We had to go to acronyms or the name of this W4 (see what we did there?) would stretch into Thursday: the is a British fraternal organization which at once sponsors competitions with modern (i.e., not muzzleloading “antique”) firearms to the extent that such things are still permitted in Once Great Britain, and tries to defend gun rights, along with larger groups like the hunting-oriented British Association for Shooting and Conservation (144,500 members) and the target-shooting-oriented UK National Rifle Association (~20,000 members). The HBSA is more interested in the historical and collector firearms which are of secondary interest (if that) to the larger groups.
The Rights Battle in Britain
In the United Kingdom (partially excepting Northern Ireland under Home Rule), shooters and collectors lost the cultural battle before they lost one legislative and judicial battle after the next. While, technically, there is a “qualified right” to firearms for British subjects, compared to the status of Americans, Canadians, Australians and even many Continental Europeans, it looks a lot more like a conditionally granted and arbitrarily managed privilege.
As far back as AD 1181, as described by Blackstone’s Commentaries on the (Common) Law, the right to arms was extant, as an “auxiliary right,” but depended on who you were, that is, your station and class of birth (emphasis ours):
The …last auxiliary right of the subject, …is that of having arms for their defence, suitable to their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law. Which is … a public allowance, under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation….
You could call that “the clauses that ate the sentence.” Today, the legal battle is well and truly lost; the right of self-defense outside the home was erased in the 1937 Firearms Act, the right inside the home went in 1968, semi-auto and slide-action long guns were confiscated starting in 1988, and all pistols in 1996-7.
Britain’s gun cops continue blaming the dwindling number of legal owners for the roughly thirty firearms murders in the home islands annually. This means the shooters’ associations are stuck fighting a defensive battle in a steadily shrinking perimeter.
So, when you look around Massachusetts, New Jersey or California and think you have it rough, imagine the plight of your English cousins.
The Historic Part
And here is where most of our readers will find more to like about the HSBA. For example, this post recounts some interesting books written or co-written by French expert Jean Huon.
The historical part of the Association is evident in its annual Journal, which is high-quality but very expensive (US $12.49 for a 44-page .pdf download). But the equally interesting Lecture Notes can be downloaded from the site if you have a SlideShare account, or read online even if you don’t. Example: “Medical Aspects of the 2nd Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902.”
HSBA has also been instrumental in preserving some fragmentary firearms collections from the rapacious rozzers. Heritage Pistols, are a term of art under the law, must be stored at one of ten ranges nationwide.