This collection of writings and links has evolved from its original beginning to become, primarily, a means to address my interest in the concept of the right to keep and bear arms (RKBA) and its relevance to 21st Century Britain.
I'm a British citizen born, raised, and educated in the The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK). In the late 70s and 80s I was a soldier in Britain's Territorial Army, for a total of approximately ten years. I'm in a minority of the UK population (an April 2003 opinion poll suggested it to be in the region of 25%) in being an advocate of RKBA. That's in spite of RKBA having deep historical roots in the Constitutional traditions of England and Scotland.
The English roots of RKBA are found in English Common Law, in documents such as Magna Carta, 1215 and the Bill of Rights of 1688. The concept reached its ultimate expression in the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, which can be traced back directly to English Common Law traditions. Indeed, the American and English Legal systems are closely linked even today.
The Scottish roots are seen in the Claim of Right Act 1689, Scotland's version of the Bill of Rights of 1688, and in the proud tradition of the Scottish citizen warrior throughout history, of song and story and latterly big-budget Hollywood blockbusters. Certainly we shall not forget the Declaration of Arbroath, 1320. The Scottish custom of Wappenshaw, when men from the community mustered with their weapons to demonstrate their readiness for battle, is still celebrated in some places by shooting competitions taking that name. The most telling indicator left today of the tradition of Scotsmen bearing arms is found in the Skien Dhus being part of the National Dress. The Sgian Dubh, Gaelic for "black knife," is often claimed merely as a utility hunting knife - an explanation that fails to account for why they were hidden, not worn openly on the belt as a hunting knife usually is, and accordingly of a dark colour to facilitate this. "Black" is not a reference to colour but connotation of the knife's use as a weapon of last resort for self-defence.
In spite of several hundred years of common history, English Law and Scots Law are different and in many fundamental ways separate and distinct. England and Wales, for all practical purposes, have been treated as a single unit for legislative purposes; this will likely change given the Welsh Parliament and devolution. Northern Ireland has its own legal system, complicated by the troubled history. In the particular case of firearms laws, currently at least, the Parliament at Westminster reserves matters pertaining to weapons and explosives laws to its jurisdiction imposing the same laws on England (and Wales) and Scotland. Northern Ireland firearms law is variant: "small weapons" (i.e. handguns) are not, as yet, banned outright in Northern Ireland in contrast to the other parts of the UK.
The government department the Home Office and its political head, the Home Secretary, bears responsibility for determining the course of the administration of firearms law. In a bizarre echo of the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the issuing of Firearms Certificates (FAC), Shot Gun Certificates (SGC) and Explosive Certificates (required for Black Powder) falls to the police department in each Police Authority (Police Authority areas tend to roughly match recognisable Local Government areas but not necessarily exactly) that also handles the licensing of premises selling alcohol. Each Police Authority maintains full details of all law-abiding firearms owners using registration by serial number of firearm(s) to the owner. After massive delay, England and Wales were scheduled to have a National Firearms Licensing Management System (NFLMS) by March 2007, a computer system to allow all forces access to applicant details. Practices and procedures for implementing firearms-related law vary in an arbitrary manner according to local Police Authority choosing in spite of Home Office direction. In theory, there's tripartite control of policing matters in a local area: the Police Authority made up of local politicians, the Home Office, and the Police hierarchy themselves. How exactly this works out in practise is another matter. In 2007 the Home Office is being reorganised, to be split into two new ministries - part of the on-going destruction of British constitutional traditions and laws as a part of the construction of the pan-European super-state desired by the elite classes.
The Police, as is their nature, when given an inch take a mile: all sorts of requirements promulgated at the whim of local licensing authorities but with no actual legal basis are foisted on law-abiding gun owners. Appeals against police decisions must be taken to the Crown Court and therefore are an extremely expensive proposition - and in any case will rarely succeed whatever their merit.
The arbitrary, time-consuming and baroque nature of the firearms licensing and registration process consumes an immense amount of Police manpower and is a major expense and inconvenience for law-abiding gun owners. Since no practical benefit has ever been demonstrated - anywhere in the world let alone Britain - for a firearms registration scheme from the point of view of the detection and solving of crime one must conclude that the primary intention is to harass the law-abiding. It appears the fundamental aim of "firearms controls" in Britain can be found in the phrase from the McKay Report of 1972 viz, "…we consider the number of firearms in private hands should be kept to an absolute minimum."
Writing in 2005 it is the case that for practical purposes metallic cartridge handguns are banned in Great Britain. A small number of "Section 5" authorities to hold handguns are issued by the Home Office for use in the humane destruction of animals (mostly the culling of deer). It is believed by some RKBA enthusiasts that a small number of authorities are issued for self-defence purposes - but not to "ordinary" members of the public - the Home Office is not forthcoming on this topic. In the case of very rare prototype and historical guns for collectors Section 5 authorities may be granted. I don't have figures as to how many handguns are held on Section 5 authority but I believe it be in the low thousands over the whole of Great Britain. The use of pistols for target shooting, even if you're a member of Britain's Olympic Team, does not qualify you for a Section 5 authority. As of 2007 a few thousand "Personal Protection Weapon" permits are on issue in Northern Ireland allowing the carriage of a handgun for self-defence, although the Labour Government is putting pressure on the Northern Ireland authorities to reduce or (most likely) eliminate these.
All mainstream political parties in the UK have pledged, at one time or another, to maintain the ban on handguns (and usually to ban more types of guns and gun-like items in general - in 2005 even restricted power air guns were targeted for draconian "controls"). It's pertinent to note that the British National Party (BNP) has indicated some support for RKBA. However, much like the BNP's attempt to recast itself from National Socialist to White Nationalist, their position is incoherent - and in any case there appears no likelihood of the BNP achieving any significant political power. Many suspect the BNP to be a front organisation controlled by MI5, a Government attempt to maintain control of the far right in this country and discredit certain political views.
Great Britain was the only European country to have a handgun ban until 2008 when it was joined by the Republic of Ireland. It's unclear how long it will be before the rest of the European Union follows.
Although police officers in general do not carry firearms and are not trained in their use, the carrying of firearms by police is widespread: squads of armed policemen patrol major metropolitan areas in Incident Response Vehicles (IRV). An IRV will be a high-performance saloon car in traffic police livery. The IRV typically contains four officers and a variety of firearms and ancillary equipment: handguns (almost invariably Glock Model 17), carbines (H&K MP5 semi-auto model), 5.56mm assault rifles (typically H&K Model 93, with G36 becoming fashionable), and 12 bore shot guns. CS and baton round launchers and Tasers are also becoming popular. These are also the tools of teams modeled on the American SWAT units that deal with incidents in a manner familiar to observers of the American scene (these teams, often termed "Tactical Operations" or similar, are in addition to the IRV teams). On occasion, police armed with MP5s and M93s can be seen standing around outside the High Court in the centre of my home town of Edinburgh. Snipers are usually deployed in such a situation, likely armed with Schmidt & Bender scoped Accuracy International 7.62mm calibre rifles similar to those used by British Army snipers. Tourists and businessmen will be familiar with the MP5 toting policemen that routinely patrol Britain's major airports and the City of London (the "Square Mile"). London's Metropolitan Police have a dedicated firearms group, the notorious CO19, comprising around six hundred officers in 2006. CO19 claim to make a virtue of their "hard-line" attitude and have demonstrable willingness to shoot first and ask questions later.
There are other armed police services in the UK:
The various armed forces operate armed police services, however they do not have civilian powers as constables.
My ideas have changed somewhat over the years since I inaugurated this page. Initially I thought the banning of handguns would have a broadly neutral effect given the fact that RKBA had been denied in the UK for many decades (though some quibbling about Northern Ireland could be led here). However, it has become increasingly clear as time wears on that a central plank of security and public order is an armed and responsible general public. Changes in the law in many States of the USA facilitating the carry and use of handguns for self-defence by private citizens have had an overwhelmingly positive effect there - American anti-gun campaigners have been reduced to trying to explain why a drop in violent crime isn't caused by citizens being allowed to defend themselves with legal firearms (or claiming that guns being used as a means of suicide justifies disarming the law-abiding). The increasingly deteriorating position in the UK as regards violent crime is hard to ignore, particularly in contrast to the situation in the USA and Switzerland. In 2005 the TV Programme "MacIntyre's Underworld," after a six-month study of the violent gang wars raging in Glasgow, revealed to viewers that Glasgow's homicide rate is the highest in Europe and in fact higher than New York.
IMHO there is, effectively, no on-going public debate about RKBA in the UK. The UK media organisations are extremely anti-gun, to the point of headlining shooting incidents in the USA above shooting incidents in the UK to minimise the latter. The United Nations is very actively propagandising for global civilian disarmament, bizarrely claiming it's servicing "human rights" by doing so. The pervasive anti-gun propaganda is a serious problem, I believe especially with regards to the younger generations. Although young people don't vote in great numbers they are, after all, the ones with most to lose. Young people are the most susceptible to propaganda because they don't have the life experience to recognise propaganda for the lies it is - they need to hear honest argument about RKBA. (As well as being introduced to the failings of argument by anecdote and how to use statistics and logic: the manifest problems of the contemporary British education system are a hot-button topic of public debate.)
As to the bogus "sporting purposes" posturing, I agree with Nietzsche -
"The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments."
Guns are weapons. Deal with it.
All the anti-gun arguments I've seen are predicated on the belief that only the government may legitimately use deadly force to maintain public order and safety. It is clear to me this is on the face of it wrong as a philosophy and wrong in the context of the British tradition. It also explains why, given the empirical evidence that banning guns leads to increasing violent crime and victimisation of law-abiding citizens, politicians and agents of the government aren't concerned. Protection of the public isn't the point of the exercise. Control of you and your life choices is the point. Isn't it paradoxical to entrust the nation's welfare to the decisions of voters whom the law itself considers incapable of managing their own affairs?
By now so much has been invested in banning guns by the people who've worked for it for various reasons that the anti-gun forces are extremely entrenched and unlikely to see the light. In addition, and to me the most disheartening aspect of the whole sorry story, stupendously pathetic has been the response of the vast majority of firearms owners in the UK. I indict the "shooting community" of this country as having the major blame for the sorry pass we're in as regards gun law and RKBA. You can't expect politicians to do anything other than work to make people dependent on the State, it's in their best interest. The people who've lost loved ones to death by shooting are bound to want to do something, however inappropriate in objective terms, to try to assuage the guilt they feel about that loss. But the very group of people who should have been shouting loudest about RKBA in this country have been the most acquiescent to the continual increase in State powers. In fact, the pleasure the typical FAC holder (what you might term "licensed gun owner") takes in being a member of the government-sanctioned elite is one of the most obnoxious things I've ever come across in other people and the only demerit I've found about shooting as a sport. Contrast that to the kind of people you meet when shooting or at gun shows in the USA who (largely) genuinely fit the term "salt of the earth."
The most comprehensive and comprehensible single essay that encapsulates most of what I understand about how the process of politics erases peoples' liberties is, "All the Way Down the Slippery Slope: Gun Prohibition in England and Some Lessons for Civil Liberties in America." If you read nothing else linked on this site, read that.
There are several megs of files on this site, not to mention linking, an awful lot of material. I just wish I had that magic bullet that could make all that information and knowledge easily accessible to you so's you would understand too. I don't, you have to read, argue, and think for yourself.
Perhaps the fact that so few people nowadays appear capable of thinking for themselves is the one telling argument against RKBA. How eager you are to become slaves.
For what I think is "the way" see, Gun Law for the 21st Century. http://dvc.org.uk/dunblane/gunlaw.html
image by Oleg Volk
image by Oleg Volk
"Me, I'm too busy dodging between the flak
What you see is what you get
You've made your bed, you better lie in it
You choose your leaders and place your trust
As their lies wash you down and their promises rust
You'll see kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns
And the public wants what the public gets
But I don't get what this society wants"
"We talk and talk until my head explodes
I turn on the news and my body froze
The braying sheep on my TV screen
Make this boy shout, make this boy scream!
Going underground, I'm going underground!"
- from "Going Underground" by Paul Weller, The Jam.
See also, "Terror fear over Clash fan's song." http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/england/4879918.stm
Yes, Virginia, these people really are crazy. The lunatics are running the asylum.