Photo from the National Crime Agency of case involving 60 firearms smuggled in a car into the U.K.
Great Britain is home to some of the world toughest gun-control measures, yet a rising spate of recent gun crimes shows that these restrictions are failing to stop criminals and other dishonest citizens from getting their hands on firearms.
Gun-control rules are clearly not in control of this situation—which can serve as a lesson for U.S. gun-control advocates seeking to alter our country’s laws with the hazy goal of stopping gun crime.
Some of the most recent noteworthy examples of gun-control failure in the U.K. include two fatal shootings in London just this month and an Irish national recently caught smuggling 60 firearms into the U.K. using his car—using such artful methods of concealment that it took highly trained police “several hours” to recover 59 of the weapons from various hiding places.
Last month, a man on a busy street shocked London by opening fire on a pedestrian outside a pub with a pump-action shotgun. The BBC reported in February that gun crime in four English counties was the highest it has ever been in more than a decade.
The head of firearms the U.K.’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said high volumes of guns smuggled into the U.K. are “a pernicious threat” and are a profitable business enterprise for criminals who “can be increasingly innovative and operate in a highly effective way.”
But if gun control actually imposes limits on firearms, one might ask, where and how do these criminals obtain their guns?
Surprisingly, U.K. criminals have long-discovered cunning ways to sidestep strict gun control that predate the American gun-control debate itself. The BBC reports that criminals in Britain have resorted to reworking antique and obsolete handguns dubbed “imitation weapons,” modifying blank-firing pistols and using stolen or illegally purchased firearms to commit crimes. In some cases, criminals smuggle gun components into the country using the postal system, then assemble the pieces later. Many of these smuggling operations are being orchestrated by gangs and international organized crime groups. “In 2015, NCA officers seized a gun that had been sent to a man in the UK in the post, concealed within a radio,” noted the BBC.
There is no question that these modified firearms are effective—U.K authorities have admitted that violent gun crime is on the rise, and that gun-control laws are not working to stop it. In fact, The Guardian reported that “the situation is so serious that the National Crime Agency has taken the rare step of using its legal powers to direct every single police force to step up the fight against illegal guns,” tasking all 43 police forces in England and Wales to direct efforts toward controlling illegal gun crime.
In May, two men were sentenced in court for crimes involved in what is believed to be the U.K.’s first fully functioning firearms factory that made guns from scratch in a Sussex industrial estate. An NCA official told the BBC that the factory, which had parts to make 100 firearms, “was producing handguns, copies of a Browning pistol, from absolute scratch—from the nuts and bolts and producing fully functioning lethal firearms at the other end of it, with the bullets to go with it.”
This dangerous situation in Great Britain continues to unfold even as the U.K.’s strict legal gun-control restrictions remain firmly in place—including background checks, police interviews, and assessments from physicians.
And to anyone who believes gun ownership can somehow be regulated using DNA databases, another recent case from the U.K. demonstrates that even DNA matches are no surety for legal gun use—three identical brothers effectively used DNA to confuse police officers investigating their handling of illegal firearms destined for use by dangerous criminals. Investigating a case described as one that would baffle Sherlock Holmes, police initially couldn’t be sure which of the identical triplets handled illegal firearms because their DNA was so closely matched. The case involved possession of firearms including an Uzi sub-machine gun. The trio was convicted of handling illegal guns and each brother sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Obviously gun-control measures are not keeping firearms off the streets or out of criminal hands, but rather allowing organized criminals to have a vast monopoly on guns in a tightly controlled firearms market.
The situation in the U.K. demonstrates that changing our own country’s laws to inhibit the freedoms of law-abiding American gun owners will not effectively stop criminals from having the means and ability to commit gun crime.