weapons was unnecessary. A more regulated process of determining who can legally acquire a gun would have been enough.

"As concealed weapons became more available historically, crime rate dropped radically".[16] This quote is from an American citizen who now lives in the UK. This opinion relates back to how people feel safer when they have access to a weapon to defend themselves from criminals. It is also believed that knowing a household has a gun in it deters criminals from trying to gain access to that home.

"Should we proliferate handguns around England tomorrow? Probably not. (Obviously we should begin with firearm training sessions - safety first!) But liberalizing gun laws should not be off the table".[16] Another quote from the same American living in the UK. This quote shows that people understand they can't change the gun control laws overnight, but they believe people should be open to reading about the idea of creating more liberal gun laws. Many citizens of the UK who believe their gun laws are too strict look to the US to explain why they should be lessened. That is not to say they want to have the same gun laws as the US, but some one like to be able to enjoy target practice with pistols.


This project explored the differences in gun laws in the United States and the United Kingdom as well as public opinion about gun laws in both countries. The US has very relaxed gun laws, despite the many federal acts passed. Since the issue has become extremely politicized, it is difficult to pass any significant laws. Gun laws in the US repeal and replace each other constantly, stifling any real progress. Gun laws in the UK are extremely strict. Public support for passing those laws was enormous. Despite that, there are still opponents of gun control in the UK. It appears that most countries pass gun control measures following tragic massacres, but the US is different. US citizens cling to their right to own guns despite knowledge of how deadly they are. In the future, I would like to look into comparing gun laws in Germany to gun laws in the UK and US. Germany is home to millions of guns, but they don't seem to result in the same death rates as in the US.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 [1], Baker, A. (2015, December 7). After school massacre, Britain quickly tightened gun laws. International New York Times. Retrieved from Business Insights: Essentials database. (Accession No. GALE|A436663094)
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 Squires, P. (2000). Gun Control or Gun Culture? Firearms and Violence: Safety and Society. Taylor and Francis. p. 56-8, 60-2, 176.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 [2], National Firearms Act. (2016, December 1). Retrieved June 13, 2017, from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives website.
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