History of Gun Control –USA and UK
Gun Control is one of the most controversial subjects in modern history. In ancient times, as depicted in novels, movies and theatre, everyone was entitled to carry their own weapon (i.e. firearm). This was the only way to protect yourself against hostility of other human beings (i.e. tribes) and the danger of predators around you.
Today we live in a civilized world with laws to protect us and police force to carry out those laws. There is law and order in our society today which leaves us with the question;
Do we need to carry guns around as our ancestors did?
There has been a debate over this matter for decades and in this series we will be looking at both sides; proponents and opponents of gun control, trying to figure out their reasons behind their positions. We will also be using statistics to clear some of the myths we have about gun control.
In the next section we will be looking at the history of gun control in four countries (America, Australia, Switzerland and the UK). We will dedicate this article to two countries (America and the UK). The history of gun control in the other two countries (Switzerland and Australia) will be dealt with in a subsequent article. It is highly recommended that you read the whole series in the order presented so that the later comparisons and statistics become meaningful to you.
Gun Control: Definition and History
It is the laws and policies governments impose in order to regulate the manufacture, sale, transfer, possession, modification, or use of firearms by civilians.
History of Gun Control: United States
- 1920: The history of gun control in the United States returns back to the 1920’s when a few laws were enforced in some states with only one aim; keeping weapons out of the hands of African-Americans in southern states. The “black codes” which was set in 1865 is an example.
- 1972: The first federal gun restriction ever was in 1972 when the Congress reacted to the mob violence of Prohibition.
- 1934: The second act of gun control was in 1934 which taxed firearms under 18 inches in length and required registration of them.
- 1968: The Supreme Court declared the restriction “unconstitutional” and the registration requirement was removed from later versions of the law.
- 1968: The Congress passed the Gun Control Act of 1968 after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy which was prompted by Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Act restricted the sale of firearms to; (Convicted criminals, anyone ever committed to a mental institution and anyone ever convicted of domestic violence)
- 1979: The NRA, National Rifle Association, drafted legislation to loosen the 1968 law. It banned any federal agency from keeping a registry of guns and their owners.
- 1993: James Brady successfully created a national background check system when the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was made law. The new law prevented convicted felons and other potentially violent individuals from buying handguns.
- 2013: A new gun control proposal was presented to President Barack Obama after the Newtown, Conn. shooting but no action has been taken yet.
History of Gun Control: United Kingdom
Similar to the United States, the UK made a noticeable progress on the regulation of the civilian ownership of firearms through the enactment of the 1920.
Considering the fact that the first parliament of the United Kingdom was held in 1801; tighter regulations of the firearms were not introduced until the 20th century.
- 1819: Unlawful Drilling Act, 1819 which was an Act to prevent the training of Persons to the Use of Arms, and to the Practice of Military Evolutions and Exercise.
- 1903: Pistols Act 1903 which was the first to place restrictions on the sale of firearms.
- 1920: Firearms Act 1920 which was An Act to amend the Law relating to Firearms and other Weapons and Ammunition, and to amend the Unlawful Drilling Act, 1819. Therefore, fulfilling the government’s commitment to the 1919 Paris Arms Convention. One of the reasons behind the Act was the fear of the large number of firearms that were available after the end of World War I. A firearm certificate was introduced to allow people to purchase and carry a firearm.
- 1937: 1937 Firearms Act raised the minimum age for buying a firearm from 14 to 17. Restriction on purchase, possession, and use of firearms by persons under 14 was introduced in Firearms Act 1920.
- 1968: 1968 Firearms Act formed the legal basis for British firearms control policy. For the first time, it introduced controls for long-barreled shotguns, in the form of Shotgun Certificates.
- 1988: The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 was passed by the Parliament aftermath of the Hungerford massacre.
- 1997: 1997 Firearms (Amendment) Acts were also passed after a massacre, the Dunblane massacre, banning private possession of handguns with a fewer exceptions.
- 2006: The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 consists of 4 parts that deal with alcohol-related violence and disorder, football disorder, sexual offences, anti-social behavior, parenting orders … etc. Part number 2 deals with weapons which is the part that interests us in the article.
- 2012: In the 2012 Olympics, foreign participants were allowed to train in the UK for shooting events but restricted native pistol shooters from training in England, Scotland or Wales.
As you can see, the current laws and policies of gun control have been developed over years and years of legislation and debates. Most of the time these laws were driven by horrible massacres where these massacres are the corner stone in the proponents’ argument.
Australia and Switzerland is our next destination in the history of gun control. Stay tuned.
Your feedback and participation is highly appreciated.
Essential reading in the Gun Control debate: