Timeline of Gun Control in 4 Countries

Studying the history of other countries can give us the insights on how or what strategy the government often used to regulate gun rights.

In this article, I present the timeline of gun controls for 4 countries (England, Australia, China and Germany) starting from 1900.



Year Event
1900 At the start of the century, any person including convicted felons and the mentally ill can legally acquire any firearms and carry them in open public.
1903 Pistols Act of 1903 : Forbade pistol sales to minors and felons. Gun license is required to buy new pistols. These licenses can be acquired at the post office with a fee.
1914 Start of World War 1 : Great Britain entered WW1. Comprehensive, stringent gun controls as “temporary” measures to protect national security during the war.
Defense of the Realm Regulations : A license was required to buy pistols, rifles, or ammunition at retail.
1917 The Bolsheviks : Communist Party, seized power through the October Revolution in Russia.
1918 World War I ended : The government noticed the threat of communism. Gun rights were not returned to the people.
1920 The threat of Bolshevik revolution had faded as the Communist government of the Soviet Union found it necessary to spend all its energy gaining full control over its own people.
1920 Firearms Act : Introduced firearm certificate system, Allowed police to deny licence to anyone who was “unfitted to be trusted with a firearm”. In the early years, the Firearms Act was not enforced with particular stringency.
1933 Firearms and Imitation Firearms Bill : Increased punishment for the use of firearms in crimes
1936 Outlawed the possession of short-barreled shotguns and fully automatic firearms
1937 Raised the minimum age for buying a firearm or an airgun from 14 to 17
Granted chief constables the power to add conditions to individual Firearms Certificates
Self-defence no longer a suitable reason for applying for a firearm certificate
1939 World War II started
1940 Britain found itself short of arms for island defense. To solve this, they bought and acquired arms from United States
1945 World War II ended
The British government confiscated arms from their troops. Guns that had been donated by American civilians were collected from the Home Guard and destroyed
In spite of these measures, large quantities of firearms still slipped into Britain.
1953 The 1953 Prevention of Crime Act : Outlawed the carrying of an “offensive weapon”, such as a knife.
1959 Ban on self-loading knives.
1967 Criminal Justice Act of 1967 : Certificate required for the purchase of shotguns, The certificate process could last several weeks and the police might visit the applicant’s home.
The public grew accustomed to the idea of rifles and handguns being licensed.
1975 Police began performing home inspections as part of the Firearms Certificate issuance
1987 Hungerford massacre
1988 The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 : Confined semi-automatic and pump-action centre-fire rifles, military weapons firing explosive ammunition, short shotguns that had magazines, and elevated both pump-action and self-loading rifles to Prohibited category
Registration and secure storage of shotguns became required
1996 Dunblane shootings
1997 At the range, gun club members must now register and record which particular gun they use every time. If the gun-owner does not use his guns at the range often enough, his permission will be revoked.
Banned private possession of handguns almost completely.
Spot checks and home searches were done by the police.
2006 Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 : Creating minimum sentences for some firearms offences
2007 Sale and transfer of new “air weapons”, primers and realistic imitation firearms by mail order became offences.

Current England Gun Laws

  • Outright ban on automatic firearms and many semi-automatic firearms
  • Police-issued Shotgun Certificate (SGC) or Firearm Certificate (FAC) required to own firearms. The certificates are hard to obtain.
  • Good reason to own firearms required. Hunting, pest control, collecting, or target shooting are ok, but self defence is not.
  • Secure gun safe to store firearms required.
  • Private ownership of most handguns was banned.
  • Shotgun magazine capacity is limited to two rounds.


England Summary

  1. Government insecurity – After World War I (1918), British government fear Communism, thus they didn’t return gun rights to the people.
  2. Allowing the police or government to use subjective criteria to authorize gun ownership is usually a bad idea. After a while, gun owners usually suffer from unreasonable criteria. Such as “Self-defence was no longer a suitable reason for a firearm certificate.”
  3. Sensational events – Even though mass shootings cause relatively little casualties, gun ban laws normally gain a lot of support after such events.



Year Event
1788 European settlement brought firearms to Australia on 26 January 1788. Since the beginning, there were controls on firearms.
1901 Federation of Australia was formed. Gun laws became the responsibility of each state.
1945 World War II ended. Handguns were banned in New South Wales.
1956 The 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games sparked an interest in pistol shooting and laws were changed to allow the sport to develop.
1984 Milperra massacre
1987 The Hoddle Street massacre and the Queen Street massacre
Several states required the registration of all guns, and restricted the availability of self-loading rifles and shotguns
1991 Strathfield massacre in New South Wales
Tasmania passed a law that required firearm purchasers to obtain a licence. Enforcement was light.
1996 Port Arthur massacre
1996 National Firearms Agreement and Buyback Program
Ban imports and buyback of “semi-automatic, self-loading and pump action longarms”.
Separate permit for every guns (28 days waiting period)
All gun sales through licensed dealers.
Ammo quantity purchase limits.
Personal protection not a “genuine reason” for owning, possessing, or using firearms
Storage requirements : seperately locked containers for firearms and ammunition
2002 Monash University shootings
2003 Ban and buyback on target pistols of greater than .38 calibre and handguns with barrels less than 120mm (semi-automatic) or 100mm (revolvers)
2014 Sydney hostage crisis
2015 Creating a new offence for the possession of a stolen firearm.
Ban on the possession of digital blueprints to manufacture arms using 3D printers and milling machines for people without an appropriate license in NSW.
2017 Gun buyback to hand in unregistered or unwanted firearms
2018 Osmington shooting

Current Australia Gun Laws

  • Firearms licenses are required for hunting, sport shooting, pest control, collecting and for farmers and farm workers.
  • Convicted felons and the mentally-ill are prohibited to obtain firearm licenses.
  • Licenses are valid to 3, 5, 10 years depending on each jurisdiction.
  • 18 is the minimum age to acquire firearm licenses.
  • Restricted weapons include military weapons, high-capacity semi-automatic rifles and pump-action and semi-automatic shotguns holding more than 5 rounds.
  • Separated storage for firearms and ammunition required.


Australia Summary

  1. Mass shootings – Similar to England, mass shootings provide perfect opportunities for gun opposition parties.



Year Event
1288 Oldest surviving firearm : The Heilongjiang hand cannon
1837 Possession of firearms is altogether forbidden.
1898 Boxer Rebellion
1901 Late Qing Reform : Civilians can own firearms for self-defense.
1949 People’s Republic of China founded.
1951 Provisional Measures on Firearms Control : Identified existing gun owners and started permit system.
Authorization is needed to carry guns.
Hunting rifles are exempted from this rule.
1981 Measures on Firearms Control : Extend regulation to hunting rifles and sport-shooting guns.
Regulated guns brought in and out by foreigners.
1996 Law of the People’s Republic of China on Firearms Control : Prohibit any private possession of firearms in China
Hunting rifles are restricted to only hunters and herdsman. Furthermore, these guns cannot be brought out of hunting or pastoral areas.
Safe storage and safe use are required for evert gun holders.
License required to manufacture or distribute firearms.
No one may transport firearms in China without approval.
2012 Henan knife attack

Current China Gun Laws

  • Civilian ownership of guns is largely restricted to authorized, non-individual entities, including sporting organizations, authorized hunting reserves, and wildlife protection, management and research organizations.


China Summary

  1. Late Qing reform in 1901 provides a short-lived example for gun deregulation. In my opinion, China wanted to quickly modernize itself after experiencing crushing defeat from western civilization.
  2. Government insecurity – The rise of Communism in 1949 prompted gun regulation. Naturally, the government didn’t want the opposition party to possess firearms.
  3. The ban in China proved successful as the President still comes from the Communist Party.



Year Event
1849 Possession of guns and weapons was not generally restricted, but regulations about carrying arms in public came into use.
1914 Start of World War 1
1918 World War 1 ended
Disarming of citizens and a generic gun law was imposed by the Allies.
Enforcement was not stringent, and there was no general disarmament immediately after the war.
1919 The Treaty of Versailles : Firearm reducing stipulations
Ban on possession of firearms and ammunition
1920 Kapp Putsch
1922 Assassination of Walther Rathenau, Gun law was enforced more strictly.
1928 Relaxed gun restrictions
Separate permits for owning, selling, carrying, manufacturing and professionally dealing with firearms
Permits granteed only if “… persons whose trustworthiness is not in question and who can show a need for a (gun) permit.”
1933 Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. And Nazi came to power.
1938 Deregulate gun controls :
Gun restriction laws applied only to handguns, not to long guns or ammunition.
Minimum legal age to purchase guns was lowered from 20 to 18
Permits were valid for three years, rather than one year
Arms manufacturing permit would no longer be issued to any company even partly owned by Jews.
1939 WW2 started
1945 WW2 ended
Adolf Hitler committed suicide.
Banned any person or authority from possessing arms to enforce disarmament.
1949 The Federal Republic of Germany is founded in the west with the promulgation of the Basic Law.
Sporting long guns were no longer forbidden as long as their magazines do not exceed 5 shots.
1950 Police were allowed to get pistols and revolvers (handguns).
1956 German citizens were once again allowed to own firearms.
1972 Federal Weapons Act : For formerly freely available weapons, a notification obligation, acquisition certificates and quota system were introduced.
1989 The fall of berlin wall
2002 Erfurt school massacre
Weapons Act of 2002 : Increased the age requirements for licensed hunters and competition shooters.
People under the age of 25 requires a psychological check to acquire large-bore firearms.
Storage requirements have been tightened
Every arms sales must be recorded and reported to the authority.
2006 Emsdetten school shooting
2008 Ban certain kinds of weapons like airsoft-guns, tasers, imitation firearms (Anscheinswaffen) and knives with blades longer than 12 cm from public places. They may still be carried in sealed wrappings and for professional or ceremonial purposes.
2009 Winnenden school shooting
Introduced routine verifications of safe firearms storage by local firearms control offices
The weapons law does not apply to military or the police.
Possession of any firearm with a muzzle energy exceeding 7.5 Joule (~5.5 ft·lbf; for comparison, a .22LR cartridge has a muzzle energy of 159 J) requires a icense for that particular weapon
Unlawful to use a magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition when sports shooting with long weapons
Inheritors of legal firearms requires a permit (which can be obtained without having to demonstrate knowledge or necessity)
Firearms ownership licenses can be issued on 3 necessities : “Competitive shooting”, “Hunting”, “Collecting and firearms’ experts”

Current German Gun Laws

  • License required to own a firearm.
  • 18 is the minimum age to own firearms.
  • Automatic firearms are prohibited.


Germany Summary

  1. Surprisingly, being a country on the losing side of World Wars do not have much effect on gun bans.
  2. Adolf Hitler came to power with overwhelming support. Thus he did not need to regulate guns. Instead he did the opposite.
  3. Successful gun deregulation is seen in Germany.
  4. School shooting seems to be the biggest culprit for gun restrictions in Germany.



In my opinion, the major factors for gun bans can be boiled down to 2 factors, the government and mass shootings.

In a democratic country, other than voting for gun advocate politicians, we can also try to keep/convert our fellow neighbors to support guns. As long as we promote the sport and often invite our friends and their kids to the range or a hunt, we should not have trouble with the government.

Mass shootings, on the other hand, play an outsized role in gun restrictions, but that’s the way it is. If we can somehow reduce mass shootings, it would further support our gun rights. However it is quite challenging to detect a potential mass shooter accurately. My suggestion is to use an anonymous decentralized blockchain to conduct universal background checks. But that’s a future solution with unknown obstacles. Maybe our best option is to increase gun support and ownership.

Guide to the best scope for your AR-15

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Resources and Further Readings

  1. All the Way Down the Slippery Slope: Gun Prohibition in England and Some Lessons for Civil Liberties in America
  2. Firearms policy in the United Kingdom
  3. Gun laws in Australia
  4. Walk the route of convicts in Sydney
  5. Gun buyback program
  6. Firearm ownership law in China
  7. Firearms-Control Legislation and Policy: China
  8. Gun legislation in Germany
  10. Firearms-Control Legislation and Policy: Germany
  11. Waffengesetz (Deutschland)
  12. Adolf Hitler
  13. Overview of gun laws by nation
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