Why the UK has no guns

Tobias Stone
4 min readMar 2, 2018

The UK has had two mass shootings in modern history. The first was known as the Hungerford Massacre, the second the Dunblane School Massacre.

The Hungerford Massacre in August 1987 involved Michael Ryan shooting dead 16 people and wounding another 15 in a series of attacks during the same day, before he shot himself. In the attack, Ryan used a handgun and two semi-automatic rifles.

The Dunblane School Massacre was in March 1996. Thomas Hamilton attacked Dunblane Primary school, killing 16 children and a teacher, and then killing himself. Hamilton used four handguns, all of which were legally owned by him. They included two 9mm Brownings and two .357 Magnums.

These were the only two mass shootings in the UK since records began in 1969, and Dunblane was the only school shooting. A third shooting, the Cumbria Shootings, in 2010, led to 12 deaths over a day, in 30 locations, using a shotgun and a .22 rifle, after handguns and automatic rifles had already been banned.

After Hungerford, the government passed the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988, which was passed in November 1988 and came into force two months later, 18 months after the massacre. The act banned semi-automatic rifles and placed tight restrictions on the ownership of shotguns with a capacity of more than three cartridges.

After Dunblane, the government commissioned the Cullen Report in October of the same year. This proposed restrictions on handgun ownership, and a possible ban. The families of the dead, and other supporters, launched a campaign to ban handguns. In 1997 the Conservative government, under John Major, passed the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 which banned all handguns apart from single loading .22 pistols, mainly used in competition sports. Later that year, the Labour government of Tony Blair amended that act, and banned all handguns including .22 sporting guns. The ban also covered blank-firing starting pistols that might be easily converted.

As a result, competition pistol shooting was effectively banned in the UK in 1997. An exemption was granted for the 2012 Olympics, but other than that the UK Olympic pistol team have to practice abroad.

Hunting rifles and shotguns are still allowed, but subject to strict controls, including a firearm or shotgun certificate…

Tobias Stone

Writing about politics, history, and society. Also at www.tswriting.substack.com, www.tswriting.co, @ts_writing