The gun laws in the UK are draconian to say the least.
Before the First World War you simply did not need or require a gun license, the semi and fully automatic rifles were in their infancy and technology governed their manufacture. When the fighting ceased many guns were brought home by the armed forces and put under beds.
The war and the flu epidemic made for political un-ease and a civil war in the UK was looking likely. To combat any armed rebellion, the police were tasked with removing all fully automatic weapons from the population, bolt action rifles and pistols were exempt as were semi auto weapons as they weren't found in any quantity.
A voluntary licensing scheme was set up and most firearms were recorded or handed in. Those that weren't didn’t pose a significant threat and were generally ignored. The firearms act was updated regularly but with no particular changes affecting ownership, but more to do with how licenses were granted and the need for storing firearms securely.
The Second World War came and went with amnesties in the following years to collect in unlicensed firearms, again with no affect on ownership.
It was in the sixties that firearm licensing started to go against the freedom of ownership; hindsight will show that we were in for a rough time at the hands of the do-gooders, now called the politically correct brigade. It has been since then that the government and police forces have bungled their way through progressive tightening of firearms laws that haunt us today.
This would be a good point in which to explain what types of licenses are most common today.
Section one: This covers all legally held firearms, no pistols only single shot rifles and shotguns with a mag capacity of more than three rounds and .22 caliber semi auto rifles.
Section two: Shotguns with up to three round capacity including pump and semi auto guns.
Section five: All semi and fully auto rifles and pistols, these are prohibited firearms. A section five holder is generally a hirer to film companies and re-enactments. Section five licenses are very rarely granted, they are almost impossible to obtain.
In 1987 a small sleepy town in Wiltshire, Hungerford, was terrorized by one man with three legally held weapons, an AK47, M1 carbine and a 9mm Beretta pistol. Michael Ryan proceeded to kill sixteen and injure fifteen people in the town, Google “Hungerford massacre” for details, armed police responded slowly. Ryan was then holed up in a local college where he allegedly committed suicide. Even though the police new that Ryan was unstable they still granted him a firearms license, make your own mind up there.
The backlash was unfair, ill thought out and damning. All semi auto rifles were banned overnight apart from .22 caliber rifles. Shooters rights are now fair game to vote hunting incompetent politicians.
Nine years later after shooters had lobbied parliament for their semi autos back another tragedy struck. Thomas Hamilton killed seventeen school children and a teacher in a school in Scotland, he injured fifteen others. He entered the primary school with two Browning high powers and a .357 magnum revolver, all legally held. He fired a total of one hundred and nine shots before taking his own life. The police were aware of Hamilton’s state of mind but still granted him a license.
Instantly all handguns were banned. At the time a general election was taking place and the Labour government, lead by Tony Blair, used the deaths of those innocent children for votes, something I will never forgive him for. So now all we are allowed to own are scratch built single shot rifles, .22 caliber semi autos, muzzle loading pistols and shotguns.
I have in my collection UK legal M1 carbine, AR15 and AK47, WWI bolt action rifles a .22 semi auto rifle and a shotgun.
Last year Raoul Moat and Derek Bird randomly killed a number of innocent people in their home towns, again the police had granted licenses to people of dubious character. This time the government is taking its time to consider what "reviews" they deem necessary to our gun laws.
So with gun legislation tightening up gun crime has gone up too, in fact ten-fold since the handgun ban, illegal pistols are rife in our towns and cities, I cannot help think that those children died in vain.
In the UK it is a right to own a shotgun, a privilege to own a firearm and damn right illegal to own a pistol, you in the States have the right to bear arms, fight tooth and nail to retain that right, Obama is looking at our unjust and antiquated legislation as a model for his own.
Good shooting and guard your rights before you lose them America.