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Over Easy – Firearms in Foreign Countries, or Part 3

This is the 3rd post in an ongoing series. Click for Part 1 and Part 2.

Good morning firedogs, and happy Tuesday!

MR 38 Match MA27147 01

A match revolver, used in competition shooting.

Last week we examined the general process involved in purchasing a firearm in the US. We followed our friends Chad and Brad as they bought guns. We learned how easy it is for someone with a mental health issue to purchase a firearm. This week we’ll look at what would happen if Chad or Brad lived abroad.

What follows are a number of our ‘peer’ Nations and their legal procedures for obtaining a firearm. For some of these nations I’ve included a bit of background for context.

The UK

In Hungerford, Berkshire, England on August 19th, 1987, Michael Robert Ryan shot 31 people, killing 16 of them. He then turned the weapon on himself and ended his life. He was 27 years old. Michael was the legal, registered owner of the two semi-automatic rifles and the semi-automatic pistol used in the shootings.

In response to what came to be known as the Hungerford Massacre the UK government passed the amended Firearms Act of 1988. This sweeping reform outlawed burst-fire weapons, semi-automatic or pump-action rifles (excepting those chambered for .22 rimfire), rifles with a barrel length shorter than 24 inches or overall length shorter than 40 inches, many revolvers, and some pistols. The Act also gave the Home Secretary the power to ban any firearm deemed “specially dangerous” or designed to evade a metal detector, provided that the weapon hadn’t been widely sold in Britain before the passage of the act. This law remained in place and unamended until 1997.

On March 13th, 1996, Thomas Hamilton entered the Dunblane Primary School in Dunbane, Scotland. He was armed with 4 semi-automatic handguns. Hamilton shot and killed 16 children and one adult before taking his own life.

The Dunblane School Massacre led to the Amended Firearms Act of 1997, which made private ownership of handguns (excepting .22 rimfire) illegal in the UK.

Most weapons are thus prohibited in the UK. There are some exceptions. Muzzle-loading handguns are permitted, as are some black-powder weapons. Some historic or antique firearms are still allowed as collectibles, and some sporting rifles and shotguns are still permitted.

The licensing process is rigorous, involving an official inquiry into the individual applying. The inquiry consists of a home visit to check safety measures and storage facilities for the firearm, interviews with references provided by the applicant, a rigorous background check, mental health screening by way of needed approval from the applicant’s family doctor, and more.

To obtain a firearm in the UK, the applicant must have “good reason” to possess the firearm. Each firearm is individually licensed, with the application process repeated for each gun a person requests to own.

Self-defense has not been an accepted reason to own a gun in the UK since 1968.


Japanese gun laws have always been incredibly rigid. Very strict governmental regulations have been in place for centuries. Japan’s gun statute begins –

No-one shall possess a fire-arm or fire-arms or a sword or swords…

Only certain rifles and shotguns are permitted in Japan, after a lengthy licensing process, and only for sporting reasons. A Japanese citizen cannot legally hold a firearm unless they have a license.

Self-defense is not a valid reason to own a firearm according to Japanese law.


From Wikipedia

Australia today has arguably some of the most restrictive firearms legislation in the world

Following the Port Arthur Massacre of 1996, which left 35 dead and 21 wounded, Australia enacted tough gun control measures.

Firearms are categorized with a letter designation (A, B, C, etc.), with the safest type of firearm, Category A, requiring government licensing to own. Category A includes airsoft rifles that are available in any WalMart or Target in the US, and can be purchased here by children. In Australia you need a  license to own a plastic pellet gun. Most common firearms are not permissible to anyone outside Government in Australia.

Handguns and most rifles and shotguns are only permitted to competition shooters who maintain active membership in a shooting club, and these active members must participate in a specified number of competitions each year to maintain their licensing status.

From Wiki again –

Before someone can buy a firearm, he or she must obtain a Permit To Acquire. The first permit has a mandatory 28-day delay before it is first issued. In some states (e.g., Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales), this is waived for second and subsequent firearms of the same class. For each firearm a “Genuine Reason” must be given, relating to pest control, hunting, target shooting, or collecting. Self-defense is not accepted as a reason for issuing a license, even though it may be legal under certain circumstances to use a legally held firearm for self-defense.

Each firearm in Australia must be registered to the owner by serial number. Some states allow an owner to store or borrow another person’s registered firearm of the same category. (My bold.)

I’m seeing a trend here…

Well dear reader. We are again rapidly approaching my word count restriction. Seems to be another trend with these posts.

A number of our peer Nations have similar restrictions. Private citizens are not allowed to possess guns in China. Pump-action shotguns and semi-automatic rifles are banned in Austria. In France, one needs a hunting license or a sport shooting license to possess a firearm. Germany has some of the strictest gun laws in the world.

Even in Canada, where gun restrictions are considered fairly lax, handgun possession is heavily restricted. Handguns with a barrel length under 4.1 inches are prohibited altogether.

In short, dear reader, the rest of the modern world seems to be either smarter than the United States of America, or these other nations have much smaller gun lobbies. Which brings me to the close of this post, and the introduction of next week’s topic – Next Tuesday we will examine the NRA and other gun lobbies in the United States.

This is Over Easy. Off topic is safe and always welcome. I’ve genuinely enjoyed the discussions in our last two posts, and I greatly look forward to seeing you all in the comments today.

Image By Simon Bigot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.

-D.H. Lawrence