20th Anniversary of the Gun Control Network
by Gun Control Network on 14-10-2016
At a party at the British Academy hosted by Sir Peter Lampl, friends of the Gun Control Network celebrated two decades of campaigning to change the law and culture surrounding guns in the UK.
1997 – a complete ban on the civilian ownership of handguns.
2006 – a ban on the manufacture, transfer and sale of realistic imitation guns.
2006 – a requirement for airguns to be bought only through Registered Firearms Dealers.
2010 – a requirement for airguns to be stored in such a way as to prevent unauthorised access by people under 18.
2012 – new guidance to police on firearms licensing, prohibiting people with a record of domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse or mental illness from getting a gun licence.
2014 – registration of airguns in Scotland (to be introduced in 2016)
2015 – a report from Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary on firearms licensing recognising that ownership of guns is a privilege, not a right, that the taxpayer should not be subsidising the cost of gun licensing and that the police are servants of the public not the shooting community.
2015 – a report from the Law Commission recommending a definition of ‘lethal’ as having one joule of power (although it does not recommend that all lethal weapons are licensed).
2016 – a scheme in which, from April, GPs will record firearms licence applications on their patients’ notes and be required to notify the police of any factors which might be of concern.
2016 – a Gun Safety Line, scheduled to be opened by Crimestoppers, which anyone can use to register their concerns about a gun owner, whether legal or illegal.
All our objectives are predicated on the belief that the interests of public safety demand a reduction in the availability and attractiveness of guns of all kinds.
- The tightening of gun licensing into a single, more rigorous, system that includes all firearms, shotguns and air guns with power in excess of one joule. The onus should be on the applicant to demonstrate their suitability to own a gun and a specific need for doing so. Any opportunities for the spontaneous purchase of any gun, including air weapons, should be eliminated.
- A licence for every gun, renewed annually (as opposed to the current five-year renewal) and requiring two referees for each application and its renewal.
- An increase in the licence fee to cover the real cost of policing a more rigorous system.
- Lifting the secrecy about gun ownership, making it possible for certain professionals and members of the public to find out who has a licence and for what purpose.
- A National Gun Hotline for those wishing to record their concerns about a gun owner. This should be a well-advertised free phone line for those concerned about their own or another’s safety or the behaviour or well-being of a gun owner.
- Refusal or revocation of a gun licence where there is evidence of domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, misuse of a gun, when a relevant misdemeanour has been committed (e.g. shooting of wildlife, threatening behaviour or negligent storage of the weapon), or when an applicant has a significant criminal conviction.
- Mandatory notification to GPs at the point when a patient becomes a legal gun owner. Permanent flagging of GP records of firearms certificate holders.
- Mandatory private and discrete notification to former and present partners of new and repeat applicants (evidence from Canada and Australia shows that gun-related domestic violence has decreased as the legal frameworks on gun licensing and domestic violence have become harmonised).
- Declaration of interest - a magistrate or judge dealing with a firearm related crime or an appeal against revocation should be required to declare an interest if he or she is a firearms certificate holder.
- Some sort of independent oversight into the licensing process to ensure that applicants and the licensing officers maintain a formal and professional distance.
The UK’s tight gun controls have given us one of the lowest rates of gun crime in the world but the pressure from shooters to roll back gun control legislation is as strong as ever. GCN is the only national gun control organisation that remains as a bulwark against the powerful shooting lobby.