By: Sam Baker
You have most likely heard the saying, “An Englishman’s home is his castle.” Perhaps this was once the case, but as with many fortresses once thought impenetrable, when they were besieged, the mortar cracked, the ramparts crumbled, and the defenders were too few.
Such is the sad state of affairs in the United Kingdom, my home country, where eighty years of gradual concessions have made it so a man has virtually no right to defend his home and castle.
Let my homeland’s fate serve as a warning. The United States will be made weak in the same way if it bows to the will of the gun control crowd.
Where We Stand Today
The U.K. has some of the most severe laws and restrictions of firearms in Europe, which makes it a strong contender for being the most prohibitive nation worldwide. A prospective firearm owner must go through an arduous series of checks to enable him or her to own and store a firearm.
First, a rigorous background check is conducted, followed by a face-to-face interview with a firearms enquiry officer to discuss the reasons for firearm ownership. “Self-defense” is not an acceptable reason to seek firearms ownership in the U.K.
The police will then contact your chosen character references to ensure you are of “good character.” They will then contact your doctor to discuss your mental health. After all this, if the police decide you pose no threat to the public and to peace, you will possibly be issued your firearms license.
You would think that having passed this rigorous test to prove yourself as a sane and upstanding citizen, known to the state as a firearms holder, you could pretty much own whatever type of firearm you like (barring machine guns). You would be mistaken. Any center-fire pump-action or semi-automatic rifle is completely prohibited, along with cartridge handguns, regardless of caliber. We are not even left with non-lethal self-defense alternatives; mace and tasers are also completely illegal and are regarded as offensive weapons.
How It Happened
Fear drove the creation of these laws. As with all restrictions of this nature, it all began with the state fearing an agitated, abused, and discontented public.
The first real restriction of firearms in the U.K. began in 1920. The “war to end all wars” had ended in 1918 with a costly victory for the allies. Some 700,000 British soldiers (approximately 2 percent of the population) died in the trenches. Many of those who returned did so deeply shaken in their faith in King and Country. The second Bolshevik-Revolution had successfully and violently installed itself to governance in Russia. Amid this backdrop of a disenchanted, working-class, veteran population and the accompanying threat of communist insurgency, the 1920 Firearms Act was introduced.
This policy was the origin of the onerous licensing procedures we have today. In 1937, the Firearms Act was expanded upon with the intention of prohibiting the issuing of licenses for self-defense. The home secretary decreed, “Firearms cannot be regarded as a suitable means of protection and may be a source of danger.” This proclamation was made law with the Firearms Act of 1968, which essentially pulled together all existing legislation into a single act, codifying the severe restrictions on the types of firearms that could be legally owned and the reasons for ownership. And after the 1996 Dunblane Massacre, pistols were effectively made completely illegal.
Violent Crime Rates on the Rise
Violent crime rates are rising in the U.K., including firearms offences. Despite firearms being very difficult to acquire in the U.K, criminals can and do obtain them. Gun-crime saw a twenty percent increase in 2017.
Where firearms are completely unattainable, criminals will, of course, seek a substitute method of achieving their violent aims, knives being the most common weapon alternative to firearms. Perhaps more horrific than gun or knife violence is the rising use of acid in attacks. It is becoming increasingly common for corrosive liquid to be thrown at the victim’s face with horrific and life-changing consequences, including permanent blindness and disfigurement. The Home Office is, of course, responding to this trend by doing what British politicians do best: legislating against carrying corrosive substances in public without good reason. On the very shaky assumption that this has any practical effect on the rates of these attacks, criminals, as always, will find an alternative.
The Sad Conclusion
I feel great pity and sadness for my former country. The fear we have had instilled in us has overtaken our rationality. The once-great British Empire has fostered a child-like dependency for safety in its subjects. We have been mollified to the point that we are apathetic to the natural and absolute right to defend ourselves. We have come to expect protection. We should worry, though, for this protection is dwindling.
Drastic cuts to defense and policing have been accompanied by a rise in violent crime. The constant threat of terrorism, domestic and foreign, is testing the limits of the State’s ability to guard us. I sincerely hope our attitude regarding firearms, and, more broadly, our right to self-defense, will change. Alas, my hopes do not match my expectations.
I hope, at least, the U.K.’s situation stands as a warning to my American readers. Beware concession. Beware offers of protection. Beware any challenge to your rights. Like the Englishman’s castle, once your rights are taken, they will not be given back. I remain ever thankful that, as a legal permanent resident of the United States, I get to share in your right to free speech, your right to bear arms, and most crucially of all, your right to protect yourself.
Sam Baker is an historian and firearms enthusiast writing from Pennsylvania. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.