Here in Czech Republic any citizen can pass a relatively simple test and receive a license to carry a handgun in public in a concealed manner. On the other hand another member of the EU - the UK is strongly opposed to personal ownership of guns to the point where even the police doesn't carry one on routine patrols.

What's the reasoning behind this? Is it all because of the single school shooting in 1996? Or perhaps the British public was always against guns for some reason and the Dunblane massacre simply nailed the last nail in the coffin of personal defense options?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Sam I am says Reinstate Monica Dec 22 '17 at 16:06
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    Note that the police is very seldom forced to use their guns. In Germany, a land with comparable gun control to the UK, the whole police typically fires 40-50 shots per year. All of them together. Armed police is less necessary as one might think if there is a general strict gun control. – Thern Mar 14 '18 at 7:28

The decision not to arm police is an ethical and philosophical stance, dating back to the beginning of professional policing in the UK.

UK police place a very strong value on policing by consent. From Wikipedia:

In this model of policing, police officers are regarded as citizens in uniform. They exercise their powers to police their fellow citizens with the implicit consent of those fellow citizens.

The London Metropolitan Police force was established in 1829. It was based on nine Principles of Policing, which included:

  1. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

[emphasis added]

If officers are armed with guns as a matter of routine, they will be tempted to use their guns. Instead, the idea is for officers to resolve situations using dialogue or non-lethal force, calling in specialist firearms units only as a last resort.

The history of regulating private ownership of guns is somewhat different. Restrictions were almost nonexistent until the beginning of the 20th century, and comparatively light until the 1980s. Gun policy was drastically tightened in response to two mass shootings, at Hungerford in 1987 and Dunblane in 1996.

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    You should also add an explanation for why citizens are not allowed the freedom of having a gun. – JonathanReez Dec 20 '17 at 12:37
  • @JonathanReez: OK, edited. – Royal Canadian Bandit Dec 20 '17 at 12:43
  • "the minimum degree of physical force": it is also true in other countries, isn't it? At least in EU... I suspect Czech police won't kill someone if they can avoid to do so. – Distic Dec 20 '17 at 12:54
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    @JonathanReez - Because we're allowed the freedom of our neighbours not having a gun. – Valorum Dec 20 '17 at 13:12
  • I don't think you know what "freedom" means. – acpilot Aug 7 '18 at 4:46

In the UK, the situation with the police is fairly straightforward.

The majority of police, in prosecuting their role, do not need a gun. Most use protective clothing and carry preventative weapons like truncheons and mace. As they're unlikely to come across guns or similar day to day, their use as a deterrent or protection is minimal.

Where they do believe they require guns to prosecute their role, they carry them. I work in London quite close to the Old Bailey criminal courts and there are regularly officers with automatic weaponry on duty.

This approach is fairly pragmatic and mostly effective. I'm sure, if there was good reason to believe that either they or the public would be much better protected, if substantially more officers carried guns, then that debate would occur.

For the general population, it is possible to get a gun license but it's much harder than in many countries. As there's not much debate on the topic, it's hard to gauge a general view but I would argue that, as there hasn't been much violence where an armed public would have make a material difference, there's not much call to change the status quo.

There's very little gun violence in the UK, 20-30 fatalities a year. Terrorists currently seem to be mostly suicide bombers or drivers. The only case that I can think of recently, where an armed populace would have made a significant difference, is with the London Bridge incident. It's conceivable that more incidents like this could sway opinion.

One final point. Gun crime in the US is a fairly common talking point in the UK. I would argue that a common view in the UK is that the US has lost the ability to control guns, even if they wanted to, and that there is endemic gun violence. Whether this is true or not (I'm no expert) this view definitely dampens any enthusiasm for loosening our gun laws. I'd also argue that, of all countries, we feel that we have the propensity to be quite like the US and this is one area we do not wish to follow.

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    Contrary to the common view in the UK, there is not endemic gun violence in the US. Violence in the US happens in densely populated urban areas. Those areas where guns are most easily obtained legally have the lowest rates of all types of violence. – Rob K Mar 14 '18 at 20:54

Why is the UK so strongly opposed to private ownership of guns?

We aren't. You can own a gun in the uk. We do ban certain types on guns where there is no real reason to own them.

nailed the last nail in the coffin of personal defense options?

Practically, there is no need for a gun for self-defence (at least not in the UK); this is an important part of understanding why the current restrictions are seen as reasonable, harking back to the point of 'no real reason to own them'.

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