The rioting in England last August should serve as a reminder to gun owners not to take their Second Amendment rights for granted. Not long ago, the British enjoyed much the same access to firearms that we enjoy today, but all that has changed. That's why I've asked my friend and longtime NRA-ILA supporter David Rooney, a former British citizen and maker of fine precision rifles, to share his personal story of how the gun owners of Great Britain were divided and conquered.
– Chris W. Cox, NRA-ILA Executive Director
by David Rooney
The days of the British Empire are long gone. I watched recently as looters interviewed in London described their criminal activities as "great fun."
Thugs, coordinating their movements through text messages and social networking websites, stole from innocent people on London streets in broad daylight. I saw criminals charge vastly outnumbered police, reveling in the knowledge that crime would be unopposed. I was embarrassed to see the effect of decades of media brainwashing on those who didn't fight back and gave in like lambs to the slaughter.
For those few remaining Brits unwilling to give up without a fight, their fears lay not with the criminals, but with the government. To remove a shotgun from its safe in preparation to defend one's family shows criminal intent in the eyes of British law.
Those with an understanding of military strategy are familiar with the tactic, "divide and conquer." Used successfully by generals throughout history, the same strategy has also been used against firearm owners, particularly in Great Britain.
Acts of a Madman
In 1987, I stood on Altcar Rifle Range, discussing the proposed legislation in the wake of the mass murders at Hungerford with some fellow members of the Manweb Rifle & Pistol Club. The Home Office was proposing a ban on all semi-auto rifles above .22 rimfire. I could not believe my ears when one individual stated, "I'm okay, I only own bolt actions and pistols." More shocking was the fact that no one disagreed with his blinkered perspective, except me. Because I was just a teenager, he laughed when I tried to explain the Home Office strategy to divide shooters to weaken our stance. I told him his guns would be next on the ban list. Unfortunately, time proved me correct.
Media misinformation surrounded the Hungerford murders. The killer had a semi-auto rifle, but he also owned a 9 mm handgun and an illegal full-auto Thompson submachine gun. They also failed to publicize that the police officers who first arrived at Hungerford came ill-equipped with shotguns and lost precious minutes sitting outside of town while the killer walked the street shooting unarmed civilians. A lack of concealed carry, which the NRA fights so hard for here, guaranteed there would be no opposition.
Afraid to take on the entire gun community, the government and media at first left pistol owners alone. The media made no mention that Ryan shot nine of his 14 unarmed victims with a pistol. Instead, they demonized the rifles that had become popular in the growing sport of Practical Rifle. The thought of civilians consistently hitting the same targets at 600 yards that the military shot at 300 yards was utterly terrifying to the government, which neglected the lessons of World War II, where civilians armed with the help of generous Americans were prepared to stand as the last defense of the British Isles.
Despite former Home Secretary Leon Brittan declaring, "You cannot legislate against the acts of a madman," Parliament passed the 1988 Firearms Amendment Act, banning semi-auto and slide action rifles above .22 rimfire.
The law was the result of a quarter century of planning by anti-gun activists in the U.K. Their movements were subtle; along the way they assured gun owners that legally owned guns were safe from confiscation and that their legislation would only target criminals.
Serial number registration for rifles and handguns began in 1968. Twenty years later, when semi-auto rifles were banned, the government knew where to find them. I remember having to surrender my brand new HK G3. As a soldier, I could sign out FN 240 machine guns from my battalion's armory, but I wasn't trustworthy enough to keep a G3 in my gun safe at home.
The legislative monster sprang once more into action in 1997, banning all handguns as a knee-jerk reaction to the tragic Dunblane murders. Still not content, in 2006 Parliament passed the Violent Crime Reduction Act outlawing the mail order sale of air pistols.
A year after pistols were banned I asked a friend who worked for the Liverpool Police if the pistol ban had an effect on armed crime. He laughed and told me there had been a 300 percent increase due to a massive flow of illegal Eastern European guns. In 2007, opposition Home Secretary David Davis made clear that U.K. gun policies had failed, citing the government's own figures showing that gun-related killings and injuries had risen more than 400 percent since the handgun ban.
From registration to confiscation took 30 years, and now the U.K. public was finally safe from itself. The government had confiscated all those wicked rifles and pistols that were never used in crimes. U.K. gun owners were divided and unquestionably conquered.
Why it Happened
The anti-gun U.K. media has always sought to portray the U.K. gun owner as some Rambo wannabe. As a result my U.K. shooting friends go to extreme efforts to prevent their neighbors from knowing they own guns, loading their cars before dawn or inside their garages before going to the range. I did, too.
The complacency of many U.K. gun owners, who felt their guns weren't targets of the legislation, was to blame. They hid in the darkness, happy to throw the semi-auto rifle owners to the wolves, content that they were under no threat. Only 10 years later, pistols went on the chopping block. That's how politics works in the U.K. and here: divide and conquer.
Protectors of Freedom
How many gun owners skim through these pages without truly seeing the significance of the NRA 's efforts? The NRA is the sole protector of the Second Amendment, the very backbone of the Constitution. The enemies of our rights are far more wealthy and organized than in the U.K. The NRA needs your continued support against these adversaries.
Without the NRA 's aggressive stance, the amazing foresight of the Founding Fathers will be legislated into oblivion. This is a much larger issue than simply firearm rights; it's about the freedoms that are the very fabric of U.S. society. With proponents of this tactic in the White House today, the attempts to divide and conquer have not gone away.
Before taking your son on his first deer hunt, you must apply to your local chief of police for permission. If you hand your son a rifle without him having his own license, he will be in illegal possession of a firearm, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. In the U.K, this is not fantasy, but fact. Here are some of the requirements:
You must satisfy the police that you have a good reason to own a gun. If you are not already a probationary member of a gun club, you will have your application denied.
You must satisfy the police that you have suitable land on which to shoot. This must be a Ministry of Defense (mod) range or land that has been inspected and certified safe by the local police.
Your guns must be kept in a locked cabinet while not in use. Ammunition must be locked in another cabinet away from the firearms. If you stop to have lunch on your way home from the range, your car is broken into and a gun stolen, you are in breach of your safekeeping requirement and will face gun confiscation, license revocation, and possible criminal charges.
The police can, and do, perform surprise inspections to ensure you are satisfying the safekeeping requirement. No court order is required. By applying for the FAC, you are agreeing to this.
You must state what caliber you want, in advance. If you ask for permission to buy a .308 rifle, and upon visiting your local gun store decide the .30-’06 on the shelf is more suitable, then you must go back to the police and explain in detail why you want the change. Also, if you ask for a .243 rifle for deer hunting, and a .308 for target shooting, don’t even think about deciding to take your .308 on that deer hunt.
You must state, in advance, how many rounds of each caliber you wish to possess at any one time. Larger quantity requests are often denied or reduced.
If you exceed your limit, your license is revoked, your guns confiscated, and you may face criminal charges. So whatever you do, don’t have three stray rounds in your shooting bag when you buy your next case of 200, as those three rounds could cost you your liberty.
After the enactment of Britain’s restrictive laws, David Rooney immigrated to Florida, where he is the owner of Tactical Rifles, Inc. (www.tacticalrifles.net, (877) 811-GUNS))