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Gun Control in United Kingdom 2

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The real problem, of course, is that no one knows just how many guns are out there on the streets. The task of trying to work that out falls to the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (Nabis), which works with all police forces in the country and a number of other agencies to assemble data on illegal gun use as well as having a team of forensic scientists poring over fragments of ammunition and recovered weapons.

It’s those fragments that can yield surprising information, such as whether it’s from a gun that has been used before. Around 90 per cent of illegally held firearms are used only once; the remaining few are, conversely, used many times.

Aside from imported guns, one of the big problems today is the repurposing of antique or obsolete weapons into working firearms. In fact, says Squires, there’s quite an underworld cottage industry built up around it, converting antique or obsolete guns into deadly, usable weapons, and bespoke manufacture of ammunition to fit them.

In fact, gun dealer Paul Edmunds, 66, of Hardwicke, Gloucestershire, will be sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court next week after being found guilty of doing just that. Edmunds was found to have at his home three “armouries” where he repurposed weapons and created ammunition for them, with the firearms he provided being used in an estimated 100 offences.

Nabis was instrumental in providing the evidence that led to Edmunds’ conviction, and has also been heavily involved in a Home Office consultation on the use of antique firearms, which ended on Thursday.

This, says Squires, is the next step that needs to be taken in the ongoing war on guns, as well as perhaps toughening up the conditions on allowing people to obtain licences for legal firearms such as shotguns – he suggests more could be done to limit licensing to people with a history of certain types of mental health conditions, or who have a history of committing domestic violence.

While criminals will always find ways to get their hands on guns, the Firearms (Amendment) (No 2) Act that was brought in 20 years ago has made an undoubted difference to the gun landscape in the UK, just as similar legislation did in Australia.

Three years after both Dunblane in Scotland and Port Arthur in Tasmania, America experienced one of its most high-profile mass shootings with the Columbine High School massacre. No legislation was passed then, nor after Sandy Hook in 2012, nor after the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, nor after Las Vegas in 2017.

Perhaps the Firearms Act did indeed save us from going down the American path. But there are still guns out there on our streets, albeit mainly antique and obsolete guns. Nabis can only make conservative estimates based on the ballistics information they painstakingly obtain from remnants recovered at scenes of crimes. However, the number of guns they suggest are on our streets might well surprise you.

For the period 1 April, 2016 to 31 March 2017, the number of guns Nabis can say were in criminal hands in England, Scotland and Wales was 322.

Which, give or take, is a little less than the 331 mass shootings officially recorded in America this year alone, where legal civilian gun ownership amounts to 265 million firearms.

Does gun control work in the UK? It’s a case of you do the maths.

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