UK gun laws: who can own a firearm?
Britain has some of the world’s strictest gun control legislation
New Zealand’s decision to ban semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles in response to the deadly shooting spree at two mosques in Christchurch has cast fresh attention on gun control laws across the globe.
Earlier this week, the UK’s Security Minister Ben Wallace said the Government would consider new controls if necessary, but stressed that “the gun laws in this country make it much harder for people to acquire weapons that could wreak mass murder in a very quick time”.
“While I see many people considering those type of attacks, they have been unsuccessful in this country because they have simply not been able to get their hands on the type of weapons system we saw deployed in New Zealand,” he said.
“Our law enforcement will continue to target both legal acquisition of weapons by unsuitable people and illegal acquisition through smuggling.”
The UK has strict gun laws that make acquiring a legal firearm a rigorous process. The National Ballistics Intelligence Service (Nabis) told The Independent that a combination of strict gun licencing and border controls has made shootings rare in the UK.
What kind of firearms are legal?
Members of the public may own sporting rifles and shotguns, subject to obtaining the appropriate permit. Some firearms, shotguns and rifles “may be licensed and are held on a firearm or shotgun certificate”, says Newsweek.
Handguns were effectively banned after the Dunblane school massacre in 1996, with one exception.
Northern Ireland is also the only part of the UK where personal protection is accepted as a legitimate reason to obtain and own a firearm.
Low-powered air weapons are legal in England and Wales unless they are of a type banned under the Firearms (Danger Air Weapons) Rules 1969, but there are still restrictions on their sale.
Can anyone apply for a firearm certificate?
Permission to possess or to purchase a firearm can only be granted to an individual after they have been assessed by their local police force. Organisations such as shooting clubs, museums and firearms sellers must also apply for licences.
How do the police decide who can own a firearm?
Police checks on an individual or organisation wishing to own a firearm involve criminal record checks, as well as interviews and reports from a GP. A permit cannot be granted unless police are satisfied both that the applicant has a good reason to own the firearm and that they do not pose a threat to public safety.
Prohibited weapons, such as handguns, can be authorised by the Home Office on behalf of the Secretary of State in exceptional circumstances.