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My Guns in UK - Potted History

I was once asked to outline aspects of gun ownership (and loss) back in the the UK. This is my answer, covering the main details so as to give an overall, if simplified picture for those who may have wondered.

First off let me outline how we got our guns. I had to apply for and be sanctioned for a Firearms Certificate from the regional Police HQ firearms department. I had to give ''good reason'' for my request (which basically meant being an approved range/club member) and also had to have listed any guns (types thereof) I was planning on buying in the future - if you like they were ''pre approved''. This meant usually putting down anything that was anticipated (and if anything was forgotten then a ''variation'' had to be implemented - more cost!). In earlier days there was also a shotgun certificate separate from the rest - ultimately the two were incorporated. Incidentally, each gun type had to officially be eligible for some class of acknowledged (on the books) competition regime.

What then? - go buy one of the guns that was listed by category - all details then recorded on the certificate, logged at dealers and eventually those details logged at Police HQ - yes, registration par excellence! Then, ready for this? - buying ammo. All calibers had an ammo max and purchase figure - the max was the total amount legal to hold and the purchase figure the limit on one aquisition. Wonder why I reloaded ??

I was obliged to show local cops that I had a means of secure storage - and to that end I built a gun safe into a thick wall - concrete lined, steel frame and 1/4" steel doors with secure hinges, alarmed etc. I have old pics, somewhere of that - lot of welding. Three five lever locks on it.

I got into shooting more seriously around 1978, having only done some shot-gunning and much pellet rifle shooting in earlier years. I joined a local small bore club and did more competition shooting, pistol and rifle, and soon had my own guns for that (Ruger MkII and BSA MkII Martini target rifle). Not long after being involved in that club, a guest shooter at one of the open matches was talking about his shooting at an outdoor range where most was centerfire handgun. That piqued my interest and so started the main impetus to my shooting.

I bought my first wheelgun, a M27 Smith and that was enough to get me started in regular competitions there - after which the aquisition process over the following years really took off! I finished up with about 24 handguns (list to follow) and quite a few longarms too. Some years I would go to the annual pistol meet at Bisley during the 80's.

M27, M686, Trooper MkIII, Repro .45LC, Webley MkVI, Webley MkIV, Enfield break top .38's (2), Walther GSP in .22, Walther GSP in .32, Ruger Redhawk, Ruger MkII, Cap&Ball .44, Charter Pathfinder, BHP, Baby Browning, Ivor Johnson .32, Smith M1917 in .455 - I forget the others right now, there were more!!

Long arms - Enfield MkV Jungle, K38 Mauser in .308, Mauser Obendorfe .22, Mini-14, Stirling carbine, .577 Musketoon, Rem semi .22 (suppressed), SMLE.

Troubles began as far back as 1987 - ''Michael Ryan, Hungerford, Berkshire County, UK, Wednesday 19 August 1987 (sixteen people shot to death and another fourteen injured, eight of them seriously. The butchery ended only when the gunman, twenty-seven-year-old Michael Ryan, was cornered in a school and turned the gun on himself.''. He had gone around with his AK clone spraying about anything that moved. I had it on quite good authority he did not shoot himself!!!

That provoked a predictable backlash and gave the Gov' the excuse to ban semi rifles - forget exactly when, probably coupla years later - and so my Mini and Stirling had to be relinquished. I got compensation for them but also got them back finally, as wall hangers. Sad.

Things went on pretty much OK then until - ''March 13 1996, Thomas Hamilton, 43, left his home at 7 Kent Road in Dunblane, Scotland, with only one thing in mind -- murder. At about 9:30 a.m., he drove to the Dunblane Primary School with a pair of pliers, four handguns and more than 700 rounds of ammunition. Once there, he cut the telephone wires on a nearby pole and then proceeded with weapons in hand to a side entrance of the school.''

This debacle could have been prevented in fact had the chief of police in his region disallowed his certificate renewal as he was known to be unstable, and somewhat keen on small kids etc. However, it happened and of course the uproar thru the sheep community was vociferous - ''What - people are allowed to own guns - and <gasp> keep them at home''!!!!!!

This was the absolute gift on a plate to the UK Gov' - the chance they wanted to ban handguns altogether (just think of all the extra votes they could get!). The privilege could be revoked - it was. Around September 1997 I had to relinquish my collection. Many have said it was a whimpy thing to do - well my answer to that was, when guns are registered and ''they'' know exactly what you have - and - you have responsibilities to a family etc - where is the percentage in going out in a bloodbath. Only to probably be labelled - ''Good - there goes another gun nut"! I chose to stay alive.

I was over time gradually in receipt of compensation money - which hardly assuaged my sense of loss and anger. The only remaining options at my old centerfire club were shooting .22 rifles and pistol cal carbines. or, rifle shooting at another club with a suitable range. Sadly the NRA in UK was way too small to have ever had any significant voice or teeth. I all but ceased much active shooting.

Fortunately I kept the bulk of my reloading gear - and am now pleased I did. Having crossed over to marry my lady wife here in 2000 I was eventually once more able to get back into shooting properly, and actually sank quite a chunk of the proceeds of selling up into that. Once I was legally able to do so, I resumed my handgun passion and got my CCW organized and the rest is pretty much history.

After what I had to endure in UK I am as strong a protector of our 2A as anyone - maybe more so. I watched the erosion of a mere privelage and the extremes of anti gun paranoia - and know just how easily the ''chip-chip-chip'' of incremental legislation can damage things, even what we here regard as a right.