UK law - armed bodyguards

Just a quick question. Under UK law can a properly trained and licensed bodyguard be armed when protecting their client?

Does it make a difference if they are acting on private property, as opposed to in a public place?

No, not legally for private contractors.

There’s no legal distinction between the two. Having said that, I’d be very surprised if Antiputin Oligarchski, when staying at his 10,000 acre Highland estate, doesn’t have some tooled-up bodyguards around.

Northern Ireland may be different though.

Yes. A properly trained and licensed guard can, in fact, carry firearms. The Home Office has guidelines for it and licenses and regulations.

Such licenses are very rarely given. And not for guarding ordinary VIP (if there is a such a thing). Most private security firms don’t have such qualified personnel on staff, and the ones that do, tend to be government contractors or ships guards.

Note that Private Marine Security Companies aren’t permitted to train their guards in the use of live firearms in the UK, even for those who will be onboard UK-flagged ships. What government contractors are you thinking of (operating in the UK)?

Section 13.80 makes it quite clear that any application for authority to possess a firearm for protection of oneself or anyone else is to be rejected. So no, that would be illegal.

I assume OP means guns. If he means some other form of weapon, then any offensive weapon would be illegal, but you could carry something like knuckledusters if you’re on private property.

It seems churlish to say it, but that version of the guidance has been superseded with

  • Not that 13.80 seems to have been revised.

For handy reference:

*Firearms for personal protection

13.80 Applications for the grant of a firearm certificate for the applicant’s, or another’s, protection, or that of premises, should be refused on the grounds that firearms are not an acceptable means of protection in Great Britain. It has been the view of successive Governments for many years that the private possession and carriage of firearms for personal protection is likely to lead to an increase in levels of violence. This principle should be maintained in the case of applications from representatives of banks and firms protecting valuables or large quantities of money, or from private security guards and bodyguards. The exception to this would be armed guards on UK flagged ships, the justification being the unique threat posed by piracy to cargo and passenger ships in specific high risk geographical areas.*

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Gamekeepers. Tooled up gamekeepers

Da, PC MacBeth, some deer got into my vegetable garden”

With semi-automatic varmint weapons?

Nope. If they’re gamekeepers going for vermin, a shotgun. If they keep guns for organised game shoots, those have likewise to be appropriate for the quarry, as a condition of the licence. All guns have to be securely locked away when not in use for the licensed purpose.

If Mr Oligarchski’s gamekeeper ends up making a neat hole in anything other than the intended quarry, the legal consequences can be severe - up to and including murder charges, depending on how convincingly he can argue he was in fear for his life.

Sadly, ‘He was coming at me with a perfume bottle’ might just do it for Mr Oligarski’s game-keeper’s defence these days.

When a US President visits the UK, I believe there are negotiations over which of his Secret Service bodyguards can be armed, and whether those bodyguards will be prosecuted if they fire.

Okay, thanks for that info. Can they use clubs/batons? Tasers? Pepper spray?

How can they protect their client if attacked by an armed criminal?

“clubs/batons? Tasers? Pepper spray” are all weapons and prohibited. If they can’t get the relevant authority to be armed, they have to use strategies to protect their client that don’t involve weapons. Getting in the way, expertise in unarmed combat and reducing exposure to danger are some that come to my [untrained] mind.

The more instances we see of what happens in a country where a high proportion of the citizenry is armed, the less we want people carrying unauthorised weapons here.

Yes, I thought there was a general ban on private possession of handguns there. What’s the current UK law?

“OK, everyone grab their cricket bats and go out to practice on the lawns.”

There’s exemptions for old weapons, but in general handguns are banned. Veterinarians and others who work with large animals are the only group I can think of who can apply for a firearms licence that allows a handgun to be used.

I’m about the furthest thing you’ll find from a gun nut. Raised in Massachusetts, one of the Bluest of Blue states, I’ve never so much as touched a gun. My husband and father and brothers used guns – while they were in the Army. None of us have ever personally owned guns, gone hunting, anything like that.

But I still can see that people in certain areas/jobs legitimately need to have them. Farmers and ranchers most obviously. We have bears and wolves and coyotes and mountain lions running free in some regions. Not to mention the lesser predators and nuisance animals that would love to eat livestock and crops. Are people REALLY not supposed to be able to defend themselves and their property?

Perhaps England has been settled so long and so densely that you no longer have any dangerous animals?

That isn’t true over here. As I said above, I live in Massachusetts, one of the oldest and most densely settled American states. In a suburb just about twenty miles outside Boston. A black bear strolled through my next door neighbor’s yard last week, ripped down a couple birdfeeders and chowed down while the homeowner and her three young children watched.

I do believe we need stricter laws about what types of guns can be owned, and who should be disqualified from owning them, but I’ll never believe that stripping ALL weapons from EVERYBODY is a reasonable or desirable thing.

Well, we don’t have bears or tigers, that’s true. Those badgers can be nasty though, I tell you.

However, you’re confusing the notion of guns for self defence against another human with defence against animal attacks. Farmers, game keepers (or anyone else within reason) are perfectly entitled to buy a shotgun or rifle for the purpose of animal control. People still enjoy hunting. Domestic dogs let loose in a field of sheep can be legally shot on sight by farmers.

So it’s not that there aren’t ANY guns. It’s that

  1. There’s strict licensing around buying guns, and very strict laws around safely storing and handling those guns
  2. Guns are categorically NOT for self defence against humans. If your application for a gun licence cites that as a reason for buying a shot gun, you will be turned down (and for all I know may prompt a visit from the police, as you’ll sound like a nutjob).
  3. Handguns, except in exceptional circumstances already indicated (eg vets dealing with large animals), are banned, full stop.

We have guns (some of us anyway), but we just aren’t allowed to shoot people with them.

No-one is quite sure when native bears went extinct in the UK, save that it was a long time ago. The issue is confused somewhat by the Romans bringing bears over with them. The last wild wolf was killed in 1680. I’ll hazard a guess that the most dangerous remaining wild animal is deer - they account for a few deaths every year, mostly by colliding with cars.

Umm. Not to be argumentative, but aren’t shotguns and rifles, even if bought to shoot vermin, just as effective in shooting humans?

And, wouldn’t the owner of such a weapon instinctively use said weapon to defend himself/his family if confronted by an attacking human(s)? Regardless if the attackers are armed with illegal guns or (legal?) maces or swords or crossbows or bricks or cricket bats?

Personally, I would, in that situation, if I owned a gun which I don’t, and to hell with any rule that I’m only supposed to shoot weasels and not humans.

We have a saying that applies: Better to be tried by twelve than carried by six.