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In 1870, there were no laws regulating the possession, purchase, and peaceful carrying of firearms in Britain. Anyone, child or adult, could buy a pistol, load it, and carry it under his coat with no legal consequences. As late as 1920, the law presented no obstacle to an adult without a criminal history purchasing a rifle, shotgun, or pistol, and carrying it concealed upon his person. Yet today, Britain has some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the world.
The Firearms Act of 1920 was a watershed of British firearms control. From its passage, the ownership of firearms ceased to be a right of Englishmen, and instead became a privilege -- one increasingly restricted over the intervening 75 years. Under the direction of the Home Office, police discretion in licensing throughout Britain has made ownership of firearms an increasingly rare event. Why was the Firearms Act of 1920 passed?
This paper has been removed because it will be appearing (along with a bit more material) as "Gun Control: Political Fears Trump Crime Control," Maine Law Review, 61:1-25 .