The difference between the US and UK regarding firearms.

In the US, the reaction to mass shootings where an insane person legally buys a firearm is that gun control doesn’t work and we need to make it easier for the insane, criminals, and terrorists to buy firearms.

Bill Mann at DC Weasels properly points out that:

“Any country with as many mentally ill people as the U.S. that allows virtually unlimited access to handguns is on a suicide mission.”

On the other hand, the reaction to Derrick Bird’s Cumbrian shooting spree in the UK is surprising. The reaction is surprising by US standards considering the fact that the UK’s gun laws are amongst the strictest in the world, and described by Sir Ian Blair as “draconian”.

Of course, the US there would be a clamour to make sure that the insane could have easier access to firearms.

What is the UK reaction?

David Cameron, the Conservative Prime Minister is quoted as saying:

“We need to be clear first about the full facts of the case. We also need, I think, to determine the type and the scope of reviews that will take place after this tragedy…
Of course the Home Office will look again at the gun laws in the light of that.”
Cameron said people needed to steer away from “leaping to conclusions” but appropriate action was needed.
“We do have some of the tightest gun laws in this country, but of course we should look again…
In the end what we must do is make sure we do the right thing by the people of west Cumbria and make sure that they are properly served in the things that we decide as a government.
If we’re looking for what the problem is, the problem is clearly we have a huge number of guns in our society we need to get rid of, and clearly there was an appalling problem in this case, whereas I’ve said a switch flicked in someone’s head.
You cannot legislate against that, but yes, let’s look at every aspect and make sure we have the robust laws that we need.”

This is a sane response, which takes Cameron out of the US definition of “Conservative” which means to be a complete moron.

There are issues surrounding Bird’s firearms licenses. In particular, Bird obtained his shotgun licence in 1995: five years after serving a 12-month prison sentence for theft from ­Sellafield nuclear power station. Bird may also have come to police ­attention for another minor offence during the mid-1990s. Anyone who has been jailed for three years is ineligible but having a less serious conviction, as Bird had, is not a bar.

A candidate for a UK gun licence must be a “fit and proper person” and be able to prove they do not suffer from mental instability. They must also demonstrate a “good reason” to have firearms licence. Bird listed “killing vermin” as his for having a .22 rifle. Many people in rural areas own shotguns for dealing with rats and other pests and it is usually accepted as a valid reason.

Self-defence is not considered a valid reason for a UK firearms certificate and has not been since 1946. Firearms certificates are usually given to sportsmen and farmers who can prove they have good reason. Sportsmen usually need to belong to two gun clubs (A national gun club such as NRA or BASC and usually a local gun club). Question 19 on the UK Firearms certificate application requires the applicant to “give details of each firearm, reason for requiring it (specifically “shooting disciplines”), and location where you intend on using the firearm.

Copies of the UK firearms certificate applications may be found here.

Candidates for firearms licences must prove they are not a threat to public safety and provide two referees. Bird didn’t give the police any reason beyond his prior arrests to consider him a threat to public safety. Although, the police inquiry will look into his conduct prior to the shootings to see if there were any warning signs.

Of course, we hear a lot about “gun rights” from the US, but I have to point out that DC v. Heller (pp 54-55) allows for gun regulations:

Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

The court notes that “We identify these presumptively lawful regulatory measures only as examples; our list does not purport to be exhaustive.”

The problem with DC v. Heller is that it doesn’t say what regulatory measures are “lawful” or how to tell if they are “lawful”. This means that the “gun rights” which were created by DC v. Heller are weak. I am sure that whatever the outcome of McDonald v. Chicago, it will further making a hash of the Second Amendment that was begun with Heller, but that is another point.

The point is that US gun rights do not extend to “felons and the mentally ill” and there is no reason for there to be weak laws which allow for these people to have access to firearms.

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