,“If you go to Liverpool… they are coming in from Ireland.
Somebody says from Poland, from Italy, from France, from Albania.”
A quick brainstorm on firearm ownership in the UK in the 70's and early 80's.
Progressive arms controls in the C20th denuded the rights of individuals to legitimately bear arms. The 1968 Firearms Act brought together all existing firearms legislation in a single statute and formed the legal basis for British firearms control policy until 1988 when the Firearms (Amendment) Act hurriedly came about in the wake of the 1987 Hungerford massacre.
The number of legally held firearms during the period we are gaming can be gathered from the following statistics:
In 1969, there were 216,281 firearms certificates held by private individuals in the UK; in 1986 the figure was 160,285. Despite the first ever controls imposed on shotguns by the 1968 Act, in 1969, 637,108 people were licensed shotgun owners (i.e. permitted to own any number of shotguns); and in 1986 there were 840,951. Virtually all these certificate holders were either members of gun clubs (for target shooting), engaged in hunting game for sport (largely an elitist past-time, even in the seventies the United Kingdom was increasingly urbanised with relatively few areas where game could be shot in the wild), or gamekeepers/farmers (for the control of vermin).
Out of interest, the weapons legally licensed and owned by Michael Ryan, the Hungerford Massacre gunman included:
* Zabala shotgun
* Browning shotgun
* Beretta 92 semi-automatic 9 mm pistol
* CZ ORSO semi-automatic .32 pistol
* "Type 56" 7.62x39mm semi-automatic rifle (Chinese copy of the AK-47)
* M1 Carbine .30 7.62x33mm semi-automatic rifle
The licensed arms dealer who sold these weapons to Michael Ryan is quoted as saying "I wouldn’t really like to say how many guns I’ve sold over the years, certainly tens of thousands".
The number of illegally held firearms in the 70's probably numbered 250,000 including many ex-service weapons and WW2 trophies. In a 1965 gun amnesty a man in Royston, Hertfordshire, handed over an anti-tank gun, four service rifles, 12,000 rounds of ammunition, several live grenades and three booby traps.
The 1968 amnesty would net 25,000 illegal weapons and in 1988 a further 42,000 weapons plus 1.5 million rounds of ammunition were handed in to police.
Criminals had no problem in acquiring firearms for robberies: from 1974 to 1984 the number of robberies using firearms in England and Wales rose from 650 to 2,098. A survey of 80 gun related crimes determined that 16 used sawn off shotguns, 20 9mm pistols, 13 revolvers and 7 automatic rifles or sub-machine guns (mostly Uzi and Mac-10). Most of these appear to have come in via Liverpool Docks and many had an Irish connection.
So we are looking at over 1 million shotguns, mostly single and double bore hunting/sporting models, between half and one million assorted firearms - everything from Brown Bess through Mauser pistol to AK47 and Bren gun in private ownership (legally or otherwise).
And that's before our heroic revolutionaries turn to arms dealers, hardened criminals, old boys networks, the IRA and foreign diplomats and revolutionary movements (ETA) for aid.