By: José Niño

Gun controllers frequently appeal to foreign countries like the United Kingdom as examples of countries that have “common sense” gun control policies that allegedly work. They reason that if the U.S. were able to adopt such measures, its gun and broader crime problems would go away.

The real world, however, teaches us things aren’t so black and white. For example, even with the U.K.’s tough gun control laws on the books, there has been an increase in armed gang activity in various parts of the country.

According to a report by the Birmingham Mail, a former undercover cop claims that violent gangs are engaged in an “arms race” to seize control of the West Midlands’ illicit drug market.

The former police officer, Neil Woods, asserted that gangs are willing to use “extreme violence” to pummel their competition. They are able to do so through their importation of illegal firearms from locations such as countries in the Balkans region of southeastern Europe.

Over the past two years, the West Midlands Police has confiscated machine guns and sawed-off shotguns, demonstrating the lengths criminals will go to acquire firearms in the U.K. A lucrative drug trade does indeed help these criminals obtain their firearms.

Over the past century, Britain has passed gun control laws in 1937, 1968, 1988, and 1997 that have severely limited law-abiding citizens’ ability to possess firearms, including rifles, shotguns, and handguns. Nevertheless, criminals in the U.K. have not been deterred by such anti-gun laws. It also doesn’t help that the country has very suspect policing standards that allow criminals to operate with relative impunity.

As long as black markets exist, criminals will always find ways to acquire firearms, even in gun-controlled jurisdictions like the U.K. The most pragmatic course of action for the U.K. to take is to allow its lawful residents to better arm themselves so that they’re not as easily preyed upon by gangs and other criminal actors. Due to the lack of a well-rooted tradition of a right to bear arms, passing such reforms will be an uphill struggle in the U.K.

José Niño is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. Sign up for his mailing list here. Contact him via Facebook, Twitter, or email him at Get his e-book, The 10 Myths of Gun Control, here.