25 July 2016 – Government statistics show that there are 16,300 lawfully and peacefully owned pistols in England and Wales, demonstrating the pointlessness of the knee-jerk pistol ban imposed in 1997.
The stats, released at the beginning of this month, are pretty comprehensive and provide the first broad publicly accessible overview of the UK’s licensed firearms community.
In table E3 of the statistics, the total number of firearms and shotguns in the UK is broken down by police force area and type. It can thus be read off that there were exactly 16,367 “handguns” on section 1 FACs on 31st March this year.
This number therefore does not count pistols in stock on RFD certificates. As table E3 appears to be a straight readout from the National Firearms Licensing Management System (NFLMS), the column is simply labelled “handguns”. There is, therefore, no way of drilling down any further to find out how many are slaughtering instruments, personal protection weapons, section 7 heritage pistols, etc.
UKSN’s author proposes that there are maybe 1,000 slaughtering instruments and PPWs in England and Wales, leaving the other 15,000 as target shooting or heritage firearms. The figures do not include Northern Ireland or Scotland.
According to the BBC, 23,000 pistols were destroyed when the 1997 pistol ban came into force. The ban prohibited from private ownership any firearm shorter than 24″ (60cm) or with a barrel shorter than 12″ (30cm). A number of limited exemptions exist but the dimension-based rule meant that forward-thinking manufacturers could continue serving the UK pistol shooting market while complying fully with the law.
Simple arithmetic thus shows us that 19 years after that kneejerk action, UK pistol ownership levels are at 68% of their pre-ban number. Anecdotally, the number of section 1 pistol owners is growing.
Naturally, the vast majority of these “handguns” are black powder firearms, long barrelled revolvers and pistols, and other innovative items produced since the spiteful, kneejerk pistol ban was first mooted in the dying days of John Major’s government. They are not true pistols – short barrelled firearms designed to be aimed and fired with one hand – as the rest of the world understands the term.
Nonetheless, despite the government’s best effort, pistol ownership and shooting in the UK is the sport that simply refuses to die, as the NRA Handgun League’s mere existence shows.
Main picture: A GSG 1911 semi-auto .22″ long barrelled pistol. Photo borrowed from McAvoy Guns Online.