A UK Guns Story

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by Chris Bodine
JPFO writer contributor, © 2014.

It is interesting to outline aspects of gun ownership (and loss) back in the the UK. This is a first person synopsis covering the main details so as to give an overall, if simplified picture, for those who may have ever wondered. Read, consider and learn!

First off let's outline how we got our guns over there. I had to apply for, and be sanctioned, to be "granted" a Firearms Certificate from the regional Police HQ firearms department. I had to give ''good reason'' for my request (which basically meant being an approved range/club member) and also had to have listed any guns (types thereof) I was planning on buying in the future - if you like they were ''pre-approved''. This meant usually putting down anything that was anticipated (and if anything was forgotten then a ''variation'' had to be implemented - more cost!).

In earlier days there was also a shotgun certificate separate from the rest - ultimately the two were incorporated. Incidentally, each gun type had to officially be eligible for some class of acknowledged (on the books) competition regime. It perhaps goes without saying that any reference to firearms for self defense was strictly a no-no!

What then? - go buy one of the guns that was listed by category - all details then recorded on the certificate, logged at dealers and eventually those details logged at Police HQ - yes, registration par excellence! Then, ready for this? - buying ammo. All calibers had an ammo max quantity and then a purchase figure - the max was the total amount legal to hold and the purchase figure the limit on one acquisition. Wonder why I reloaded ??

I was also obligated to show local cops that I had a means of secure storage - and to that end built a gun safe into a thick wall - concrete lined, steel frame and 1/4" steel doors with secure hinges, alarmed etc. See picture - it was a lot of welding. Three five lever locks on it too.

I got into shooting more seriously around 1978, having only done some shot-gunning and much pellet rifle shooting in earlier years. I joined a local small bore club and did more competition shooting, pistol and rifle, and soon had my own guns for that (Ruger MkII and BSA MkII Martini target rifle). Not long after being involved in that club, a guest shooter at one of the open matches was talking about his full-bore handgun shooting at an outdoor range. That piqued my interest and so started the main impetus to my shooting.

I bought my first wheelgun, a M27 Smith and that was enough to get me started in regular competitions there - after which the aquisition process over the following years really took off! I finished up with about 24 handguns (list to follow) and quite a few longarms too. Some years I would go to the annual pistol meet at Bisley range during the 80's - there able to compete in many disciplines including long range handgun. At 300 yards this was a challenge!

The handguns still remembered - Smith M27 in .357, Smith M686 in .357, Colt Trooper MkIII in .22, Repro .45LC, Webley MkVI in .455, Webley MkIV in .38S&W, Enfield break top .38's (2), Walther GSP in .22, Walther GSP in .32, Ruger Redhawk in .44 mag, Ruger MkII, Cap&Ball .44, Charter Pathfinder in .22, Browning Hi-Power 9mm, Baby Browning, Ivor Johnson .32, Smith M1917 in .455 - I forget the others right now, there were a few more!!

Long arms owned at various times - Enfield MkV Jungle Carbine in .303 British, K98 Mauser re-chambered .308, Mauser Obendorfe .22, Mini-14 in .;223 Rem, Stirling carbine in 9mm, .577 cal Enfield 2 band Musketoon, Remington semi .22 (suppressed), basic SMLE in .303 British. Also, couple of shotguns - a Spanish Laurona O/U 12G and a Spanish Sable, English pattern S/S 12G.

Troubles began as far back as 1987 - ''Hungerford, Berkshire County, UK, Wednesday 19 August 1987 (sixteen people shot to death and another fourteen injured, eight of them seriously. The butchery ended only when the gunman, twenty-seven-year-old M.R, was cornered in a school and turned the gun on himself''. He had gone around with his AK clone spraying about anything that moved. I actually had it on quite good authority he did not shoot himself!!

That provoked a predictable backlash and gave the Government the ideal excuse to ban semi rifles - forget exactly when, probably coupla years later - and so my Mini-14 and Stirling Carbine had to be relinquished. I got compensation for them but also got them back finally, as deactivated wall hangers. Sad to say the very least.

Things went on pretty much OK then until - ''March 13 1996, T.H, 43, left his home at Kent Road in Dunblane, Scotland, with only one thing in mind -- murder. At about 9:30 a.m., he drove to the Dunblane Primary School with a pair of pliers, four handguns and more than 700 rounds of ammunition. Once there, he cut the telephone wires on a nearby pole and then proceeded with weapons in hand to a side entrance of the school.''

This debacle could have been prevented in fact had the chief of police in his region disallowed his certificate renewal, as he was known to be unstable, and somewhat keen on small children etc. However, it happened and of course the uproar thru the sheep community was vociferous - ''What - people are allowed to own guns - and keep them at home''!!

This was the absolute gift on a plate to the UK Government - the chance they had long wanted to ban handguns altogether (just think of all the extra votes they could get!). The 'privilege' could be revoked - it was. Around September 1997 I had to relinquish my collection. Many have said it was a wimpy thing to do - well my answer to that was, when guns are registered and ''they'' know exactly what you have - and you have responsibilities to a family etc, where is the percentage in going out in a bloodbath. This would most likely have resulted in being labeled - ''Good - there goes another gun nut"! I chose to stay alive and honor my obligations.

I was over time gradually in receipt of compensation money - which hardly assuaged my sense of loss and anger. The only remaining options at my old center-fire club were shooting .22 rifles and pistol caliber carbines - or, large caliber rifle shooting at another club with a suitable range. Sadly the NRA in UK was way too small to have ever had any significant voice or teeth. I all but ceased much active shooting.

Fortunately I kept the bulk of my reloading gear - and am now pleased I did. Having crossed over to marry my lady wife here in the USA in 2000 I was eventually once more able to get back into shooting properly, sinking quite a chunk of the proceeds of selling-up into just that. Once I was legally able to do so I resumed my handgun passion, gained my U.S. citizenship in 2005, got my CCW organized - and the rest is pretty much history.

After what I had to endure in the UK, I am as strong a protector of the 2A as anyone - maybe more so. I watched the erosion of a mere privilege and the extremes of anti-gun paranoia - and know just how easily the ''chip-chip-chip'' of incremental legislation can damage things, even with what we have and regard as a total right.

Whether you are religious and take the "God given right" approach, or just accept as I do, that it is simply a 'basic human right' to be able to defend the self - it matters not. The right is or should be an unalienable right. If lost it leaves two main armed groups, the criminal fraternity (yes, there is still gun crime in the UK) and the 'authorities' - and as most should know with little recourse to history lessons, power grows out of the barrel of a gun. Think hard about the need to protect what is vital and yet could so easily be taken away - it's what many want to achieve.

Chris has been a firearms owner and shooter for decades, although when still in the UK suffered the ignominy of 'losing' a collection of about 24 handguns. Now 14 years in America and a naturalized citizen, he is a strong proponent of the 2A and has managed to, in part at least, rebuild a modest collection. So far, he has 11 years employing a CCW 24/7, and fortunately no incidents to date. He is an NRA certified firearms instructor in most disciplines including range safety officer. His main work is on computers but also a strong sideline of engineering, which ties in with his degree in Engineering systems.

© Copyright Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership 2014.

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