Gun Control in the UK


Significant Laws, Regulations, and Licensing Guidance: 1968 - Present


1968 Firearms Act

The Firearms Act 1968 brought together all existing firearms legislation in a single statute.

Applicants for Firearms Certificates (for rifles and handguns) had to be of good character, to show good reason for possessing a firearm, and the weapons had to be stored securely.

The Act introduced a Shotgun Certificate for the first time. A Shotgun Certificate was less rigorous than a Firearm Certificate, it covered any number of shotguns, no good reason was required, and there were no storage requirements.

This Act formed the legal basis for British gun control until the Hungerford massacre in 1987.


1988 Firearms (Amendment) Act

This Act introduced some new restrictions on shotguns. Pump-action and self-loading rifles were prohibited. Also controlled were military weapons firing explosive ammunition.


1997 Firearms (Amendment) Acts

Following the Dunblane tragedy the Conservative government introduced the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 which confined handguns to clubs and prohibited larger calibre handguns. The subsequent Labour government introduced the Firearms (Amendment) (No 2) Act 1997 which banned the civilian ownership of handguns almost completely (significant exceptions being muzzle-loading guns and starting pistols).


2003 Anti Social Behaviour Act

It became an offence to be in possession of an air weapon or imitation firearm in a public place.


2006 Violent Crime Reduction Act

The Act banned the sale, manufacture, import, modification, and transfer of Realistic Imitation Firearms (RIFs). However, it was still legal to own one. Airsoft guns were exempt from the terms of this Act.

The sale and transfer of air weapons had to be done ‘face to face’.


2010 Crime and Security Act

This Act made it an offence to allow airguns to be stored in such a way as to allow unauthorised access by people under 18.


2014 Authorised Police Practice - Guide to Firearms Licensing

This Guide issued by the College of Policing requires police to refuse or revoke firearms licences where the applicant or licence holder is on record for domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, or mental illness.


2015 Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act

The 2015 Act requires all airguns over one joule in power in Scotland to be licensed.


2016 British Medical Association guidance to GPs

This guidance requires GPs to record firearms licence applications on their patients’ notes and to inform police of any factors which might be of concern until they are notified that the person no longer holds weapons.


2016 Crimestoppers - Gun Safety Line

This phone line will enable anyone with concerns about the behaviour of a gun owner – whether legal or illegal - to register those concerns anonymously.