LONDON – Mortiz Bromley, a 21-year-old U.K. citizen, never thought about owning a handgun – until he studied abroad in Arizona.
“Unfortunately, I have to admit if I ever lived in America I would consider buying a handgun for home defense,” said Bromley, who studied at Arizona State University in the 2011-2012 school year.
“This is because I believe it has passed a point in America that criminals have such easy access to firearms that, in order to protect my home and the lives of those I love inside, I would protect them using a firearm.”
He has no choice here, as gun ownership is not allowed with the exception of sporting and hunting rifles after strict background and property checks.
Bromley said the differences in the laws lead to a much different gun culture. In Arizona, gun lobbyists passionately fight for their right to carry. In Great Britain, gun laws are rarely a topic in Parliament or the media because there is little support for carrying guns.
U.K. firearms expert and consultant David Dyson said handguns have been prohibited since a mass shooting occurred at an elementary school in 1996.
This is a stark contrast to the U.S., where firearms sales were up 40 percent after the shootings in Aurora, Colo., according to an article in The Denver Post.
Dyson said Parliament acted quickly to ban handguns, but that only resulted in banning the legally registered ones.
“All the legitimate guns were taken and the only ones left were the ones the police didn’t know about,” Dyson said. “So now, guns are outlawed and the outlaws have guns.”
The penalty in the U.K. for carrying illegal firearms, even without ammunition, is a minimum of five years in jail.
Dyson said the only critics of the strict no gun law are those who use them for sport.
“We have a lot of people keen on target shooting,” Dyson said. “But as far as carrying one for protection, I don’t think in day-to-day life people are threatened to the point where they need a gun.”
Even police on the street do not carry guns, though there are armed soldiers on duty during the London Olympics.
Venue safety and security expert Steve Adelman of Scottsdale said there is a reason the U.K. has never been big on individual gun rights, and it can be attributed to Arizona’s unique “Wild West” approach to safety.
It is because of the circumstances by which America came to be that there is this “individualistic approach” to safety, Adelman said. The founding fathers granted colonists the right to bear arms in the second amendment of the Constitution to defend themselves from hostile take over and this notion followed them throughout the expansion of the U.S.
Having seen both sides of the issue, Bromley is content to play by the U.K.’s rules while finishing his studies in finance at the University of Manchester.
“My honest opinion is that in theory they are a good idea but in practice they will not work,” Bromley said.