Was there strong opposition to the UK gun bans? Could the same happen in the US?

I was originally going to make this a GQ but I think the potential for debate makes it more suited to be here. It’s my understanding that after two very brutal gun massacres in the United Kingdom, they basically banned all handguns and semi-automatic rifles outright. Even the police don’t carry guns there, or so I have heard.

I’m assuming that there was no equivalent to the Second Amendment in British law - there’s no right to bear arms in their constitution. Right? So I can kind of see why it was so easy for these blanket gun bans to be issued. But was there any kind of opposition to it? Were there pro-gun groups lobbying against the government after the guns were banned? Were there any organizations protesting it? Or did people just give in without any kind of fight at all?

Was there any kind of “gun culture” in the U.K.? How easy was it for the average person to get a gun before these gun bans, if he wanted to? Could you just go to a gun shop in a city and get a pistol or rifle?

People often say - with regards to the banning of guns - that it “could never happen here,” here meaning the United States. To which I’d say - first of all, it already happened here - Washington DC, New York and California, for instance. And second of all, I’m sure that the gun owners of Britain, or Australia, thought the very same thing about their country (did they?)

Do you think that the Second Amendment (and now, the Heller decision) is a strong enough precedent that America faces no risk of having UK-style gun bans? Is America’s “gun culture” so deeply-entrenched that the anti-gun movement can never achieve their goal? Or do you think that the same thing that happened to the British could happen here?

Doubtful that it would happen here. British, Australian and New Zealand law already had strong restrictions against the ownership of handguns. The U.S demonstrably does not. That in itself would be a major stumbling block here as opposed to there.

Furthermore there is very little in the way of ‘gun culture’ in those nations. Farmers tend to own a rifle and a shotgun (rabbits in Aust and NZ are a major environmental problem). Most other people don’t.

I got a firearms license in NZ. It wasn’t tough. You had to complete a course run the the Police and show proper storage in a gun cabinet. That was pretty much the end of it. People with convictions for violence need not apply. You need the license to buy a firearm or ammunition. For private sales it is up to the seller top determine this.

Total impact on society? Pretty much nil. Using a firearm against a person, unless there is a serious threat to human life by that person, is going to get you locked up on murder charges anyway.

From memory, to own a handgun you must be a member of a registered club and the storage restrictions are much stronger. The premise is this: Handguns primarily exist to kill human beings. We don’t like that. Target shooters in clubs are safe enough with minimal hassle for licensing.

I know this wasn’t exactly what you were looking for so let me finish with this. America loves guns. The Brit nations not so much. We don’t want them for self defense as we tend to consider it overkill. If you hunt or shoot targets getting a license is not hard to do. Less hassle than a driving license anyway.

I’ll just point out that there is no such thing as a British Constitution. The House of Commons can pass any law it wants without going through any sort of process to amend the constitution. The only obstacles, as far as I understand it, are the possibility of the House of Lords delaying it or the monarch not giving his or her assent. The former allows only a one year delay at most, and the latter hasn’t actually happened since Queen Anne in 1708.

So, yeah, there’s no right to bear arms in their constitution. There’s no right to free speech, or anything else either. Simply because there is no constitution. As an American, it seems kind of crazy to me, but it seems to work for them.

So, when the blue-helmeted UN troops round up your daughters to slake their crude Slavic lusts, you just hand them over? Dude.

They have no Constitution, but they do have a Bill of Rights, which says somewhere:
“That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence
suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law.”*

But since this was enacted by Parliament, it can be and was overruled by Parliament.

There is no single document by that name but there is certainly a Constitution:

which goes back to 927 AD.

To the OP: the conservative Australian Government under PM John Howard enacted a ban on assault guns in, IIRC, 1996, after the Port Arthur massacre (36 dead). It did engender some protests, mostly from farmers, but they shot themselves in the foot (ow!) by overstating the scope of the bans; the head of the Farmer’s Federation used to strut around in a Hitler costume calling himself Jackboot Johnnie. Australians have little taste for that sort of showboating and he sank without a trace. Any remaining wind has leaked out of the protesters’ sails in the 12 years since as the ban was unequivocally successful: we’d had more than 1 gun massacre a year for the decade before 1996, and exactly zero in the whole 12 years since.

It’s worth noting that both massacres were perpetrated by licensed gun owners, using licensed gun club weapons.

Semiautomatic ban (post-Hungerford): not a dickybird, IIRC. See Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988.

Handgun ban (post-Dunblane): there was a small but vocal minority of sportspeople who objected. See Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1997.

The really significant difference is that guns never really have been available for personal defence here - at least not in recent times - so handgun bans have never really been about taking arms away from the general populace.

It’s still possible to buy guns here, subject to proper licensing - and gun shops do exist (there’s one in the village square where I live, as it happens).

There’s also a right to free speech, too.

No. There’s a massive gaping chasm between this aspect of the two cultures. Remember, this is a country where even the police aren’t routinely armed, and don’t want to be. The question of ‘could it happen in the US’ is asking whether there could be such a huge change in popular opinion and expectation, so that it reached the point where a ban on handguns would hardly affected anybody anyway. Chance of that happening? I see it as near zero.

The Dunblane and Hungerford shootings were massive news here and i dont remember there being too much opposition to banning handguns. As mentioned above, the UK doesnt - and never did, have a big gun culture.

Most guns i have seen and used were on farms and were shotguns. I have never seen or held a pistol / handgun.

Air rifles and pistols seem to be pretty common though - a toddler was killed just recently by one falling into the hands of a young sibling. I suspect tighter laws will be coming soon as the law doesnt seem able to punish people who leave them lying around.

Most Police on the beat dont carry guns, just nightstick, cuffs and mace i think. However, there is a pretty big pool of officers who can carry and they are becoming a lot more common. In a hostage or sim situation, specialist gun toting officers will be used.

So in answer to the op final q: nothing ‘happened’ to the British. As far as i know, its always been like that.

So there was never any significant group of people who served in the military and then came home retaining an interest in shooting? Military veterans make up such a huge portion of the “gun culture” in America and I would assume that there would be lots of British soldiers who wanted to continue shooting after their training or service in the military.

How exactly is the law defined? Is it a British rather than UK affair? I’ve heard rumours that when UK athletes need to train with guns for the Olympics, they head for NI or the Isle of Man.

It appears not, war being a bloody awful affair people want to forget about normally. You have to remember we’re a tiny, urban nation. There really is no place to go shoot that’s not owned by someone who goes to lengths to keep people off their land.

It’s why we have no hunting tradition. Guns simply aren’t an issue. Guns don’t have that fetishistic charge they seem to have in the US.

They don’t have any symbolic or cultural weight and no one had any good reason to own one outside of rural job use so compared to the lives lost in the two massacres the bans simply were not a big deal.

In the UK people who are obsessed with guns are considered to have something not right in their head. Or are criminals.

From my own experience - no more than they maintain an interest in crew-cuts, waking up at 4:30 or taking 20-mile forced marches. To most military types, shooting is more a chore than a pleasure. I suspect that the high correlation between ex-military and gun enthusiasts in the States works in the opposite direction than you suggest - people who enjoy firearms are more likely enlist than those who don’t.

First of all, war may be a bloody awful affair but that doesn’t change the fact that thousands of men come home from the military into American civilian life retaining a love of shooting. Hell, I’d say at least 70% of the people who are actively involved in shooting are probably vets, if I had to make a guess. So while people may want to forget the war, a man in combat develops a bond with his rifle. I find it hard to believe that no Englishmen had this.

Secondly, I have a hard time accepting that the British could develop a rifle so effective that it was retained decades after all the other first-world nations had switched to semi-automatics (the Enfield) without having some sort of interest in firearms.

More accurately, most of the guys who join the military (specifically the Army and Marines) grow up with hunting as a part of their life. (I think I read that something like 70 percent of all the elite marksmen in the U.S. Marines came from the Appalachian region, or some such thing, though it might be completely apocryphal.) But after these guys are done with their service they often seem to have an interest in military rifles, not just hunting. I’d say it’s not so much that they join the military because they like shooting, as it is that the specific demographics of people who join are people who grew up in a hunting culture.

British does generally mean ‘of the United Kingdom’, which includes Northern Ireland. However, I don’t know the specifics of gun laws there. The Isle of Man is free to do pretty much whatever it wants in all walks of life, as it’s not a part of the UK, nor (for what it’s worth here) the EU.

For the 2012 Olympics, shooting events are being held at the Royal Artillery Barracks, and for the 2002 Commonwealth Games the National Shooting Centre was used.

No, this doesn’t seem to be the case. There certainly are careers for ex-servicemen who want to make use of their abilities, such as in specialist police units. However the more typical attitude is that they fit back into regular life as much as possible - and there’s a circuituous influence, that regular life has nothing to do with guns, so they leave all that behind them, and so on.

There were surprisingly few handguns issued to soldiers in the UK during WWII; they were hard to get and tended to be for officers, tank crews, pilots/aircrews, and so on.

Most rifle shooting was done with Lee-Enfield rifles before and after the war, and the unfortunate fact is that most of the blokes who were in WWII/Korea/Malaya/Kenya are in their 70s or older now and don’t do a lot of shooting; younger people either aren’t interested (too much hassle to get a licence) or are interested for the wrong reasons (OMG gunz!11!1!!!)

There’s also not a lot of places to actually fire a gun in the UK; it’s surprisingly built up.

The other thing to bear in mind is that Military style firearms (ie Semi-Autos) are basically illegal in the UK (and Australia); so an ex-serviceman isn’t going to be able to continue shooting with them.

Australia has a bigger farming/hunting culture, but guns are viewed here as being either a tool (if you’re a farmer) or a piece of sporting equipment/collectible item that costs a lot of money and involves getting permission from the police to own, and you have to keep it locked up. There’s also a strong anti-gun streak amongst certain groups here- as Australia urbanises, the country’s collective hoplophobia increases. I’m a firearms historian, but I tell acquaintances that I’m a military historian as it’s close enough to my hobby to explain why I know a lot about guns, but doesn’t scare people or make them think I’m some kind of redneck.

You lot in the US have a lot to answer for in regards to anti-gun sentiment elsewhere, I’m afraid.

I’m sorry that people there are so prejudiced that you have to make excuses for the things you enjoy.

No-one’s saying none, but it’s quite possible we’re coming from different perspectives on this one. With guns, we’re pretty much two nations at opposite ends of the spectrum; they just aren’t a part of our cultures as much as they are there. We have entirely different national views on the subject.

Well, here’s a thing; developing new guns doesn’t actually depend on the overall psyche of a nation. It depends on the people who make the guns, who, I would suspect, have more of an interest than the layperson. Besides, we did fight two World Wars with them. That kind of thing tends to increase interest in a good working gun.