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Letter to the Southern Daily Echo:

Dear Sir

It was depressing to read the substantial coverage (7th January, Jenny Makin) given to the totally false concept that more and stricter gun control laws will have a beneficial effect on violent crime and linking that concept to the multiple murders committed by Michael Atherton.

Certainly the UK’s gun control laws are strict and generate a great deal of bureaucratic activity, both by the police and law-abiding gun-owners.  Because of their complexity and irrationality, they also generate lots of prosecutions of people who have committed no anti-social act. 

But linking bureaucratic activity to social usefulness is invalid unless the activity generates genuine, measurable, social benefits.  And the UK’s gun laws have only ever generated waste and harm.

There have been 3 major changes in UK gun laws since WW2, in 1968, 1988 and 1997.  The effects were the same every time:

·        Crime increased

·        Sport shooting was damaged

·        Trade was damaged

·        More police resource was diverted from useful work to bureaucracy

Let us consider 1988, when the law introduced more shotgun controls.  Both the police and the government claimed that the new controls would reduce crime without affecting sport shooting.  But this is what actually happened:

·        Robberies with shotguns, previously stable, climbed by 26% over the next 4 years;

·        From steady growth, lawful shotgun owners went into immediate decline, with police pressure pushing 1,000 out of the sport every week for 4 years, a total of 200,000;

·        Trade was severely damaged, with many shops going out of business;

·        About 3 million police man-hours were consumed and therefore not available for useful work.

The device, if any, used in violent crime and murder, is relatively unimportant.  By comparison with human intent, it is immaterial. Here in Jersey a man snapped about 5 months ago and stabbed 6 people to death with kitchen knives.  The Gold, Silver and Bronze in British murdering are held by a doctor with a syringe and 2 arsonists.  Over 9 out of every 10 British murders are committed WITHOUT guns.  To imagine that the c.9% of British murders committed by shooting (of which about 90% are with illegal guns) would not occur if, by some magical regulation, the murderers had had their guns removed, requires a substantial level of faith, as there is absolutely no evidence to support such a belief. The most serious failing of British gun control is that it stops victims from defending themselves effectively – with a gun – against violent criminals.

Yours sincerely

Derek Bernard


Guernsey Press
27th May 2011

Dear Sir

Armed Police Response

The recent news coverage of the acquisition of 2 Armed Response vehicles and an Armoured Land Rover by the Guernsey Police is an encouraging sign that, for Guernsey at least, the recession is over and there is plenty of money available to spend on police toys that cannot possibly be justified by any rational cost/benefit analysis.

The Police Chief gave the Cumbria killings by Derrick Bird as a specific example of the sort of incident the vehicles were acquired to deal with.

But Derrick Bird killed himself without any pressure or help from the police.

Has there EVER been a British “spree-killing” case in which such specialised police vehicles have played a genuinely useful role? In the 2 major such events in recent decades, Hungerford in 1987 and Cumbria in 2010, the armed police did not locate the killer until hours after the killing had stopped.

In Cumbria there was one point where swift, risky, brave and determined police action might have brought the dreadful event to a close after the first 3 murders – and thereby prevented the 20 or so murders and woundings that took place subsequently. 2 unarmed police officers in a van were following Bird as he was leaving Whitehaven. He stopped briefly only a few yards ahead of them, providing a near-perfect ramming opportunity. But that would have involved significant risk and so, perhaps sensibly, it was not attempted.

Mass killings, such as Hungerford and Cumbria, which are spread over distance and time, offer the best opportunity for effective police intervention. Even so they have an extremely poor record of success.

More commonly, mass killings take place in a confined area and are over very quickly indeed. In these cases there is no realistic chance of successful police intervention. That is not criticism of the police; it is simple reality: “When seconds count, the police are only minutes away”.

The only scenario that offers a genuinely realistic chance of rapidly stopping these awful events is to have a competent, armed and determined person in the immediate vicinity. And the only way of creating a reasonable probability of such a scenario is to allow ordinary citizens to carry concealed guns and to use them for the defence of themselves and others.

Since 1987 nearly every state in the USA has adopted such a policy – with the result that US murder rates have declined steadily and continuously and mass murders have dropped by about 70%. All other serious crime rates have also strongly declined to levels below those of the UK, which in 2000 had the shameful distinction of having the worst rates in the developed world.

Sadly, the British policy of insisting that all victims must be unarmed, slavishly followed by all the offshore islands, ensures that when one of these terrible events occurs again, whether in the UK or the offshore islands, the chance of it being rapidly stopped are negligible. To pretend otherwise is wishful thinking taken to the point of fantasy.


Derek Bernard

E: DB@TSLjersey.com




UK – no defence against “mass killing” events (e.g. Hungerford 1987, Dunblane 1996, Cumbria 2010)

Text Box:  Background – in December 2010, the Home Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament held an Inquiry into the mass shootings by Derrick Bird in Cumbria the previous June. Caroline Lucas, MP, the Leader of the UK Green Party, recommended to a constituent that the UK’s gun laws should be dramatically tightened. I wrote to Caroline Lucas¹ and circulated my letter to my mailing list. A subscriber wrote to congratulate me on the letter, opining that it would have a beneficial effect on Ms. Lucas. My response to my subscriber is below.







15th January 2011


I’m very doubtful that it will have a beneficial effect.  I suspect that Caroline Lucas is relatively sincere and actually believes “only government should have guns” and in the flat-earth economic policies that she promotes.   She gives a strong impression of being the sort of committed evangelist who would cry while burning non-believers at the stake.  Like the mother who, when asked what effect it might have had if the teachers at Dunblane primary school had been armed, said that it was better for the 16 little kids to be killed than arming teachers.

There is something schizophrenic about the public protection policies and realities of the British authorities.  There is the firm, very deeply-entrenched view that the public should not use force to defend themselves – that it should be “left to the police”.  In practise, even if the prospective victim(s) manage to ‘phone the police, the normal end result of a serious event is that the police arrive in time to clean up the site.  Then, if the victims’ relatives attempt to sue the police for their failure to protect the victims, the courts will always rule that the state has no duty to protect anyone.

In 2003 a Mrs Pemberton of Newbury, Berks called the local police to say that she had “about 1 minute to live”.  She had reported her husband’s extremely worrying behaviour to the police several times before.  When the police arrived over 6 hours later, she, her son and the killer, her husband, were all long dead.

You may remember the 16 Hungerford killings by Michael Ryan in 1987.  He started out of the town, drove in and then walked about the town shooting people, until he had done enough destruction to satisfy his madness.  He then hid in a deserted school.  The police were informed right at the beginning of the rampage, but the Thames Valley Tactical Firearms Unit (“TFU”) did not arrive on scene until about 2 hours after Ryan had finished shooting.

The TFU was on a Newbury range about 20 miles away – about 20/30 minutes driving moderately quickly on an excellent, straight road.  The public were told that their radios were not working, so they didn’t hear about the event until it was all over.

Even so, even if their radios had been working and they had left quickly, in reality most of the murders would have been committed by the time they could have realistically arrived in the appropriate vicinity.  When seconds count, the police are (at the very best) only minutes away.

In my view, the only “what if” scenarios that offer practical and realistic chances of being able to have stopped the murders before Ryan had had enough, all involve 2 characteristics being available together in a single individual who happened to be in the vicinity:

·         Suitable gun availability (i.e. immediately to hand)

·         Appropriate motivation and competence (both mental toughness and shooting skill)

Many mass killings are completed in a very few minutes (Luby’s, Dunblane, Virginia Tech, etc).  In these events, a realistic prospective “saviour” has to be in the immediate vicinity when it starts.  In that sense, Hungerford was a much better opportunity for stopping the killings, as it involved several streets and lasted an hour or so.  

The chance of success will be hugely improved by a social culture and a legal framework in which a person who stopped such a killer would be regarded as a hero, rather than as somebody barely, if at all,  distinguishable from the killer.   It will also be hugely improved if the type of individual identified above is not tremendously unusual.  At the 1% level there might be a reasonable chance of 1 or 2 such people in the average street.  In 2011 the incidence of such people will be effectively zero².

In fact, almost all of these characteristics have been very substantially crushed in the UK for many decades.  The UK’s chances of successfully stopping another Dunblane are zero and of bringing a Hungerford to a speedy end are no better than some quite small number, perhaps 5% or so.  This is based on a dodgy assumption that, in a small proportion of cases, a competent FTU might be nearby and available; and could get its act together and be on site within a very few minutes.

What sad ponderings

Derek Bernard


¹ Letter to Caroline Lucas, MP, 14th January 2011. Copy available on request.

² In 1909, when firearms were readily available to anyone in the UK , without any permissions or paperwork and the UK’s crime rates were probably the lowest in the developed world, the “Tottenham Outrage” incident took place in London. It had some similarities to Hungerford; and one huge difference – numerous private citizens joined in the pursuit of the criminals and others lent guns to the police.

By 2000, according to the respected International Crime Victimisation Survey, the UK was in the unattractive position of having the worst personal crime levels in the developed world, significantly worse than, for example, the USA.  The contribution to this state of affairs by the Home Office’s 50-year policy of making effective self-defence near-impossible for the average citizen is unknown, but is probably substantial.

 Copy of article “Mumbai + Tottenham” of 7th December 2008 available on request.



I have been sent a recent letter from a UK Parliament Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, to one of her constituents, outlining her favoured gun control policies.  Her recommendations are included in the letter below:


Dear Ms Lucas


I fully appreciate that, as I am not one of your constituents, you are fully entitled to disregard this note.


My reason for writing is that one of your constituents has sent me a recent letter from you regarding gun control.  I paste the relevant part below:

“I strongly oppose the use and private ownership of firearms and lethal weapons, such as air rifles and crossbows, except on registered premises.  I think that there should be a complete ban on the private ownership or possession of all automatic and semi-automatic firearms. I also think that all deactivated weapons should be treated in the same way as active weapons in terms of prohibition and licensing, because they are capable of being reactivated and can cause fear.  I believe that a single rigorous licensing process should be put in place, based on considerations of public safety rather than the convenience of shooters.  I believe that it is important for users of firearms for sporting or agricultural purposes to demonstrate their competence in handling firearms, and satisfy the authorities of their mental and emotional stability.  I also think that the cost of medical and psychological tests must be borne by the applicant, together with a new annual fee which is sufficient to repay the economic cost to society of the abuse of guns.  I think that the principle for awarding licences should be that the applicant must demonstrate his or her suitability to handle firearms rather than expecting the authorities to prove the applicant's unsuitability.  I believe that licence holders should be required to renew their applications on an annual basis and that individuals whose licence application is rejected will be required to wait at least two years before re-applying.”   

Caroline Lucas, MP

I have been an enthusiastic target shooter since I was a boy in the ‘40s.  Naturally I became reasonably familiar with the complex procedures involved in becoming a lawful gun-owner.  Nevertheless, for several decades I assumed absolutely that strict gun control, as frequently promoted by the British government, media and police, was “a good thing”. 


In 1979, as an academic exercise I decided to try and find out which of the great many different control procedures in UK firearms laws, actually produced the bulk of the social benefits, since it seemed unlikely that all were equally useful.


The UK seemed likely to be a reasonably fertile jurisdiction to study, as there was, effectively no gun control at all prior to 1903, then a major piece of legislation was introduced in 1920, with substantial additional controls added in 1967/8.  Since I started my work there have also been major amendments in 1988 and 1997.  Each such change seemed likely to provide an opportunity to examine the costs and effects of the changes, including “before” and “after” crime levels and trends.


After 3 years of research, reading and writing to governments, police forces, insurance companies and other researchers throughout the English-speaking world, in 1982 I was forced, with a considerable sense of surprise and even shock, to have to admit that what I had been looking for so diligently, didn’t exist – there were no social benefits from any of the control mechanisms, either individually, or collectively.  This total absence of measurable social benefit applied not only to the UK, but every jurisdiction that I looked at.  The poor results were so consistent that it is extremely difficult to believe that strict gun control legislation has ever produced any benefits, anywhere.


I  have continued to study the subject to the present day. 


What has become increasingly clear from this work, is that gun control legislation is by no means without effect.  It has substantial effects and, the stricter the regime, the greater the effects:


1.    A dangerous person is dangerous with or without a gun; so focussing on the inanimate object is dangerously misleading and creates a wholly false illusion of useful activity.  Over 90% of British murders are committed without guns.  Anyone intent on mass murder has a host of “legal” mechanisms to hand.  The UK’s champion mass-murderers are a doctor with a syringe and 2 arsonists.  In the Troubles in Northern Ireland, over a thousand people were murdered with bombs made from simple, readily-available ingredients.

2.    The controls disarm prospective victims, not criminals.

3.    They encourage criminals, who can be confident that their victims are very unlikely to be armed.

4.    They consume substantial resources, both public and private, without generating any benefits.  As one example, the recording of gun serial numbers is a slow and laborious procedure that has created a huge database of useless information.  It does not solve crimes, or catch criminals, in any meaningful way.  It’s very existence leads to more waste, as well as pointless, crime-less prosecutions for paperwork errors.

5.    They damage, or even destroy, sporting activities, as well as the commercial activities that support sport shooting.

6.    The authorities frequently issue statements to the effect that “Mumbai-style” terrorist attacks are likely, or even highly likely, in the UK.  If the authorities are right, the terrorists are extremely unlikely to attack the army or police.  They are likely to favour targets where large numbers of ordinary civilians gather.  In today’s Britain, all those ordinary civilians will be unarmed and will, quite literally, be like sheep to the slaughter.


The policies that you advocate will make a bad situation considerably worse.


Yours sincerely


Derek Bernard


E: DB@TSLjersey.com


Letter of the Month to "Sporting Gun" from one of our members.




Read the statement by James Gray, Member of Parliament for North Wiltshire in which he speaks out against a politically motivated response to the Cumbrian Shooting Tragedy. 



I have received a couple of suggestions that the job of trying to respond to the pressures and attacks on the British shooting community arising from the terrible Cumbria killings last week, is probably best left to the major shooting organisations.

I strongly disagree with this view and would like to explain why. I have been a Member of numerous British shooting organisations over the past 40 years or so.  I have retained my membership of some, despite moving to Jersey 33 years ago.  For example, I remain a Life Member of both the UKPSA and NRA.  The NRA website is certainly a useful source for press comments and coverage. Sadly, in the 31 years that I have been a student of the costs and effects of gun control legislation, during which time I have come into contact with a great many of the senior officials in the various British shooting organisations, I have never met one who has given the impression of having studied the subject more than superficially. 

As a somewhat exaggerated and sarcastic generalisation, they have all tended to fall into the category whose views on the subject are broadly along these lines:

"Guns are lethal weapons and the government and police are quite right to have stringent controls over those who may own them.  But the type of sport shooting pursued by me and my Members and friends is safe, decent and honourable and shouldn't be trodden on too hard, as hardly any of us are killers.  But all the gun uses that I and my friends don't personally pursue are very dubious and those who do enjoy them should be treated with grave suspicion and probably banned".

This is precisely the policy that has been substantially pursued by the UK "shooting establishment", hand-in-hand with government, from 1900 to the present day (with some very welcome indications of a wider perspective in the last few years).  That policy has taken British sport shooting, as well as British gun design, manufacture and distribution, a long way down the road to extinction. 

And, in parallel, it has helped take the UK from having the lowest crime rates in the developed world 100 years ago, to having one of the highest today.

The reality is that gun control legislation that is designed primarily to put obstacles in the path of gun-ownership by the general public and, especially, gun-use in self-defence and the defence of others, is seriously anti-social.  It consumes resources, both public and private; damages or destroys sport shooting, as well as trade and technical development; encourages criminals by publicising that not only will their victims almost certainly be unarmed, but that those victims who attempt to use force against their assailants, will likely be prosecuted severely.  Possibly worst of all, it encourages an irrational and perverse belief throughout society that the inanimate device is the problem. 

Every possible method of gun “control” – up to and including total bans – has been tried, usually in several different countries and for long periods – but I have found it impossible to find any persuasive evidence of consequential social benefit anywhere, from any control procedure, whether examined individually or collectively.  In contrast, evidence of perverse consequences, both individual and collective, are legion.  For example, research discloses that the 40+ jurisdictions that have had genocidal events since WW2 in which over 50,000 people have died, had all already introduced strict gun control before the killing started.  Armed victims tend to make the whole process much more messy and difficult.

The UK is a particularly glaring example of the unwillingness of the government, police, media and public to learn lessons from either the UK’s own legislative mistakes, or those of other jurisdictions.  Or absorb the powerful lessons offered by those jurisdictions that have relaxed or even done away with controls.  For over 100 years the UK has continued down the same destructive path, all the while cloaked in righteous indignation, extreme ignorance and even pride in having “one of the world’s toughest gun control regimes”.   

As recent examples, the major UK legislative changes in 1967/8, 1988 and 1997/8 were all extremely expensive, all did huge damage to lawful shooting and all were promptly followed by a severe worsening in violent crime trends.  No doubt the reduction in lawful gun-ownership and sport shooting were well worth the collateral damage.

The steadfast objective of the UK Home Office, ever since the late 19th century, appears to have been: “to reduce civilian gun ownership to the lowest possible level”.  They are probably very proud of their consistently successful work towards that end.  Perhaps they get large bonuses for it.  The Home Office staff selection procedure is amazingly consistent - it has produced multiple generations of civil servants who are all so intelligent that they know that government knows best.    The toll of avoidable dead and injured victims, raped women and very high burglary rates are probably seen as very small beer in their drive for a Britain in which only criminals and the State have guns.

So … I regard it as essential to attempt to publicise an alternative view, based on a considerable amount of work over many years, in many different countries; and to “say it like it is”, even if that usually feels like swimming against a powerful tide. 

Kind regards


Derek Bernard



From the Director.

I am pleased to say that 2010  was a most successful show season in which we picked up a goodly number of new members and renewed many connections in the shooting world.  In particular we were welcomed by show organizers who were delighted to have us at their shows. Two questions were raised by members we met at these events:

Number one: “Where does the association stand regarding Bisley and the Olympic Games 2012”?  The unequivocal answer to that question is that we stand by our principles without deviation, unlike certain other shooting associations, in that there can be only one place for the 2012 Olympic Shooting events to take place and that place is Bisley. After all, it is the National Shooting Centre. 

The second question that was raised was “Where does your association stand regarding the granting of a special section 5 dispensation  to an elite team of shooters”? The crucial point here is that this is contrary to the Olympic Charter which states: “Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind”.

Mainland U.K. pistol shooters are being discriminated against when an elite group are to be granted special dispensation. It is the intention of this Association to fight with every means at our disposal the 1997 Act that banned the private ownership of pistols.  To us this is a political matter and it can only be changed by political action. Petitions have thus far proven to be ineffectual.

The National Shooting Association fights for all forms and types of shooting.

Join us now!


E-mail to the Jeremy Vine Show, B.B.C. Radio 2, concerning the misuse of air guns - much in the news recently:

Another tragic incident and the inevitable clamour for "tighter airgun control".  Bearing in mind there are numerous firearm laws currently in place, it's clear existing legislation doesn't prevent misuse. We can't legislate against idiots! However, what would prevent misuse and subsequent tragedies is education and responsible adults.
The law dictates the ages at which persons can own, acquire and use all firearms - including air rifles and pistols, which are used safely by many in competitions and pest control. Behind these newsworthy events is usually an irresponsible adult who did not keep young, inquisitive persons separate from what is a firearm under UK law.  So, rather than condemn all those who properly use airguns I hope the person owning the air rifle in this recent incident will be called to account.
Check the NSRA,  BASC,  and  ATEO
 organisations that help educate those who wish to shoot airguns safely.

Rod Newnham


E-mail to Sally Keeble MP on the subject of handgun legislation:-

Dear Sally
I have attached a copy of a mail from a respected friend and member of my rifle club at Bisley.
I hope that you will read what he reports and take note of the information collected in the United States regarding  the use of firearms for self-defence. I await with interest your comments.
Whilst I am not advocating that we should necessarily adopt the American approach to the defence of our property, I think that the figures quoted in the American survey, which is very large, shows that there was no justification to the banning of handguns on the Mainland of the United kingdom Whilst allowing the public to own and shoot them in the Channel Islands, The Isle of Man, and Northern Ireland..
The 1997 act denies mainland pistol shooters the right to practice an Olympic sport within their own country whilst allowing competitors from abroad to compete and practice a sport. This is contrary to the Olympic Charter. If you do not have access to that charter I can provide the URL so that you can check on what I have said above. There are abstracts of the Olympic Charter  included on the Web Page of the National Shooting Association

Frank Gear
Director, National Shooting Association


And the reply to it:

Thanks for this. The United States is no model to follow in relation to firearms legislation.
There are issues that people rightly raise about the need to be able to practice an Olympic sport, and these have been raised with Government, and I am sure will continue to be raised with Government, especially in the run-up to 2012. However, I doubt that there is any desire in any political party, or among any substantial section of the public for revoking or substantially revising the law on handguns. The ban, while it raises problems for the pursuit of legitimate sport, probably does reflect public opinion on possession of handguns. Any relaxation would give a completely wrong impression of the priority that all law enforcement agencies in the UK give to tackling the appalling consequences of gun crime.
Best regards
Sally Keeble MP
Northampton North

letter 1 click here         letter 2 click here

click here to read

EVALUATING BRITAIN'S HANDGUN BAN  - by Colin Greenwood. First published in Australian Shooter, June 2008   click here to read

Read Richard Munday's letter to the Times in The Times Online:
"In Britain we have come a long way from our forebears who believed that guns were a great deterrence: from the days of the Rev Brontë (father of the sisters), who used to fasten his watch and pocket his pistol every morning; or the Yorkshire hotel guests once encountered by Beatrix Potter, all but one of whom were routinely carrying revolvers. "     Richard Munday


Also read Derek Bernard's report on the British blind faith in gun control:

"This link will take you to a report on the development of the British "faith" in strict gun control, from the latter part of the 19th century through to the present day.  That faith has been so strong for so long that it now flourishes despite a total absence of any evidence of social benefit and lots of evidence of high costs and many perverse effects. Indeed, it has reached the point where to even question its usefulness, or to ask for evidence of cost-effectiveness, will be regarded by many as a clear indication of social irresponsibility."      Derek Bernard