Gun Laws & Legislation

How To Disarm Your Citizens: A Brief History Of Gun Control In England

Susan Smith Columnist
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One cannot help but experience a bit of schadenfreude what with major parts of England being destroyed all around the country, over and over again.  One thinks automatically, that every time it happens there, it doesn’t happen here.

I wonder, though, if there is a reason why it keeps happening over there, and not here with quite so much frequency.  What if one of the tourists walking along the Westminster Bridge, just one person, had a gun, or on the London Bridge, or at the concern in Manchester, (just to name a very few recent terrorist attacks), what a difference it would have made.

Could it be that the Islamic terrorists refrain from trying to blow us up on a weekly basis over here do so because we can arm ourselves?  Because we can fight back?  And the Englishman cannot?

Ya think?!?!

Englishmen have a proud centuries old history of not only having the ability, but the wherewithal, of defending themselves.  It was considered normal and natural for each individual Englishman to be able to protect himself, his family and his property; in short, “the British government trusted the people with firearms and to be their own guardians.”  In 1900, the Prime Minister at the time, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, the Marquess of Salisbury, said he would “laud the day when there was a rifle in every cottage in England.”

Then in 1903, the British government took its first step in the opposite direction – in the direction of disarming its citizens.  It was a small step, requiring the British public to acquire “a permit to carry a handgun and restricting the age of purchasers.”  It was just the beginning of the slippery slope to “complete firearms prohibition.”

Then, in 1919, the British government, beginning to “live in fear of communist insurgents and domestic and foreign anarchists,” passed its first “sweeping anti-gun laws under the smokescreen of crime control,” notwithstanding the fact that gun related criminal activity was almost nonexistent in Britain at the time.   Starting in 1920, the year these laws went into effect, a British subject could “only buy a firearm if they could show a ‘good reason’ for having one,” and he or she also became subject to the “firearm certification system” that exists to this day.

In 1936, “short barreled shotguns and fully automatic firearms” were outlawed, the ostensible reason being that the government determined that civilians “had no legitimate reason” for owning them.   A part of these laws was a “safe storage” requirement for those who were still allowed to have a handgun or a rifle, “to prevent the guns falling into the wrong hands,” a stipulation that has been misused since its passage.

Think of that date.  The Nazis were growing in power across the English Channel, constantly threatening an invasion of England, while the English government was working feverishly to disarm its own people.  The British government didn’t relent even after war started, and as a result the English people had to resort to pleading with Americans to send them whatever kind of firearm they could so that they could have some means of defense should the Nazis invade.  Americans “responded by sending every type of firearm to the unarmed and helpless people of Britain.”

While the government was preoccupied with assisting in British attempts to defeat the Nazis, this extraordinary effort on the part of the Americans to come to the aid of their British cousins was somewhat overlooked.  But what did it do when the war ended?  The British government proceeded to “seize many of the (weapons) back and dumped them in the sea.”

Then it resumed its efforts to disarm the British people, and went full tilt in doing so.

In 1946, and then again in 1953, the government passed laws declaring that “self defense” was no longer an acceptable reason for “requiring a police issued firearms certificate,” and “carrying any type of weapon for self defense” was made illegal.   Successive such laws were passed in successive years, taking away from every Briton the right to defend him or her self.  Little by little, every form of firearm was outlawed, until it reached the absurd point, in 2006, of restricting “all realistic toy/replica guns.”  Basically, according to one knowledgeable citizen of the United Kingdom:

“In England today you cannot carry any type of weapon for self defense and you cannot use a firearm to defend your home, family or property.   The gun and weapon laws have made crime safe for criminals and the other violent thugs and miscreants who infest our country today.”

In an interesting side note, an Englishman by the name of Luty, knowledgeable in the world of firearms, decided to help his countrymen by writing and publishing a book on constructing your own gun, entitled “Expedient Homemade Firearms: The 9mm Submachine Gun.”  As a result of this authorship, Mr. Luty was sentenced to four years imprisonment, plus one extra year for possession of six cartridges.  This was done despite the admission of the judge that “he accepted that there was no criminal intent in constructing the weapon, he would make an example of Mr. Luty as a warning to others.”

What happened in London and Manchester in the last few weeks, with a persistent and indeed relentless international enemy determined to destroy Englishmen and women just for being who they are, makes it abundantly clear that one needs to able to protect oneself, and that just yet again clearing away the rubble and lighting a few candles is not an effective way to end this slaughter of innocents.

Maybe it’s time that Americans initiate another across-the-sea effort, as it did just before World War II, to enable our English brethren to protect themselves and their families.  With half the British police force as unarmed and helpless as the average Englishman, it seems to be every man for himself over there.  So while the Islamic terrorists use any means available to them to kill Westerners, perhaps while Americans still have the right to defend ourselves, we can help our English cousins.

Susan Smith brings an international perspective to her writing by having lived primarily in western Europe, mainly in Paris, France, and the U.S., primarily in Washington, D.C. She authored a weekly column for Human Events on politics with historical aspects. She also served as the Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Children, Family, Drugs and Alcoholism, and Special Assistant to the first Ambassador of Afghanistan following the initial fall of the Taliban. Ms. Smith is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University and Georgetown University, as well as the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris, France, where she obtained her French language certification. Ms. Smith now makes her home in McLean, Va.