Since our formation in 1996 our successes have included:
Our first campaign was for a complete ban on handguns. This was fiercely resisted by all the shooting organisations who claimed that pistol shooting was the fastest growing sport in the country and could not be tampered with.
However, public revulsion to the killing of 16 small children and their teacher in Dunblane Primary School was so deep that successive governments could not ignore it.
In February 1997 John Major’s Conservative government introduced legislation to ban handguns over .22 calibre and in November 1997, the new Labour government extended the ban to cover all handguns with the Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1997.
The significance of this legislation cannot be overestimated. It sent a message throughout the UK and the world, that governments can and will take tough action to stem the rising tide of violence in society and turn decisively away from the growing gun culture.
Gun control campaigners all over the word have taken heart from this legislation. It has set a new ‘gold standard’ and proved that good governments acting in the interests of the many, not the few, can overcome the rich and powerful gun lobby.
We also were, for some months, the lone voice for gun control on the Firearms Consultative Committee. This body was statutorily constituted to give advice to the Home Secretary about firearms matters and had been instrumental in the gradual erosion of regulations and the easing of certification procedures for shooters. It consisted of representatives of all the various shooting organisations and the police.
GCN campaigned for the abolition of the FCC or its radical reconstitution. Our aim was to ensure that, if it continued to exist, it should represent the interests of victims, the medical profession, community groups and the wider public, not just the police and the shooters. The FCC was subsequently disbanded.
GCN members monitor the advertising and sale of guns on the internet, an insufficiently regulated loophole through which weapons can easily fall into the wrong hands. GCN alerted e-Bay to the fact that despite company policy gun sales were taking place through its auction site. Subsequent discussions with e-Bay staff have ensured that the company has improved its policing procedures and the virtual elimination of all appearances of guns for sale on its site.
Along with other campaigners GCN members have been lobbying the Government to place more restrictions on the availability and use of air weapons. The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 now requires that the purchase of all airguns must be face-to-face through Registered Firearms Dealers (RFDs), a measure implemented on 1 October 2007.
On the issue of airgun storage there has been some success too. The Crime and Security Act 2010 requires airgun owners to store their weapons in such a way as to prevent unauthorised access by people under 18.
GCN was involved in the consultation process that led to the introduction of legislation by the Scottish Government which will require the use of air weapons to be licensed in Scotland from 2016.
One of GCN's most sustained campaigns was to convince the Government to introduce a ban on imitation guns. Before GCN had finally persuaded the Government to introduce new legislation, the number of offences involving this type of weapon had increased enormously and their use accounted for a significant proportion of gun crime." The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 banned the manufacture, import, and purchase of imitation guns which is exactly what GCN had sought during our six year campaign. This measure was introduced on 1 October 2007, but the Government allowed an exemption for Airsoft guns, which are exact replicas of modern military weapons. There is no record of how many of these terrifying weapons there are in the country but we do know that in the last few years Airsoft sites have proliferated.
Over the last decade, our campaign to tighten up the licensing regime has borne fruit. In 2013 the police issued new guidance which sought to embed best practice across the country. 'One strike and you're out' was the ethos of the new protocol. Anyone known to have a history of domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse or mental illness would have their gun licence refused or revoked.
The principle of full cost recovery has been established which should mean that the taxpayer will not be required to subsidise the cost of firearms licensing. Since 2002 it has cost shooters £10 a year to licence as many shotguns as they want. The estimated full cost of a licence was £200 which means that the taxpayer was subsidising shooters to the tune of £20m per year.
From April 2016, gun owners will be flagged up on GP records and doctors will be required to notify police of any relevant factor e.g. depression, violence or substance abuse.
In 2016, Crimestoppers are planning a new Gun Safety Line for anyone to register their concerns about a gun owner - whether legal or illegal. GCN has long campaigned for this and we believe it will help save lives if it is properly marketed and the police have appropriate protocols in place to respond to the information they receive.
Besides achieving a handgun ban in the UK, GCN has worked closely with colleagues in other countries to share information and strategy.
In February 1997 GCN hosted the first ever meeting of gun control campaigners from around the world. It has resulted in close and continuing co-operation between groups who have very different aims and who function in different cultural contexts but who share the common purpose of tightening gun controls worldwide.
Since then GCN has made presentations at various conferences and workshops of the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and spoken in support of emerging gun control groups in Europe and Turkey. We were also founder members of IANSA (International Action Network on Small Arms), a body launched by a large group of NGOs in May 1999 to enhance the security of populations by preventing the proliferation and misuse of small arms and GCN members have participated in the Control Arms campaign for a global Arms Trade Treaty.
The success of the Control Arms campaign led to the approval by the UN General Assembly in December 2006 of a resolution that resulted in the Arms Trade Treaty, a landmark international treaty controlling the trade in guns and other small arms, which came into force in December 2014. As of January 2016, 80 states, including the UK, have ratified or acceded to the ATT.