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Guns and BBC Sherlock

“Is it legal for John to keep his handgun?”

“Does Lestrade carry a weapon?”

I explore gun legislation in the UK, how John managed to keep his service weapon and why he chose to do so. I also discuss police use of firearms, and why Lestrade would not be armed – ever.

For fanfiction writers who do want guns to feature in their stories, I explain how people can obtain guns legally in the UK.

Is that a Gun in Your Pocket?

The UK has some of the tightest gun control laws in the world but not as a result of difference in culture as some Americans might have you believe. The British love affair with guns also has a long and distinguished history. We still love our guns, particularly in the countryside. Hunting, target shooting and clay pigeon shooting are very popular sports. Many universities have shooting clubs and hold nationwide competition for the students to attend.

To understand why we have such stringent laws we have go back in time.

In 1987 Michael Ryan used two semi-automatic rifles and a handgun to kill sixteen people including his own mother before committing suicide. There is still no consensus on why he committed such an atrocity but this horrific bloodshed prompted the government to make all automatic, burst fire and semi-automatic weapons illegal (although exception apply to the semi-automatic category).

The second killing is an eerie echo of what happened in Newtown Connecticut. Thomas Hamilton entered Dunblane Primary School with four handguns and murdered 16 students, and the teacher who was trying to protect them before also committing suicide.

In the aftermath of the carnage the Firearms Act 1997 and its amendment (No. 2) was introduced which made private possession of all handguns regardless of calibre illegal. Exceptions are historical hand guns and “Long Arm” sporting handguns which do not fall under the “handgun” definition.

Out of all the violence came some consolation: today we have one of the lowest gun homicide rates in the world – 42 times lower than that of the US and 3 times lower than that of Germany.

Not in the Army Now


John’s handgun is actually an army issue SIG Sauer P226 standard. Moriarty gets the army designation wrong during TGG – it’s correct designation is L105A1.

This gun was the standard issue personal weapon for all members of the army including the Royal Army Medical Corps who were deployed to Afghanistan. Doctors like John would have been well trained in the use and care of this weapon and it was usually the only firearm they routinely carried around on their person.

All doctors in the British Army operate under the Geneva Convention as non-combatants. They are only allowed to use their weapon in defence of themselves and their patients. Therefore John would not have been sent into combat to fight.

Army issue weapons belong to the army, they do not belong to the soldier that they are issued to. In the UK soldiers who are not on active duty cannot take weapons out of the base into “civilian territory”. They are certainly not allowed to wander around the streets of London with a handgun strapped to their thigh on a night out.

In Afghanistan John would have had his service weapon with him most of the time and certainly when he left base. Upon his discharge he would have had to surrender the weapon.

This begs the question: how did John manage to keep hold of his gun?

My theory is that John was injured in a fire fight when the base was invaded/attacked (as a doctor he would hardly ever leave the base). A real incident happened in 2012 when the Taliban managed to infiltrate Camp Bastion and initiated a 4 hour fire fight within and around the base. In the confusion John probably dropped his standard issue weapon when he was shot. The weapon was then recorded as missing in the army’s database. I believe that John’s injuries would have been treated in Afghanistan rather than in the UK – so he would have recuperated at the army hospital in Camp Bastion.

It might be possible that John managed to relocate his weapon after recovering and simply didn’t report it as found (or the bureaucracy couldn’t keep up with the constantly changing status of this gun). Either way, John’s weapon is official recorded has being lost in Afghanistan.

When John is discharged from the army he probably didn’t need to hand in a weapon because no one thought to reissue one to him given his state of injury.

Alternatively, as one commenter has suggested: John might have handed in his actual service weapon but then acquired an illegal military handgun. England and Wales has relatively low levels of illegal gun ownership but Northern Ireland is still comparatively awash with guns, which is why the police in NI all carry firearms. It is possible that using his connections with other ex-military personnel, John managed to get hold of another military handgun smuggled over from NI.

The second question is why would John risk keeping his gun?

Handguns are not freely available because they are illegal and possession of a prohibited firearm carries heavy penalties. If John’s possession of his handgun is discovered he faces a minimum sentence of 5 years in prison. The maximum possible sentence is 10 years and an uncapped fine.


My theory is that John was so preoccupied with the emotional trauma and issues surrounding discharge that he did not realise he had not handed in his weapon. He is, after all, completely accustomed to having it with him at all times. To change ones mindset overnight is very difficult.

Perhaps he only realised after his discharge was formalise in the UK that no one had asked him to hand in his service weapon. He must have entered the country as a member of the armed forces (they have their own airfields and do not have the indignation of going through civilian airport security) but upon discharge he suddenly became a civilian in private possession of an illegal firearm.

However we know that John chose not to hand the weapon in immediately and explain the honest mistake, most likely because the police would not see it that way, certainly not in a man diagnosed with PTSD. Another reason might be that John feels safe with his handgun; it gives him a sense of empowerment that serves as an anchor in his disempowered life as a civilian. A more disturbing thought is that John’s low mood after being discharged might have led to potential thoughts of suicide which would make the gun seem like a very handy tool to keep.

For more information on John's army career, medical career and PTSD: read the Semantics in Healthcare Series.

Stop…or I will Shout Stop Again!

The police in the UK do not carry firearms of any kind (apart from in Northern Ireland where they are all armed).

Only authorised police units such as SCO-19 are trained in the use of firearms and allowed to carry them in the line of duty. SCO-19 is the armed response branch of the Metropolitan Police Force and each regional police also have their own armed response divisions.

Lestrade is part of the criminal investigation department of the Met. CID officers do not wear police uniforms (which is why Lestrade, Sally and Anderson generally wander around looking like office workers). They do have a badge/ID card that identifies them as members of the police force.

The CID of any regional police force in the UK (outside of NI) have no right to possess firearms. The same laws apply to them as any private citizen. Should Lestrade ever need firepower he has to call SCO-19 and wait at a safe distance for them to arrive.

This procedure does not sound quite as absurd as some people might think. You must remember comparatively very few criminals have access to firearms in the UK. Murderers and other violent criminals prefer to dispatch their victims with knives rather than guns. Possession of a gun carries such a heavy sentence that it is usually better to just not get one in the likely event that you are ironically locked away not for the murder but for the gun possession.

Beat police sometimes carry tasers and almost always wear stab proof vests. Lestrade as a CID officer does not often have to chase down criminals, which is why he gets away with not wearing a stab proof vest.

Can you own a gun in the UK?

The answer is yes. Rifles, pistols and shotguns are legally available and ownership is not uncommon in the countryside. As Hot Fuzz correctly states: “everyone and their mothers is packing it”.

Most types of rifles are legal as are most types of shotguns including semi-automatic shotguns. Pistols are slightly different in that the Firearms Act 1997 prohibits all pistols with barrels <30cm and/or full lengths of <60cm. However long-barrelled pistols are permitted even the semi-automatic ones (made by Britams). This law means that the type of pistols used in some categories of Olympic shooting are prohibited in the UK but the ban was temporarily lifted so that the events could be held in 2012.

All historical guns (generally ones manufactured before 1919) are not subject to the Firearms Act 1997, even historical guns that you can still buy ammunition for. Therefore it is perfectly legal for Sherlock to own a hand gun that actually works as long as it was made before 1919. I imagine he might have received it as an heirloom or just dug it out of his family's expansive attic.

In order to legally own a gun you need a valid in-date gun certificate. There are two types of gun certificates: a 5-year firearms certificate or a shotgun certificate. Shotgun certificates are easier to get (and this is a common type of personal firearm). Certificates are issued by your local police force.

In order to get a firearms certificate the police must believe that you have good reasons to own each firearm and your possession of firearms does not constitute a danger to the public. The certification process is quite stringent but it is not impossible to negotiate if you have a valid reason and plenty of patience. Shotgun certificates do not require you to provide a justification for ownership. You also don’t have to list your entire shotgun collection (as long as you have a “reasonable” number).

A valid reason can be anything from “the rabbits are eating all my carrots!” to “I am on the Olympic shooting team”. It really depends on the attitude of your local police force to guns.

Therefore John, Lestrade, Sherlock etc can all legally possess firearms. I have read comments on fanfictions that say none of the characters in Sherlock could have guns, this is not true. They can all have guns – they just have to jump through some pretty annoying bureaucratic hoops.

The complicate convoluted processes of obtaining a gun licences shows that bureaucracy does save lives.

List of Other Metas


( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 16th, 2013 02:28 am (UTC)
Are you sure you have this quite right? I remember during the Olympics, some of the British pistol champions couldn't legally practice in the UK -- not even on a firing range. They had to travel to France to practice shooting.

See here:

Wilson uses a shotgun, which, like rifles, air guns and some significantly modified pistols, remains legal here. The guns used in three Olympic shooting events, the ones involving cartridge pistols, were banned altogether in 1997.
In 2008, government officials granted a temporary exemption loosening, but not lifting, the ban. Competitors were allowed to practice in Britain in the three events that used banned guns. The number of licenses to allow certain sport shooters to own pistols was capped in the low double digits, and only four ranges in the country were authorized for target practice.

If an Olympic athlete can't get permission to shoot a cartridge pistol, I very much doubt that Sherlock can.

See also the Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firearms_(Amendment)_Act_1997

which says conclusively that "It effectively banned the possession of all handguns other than those chambered for .22 Rim-fire cartridges ".

No, Watson's pistol is flagrantly illegal, and can best be handwaved as "it makes for very exciting episodes".
Mar. 16th, 2013 09:34 am (UTC)
Pistols are not banned per-se in the Firearms Act 1997 or its amendment. The 1958 Act specifically prohibits "small calibre pistols" but the Firearms Act 1997 amendment removed the blanket reference.

"In paragraph (aba) of section 5(1) of the M1Firearms Act 1968 (which describes a category of prohibited weapons consisting of all firearms less than 30 cm. in barrel length or 60 cm. in overall length, other than specified kinds of firearm) the words “a small-calibre pistol” shall cease to have effect."

Currently it depends on which legal specifications a pistol falls under as to whether it is legal or not.

In the second amendment to the Firearms Act 1997- all "handguns" were prohibited but some pistols do not fall under the definition of a "handgun" because of their dimensions.

For example: pistols (even semi-automatic ones) that have a barrel longer than 30cm are permitted as they are classed as "long barrelled". Muzzle loading pistols and revolvers are legal. A limited supply of pistols that meet the specifications are manufactured in the UK for sale.

The pistol shooting squad does have to practice abroad because the internationally recognised art of pistol shooting uses guns that are banned in this country (more due to their dimension than their firepower)

Other Olympic shooting events that use shotguns and certain rifles have not been affected.

Edited at 2013-03-16 02:35 pm (UTC)
Mar. 16th, 2013 02:29 am (UTC)
I wish the USA did things that way. How many school shootings are enough?
Mar. 25th, 2013 02:10 am (UTC)
Agreed. Reading the history on firearm regulation, I was surprised by how quickly and firmly the government acted in response. The British government doesn't screw around! Speaking for myself, going straight to a ban both times, rather than tightening regulations, seems like a bit of an overreaction, but you can't argue the safety that's gone along with those bans, and you can't argue that stiff sentences and fines do make good deterrents. We've needed that kind of legislation for decades in the States.
Mar. 16th, 2013 05:10 am (UTC)
I like your theory as why John has his Sig! As lost in afghanistan. But i think he was in battle as a scout of the 5th northumbumland fusiliers Operations, as a captain, not as a doctor and there was that the lost not lost sig happen.

This because i think he was there as a Captain not as an army doctor. He is a GP who was in afghanistan as a captain after his full training as an officer. Obviously as a doctor i suppose he helps his men as a medic, because he was there!

I like that history of John of your thoeries of him.

But i really like this meta i had a long taling with my brother and my husband about how John could have a service sig who was iliegal in England.

My brother said that an ilegal weapon was more easy to trail to anything worse if it was missing from the military, and with only the bullet the NYS could had traced to John after the study in Pink, because the bullet was allocated in the wall after hitting the cabby.

But i said to him, that i was sure, that for one, in the pilot is clear that Lestrade knows that it was John who made the hit after the clues Sherlock gave him and saw him gone away with John. So probably he lost the evidence.

Or Mycroft who is very intelligent and obviously figured it out made the bullet lost before it reach ballistic.

What do you think about study in pink and how John wasn't get cut.

With your theory i will think now that the sig could been sold to anyone, but it is a lot of coincidence after sometime of them working together, maybe could have make someone in the military suspicious after some months of John and Sherlock working together?

Or every bullet of John's sig where disposed for Mycroft or the balistic info?

I really love to know your opinion. :)
Mar. 16th, 2013 11:07 pm (UTC)
Part I Because of LJ's Word Count Limit
Captain is minimal title given to fully-qualified doctors who enter the RAMC ;) As a GP he would have been made a Captain automatically upon completing his army training as you can't be called "Dr" in the army (he would revert back to this title after service). As a non-combatant, he would have marched in parade with his hand on his sword without drawing it to show that he is not permitted to cause harm (unless, as it has been pointed out, in the defense of himself and/or his patients). You can join the RAMC without being a doctor and you can be a combatant in it (they are called "Combat Medic Technicians"), but as John would have taken the Hippocratic Oath before joining the army (i.e when he graduated in medicine), different rules apply to him :) I personally don't see John having left bases very often; Camp Bastian is the size of a city with a permanent hospital (and a Pizza Hut!), but the footage at the start of SiP shows him on what looks like a patrol. Usually, Combat Medic Technicians are the ones who accompany patrols. The only reasonable explanation I can come up with for John's situation in the opening scenes are that he's been sent last-minute to aid a stricken patrol where their medic has already been injured. This could explain why he was shot, not being used to being in front-line situations but the situation posed where a camp/base has been compromised is perfectly possible too.

I'm personally not swayed by the idea that John's gun was brought back from service. There's one very important part of the canon that was missed out in the BBC version of John's injury, and that's that while Watson was shot, it was the subsequent infection that almost killed him. I think that John was taken to CB and stabilised for his initial injuries before being transported to Selly Oak where infection set in and left him bed-ridden for a while (can't remember off the top of my head, but I think it was two months in the canon). After leaving here, John would have been left to his own devices and as we seen, ended up in a bedsit in London. On the gun front, Northern Ireland is still overflowing with them in comparison to the rest of the UK (hence why the police are armed there and not elsewhere) and it's actually painfully easy to move them over via ferry (they are not subject to the same kind of security checks as airports - checked-in baggage is x-rayed and sniffer dogs can be used, but not in every single vehicle). A huge proportion of ex-service personnel in the British Forces have served time in Northern Ireland, so I wouldn't put it past John knowing someone in that capacity who could illegally obtain a firearm with relative ease. I do feel that John's reasons for wanting to arm himself are linked to his PTSD and symbolises his desire to have control over his life in one form or another while also struggling to adjust to not needing to be on alert at all times. There has been a story in the news recently abouta SAS sniper who was found to have a pistol brought back from Iraq (the pistol was packed into his belongings by others, and he had suffered a brain injury so could not remember it being put there in any case), so it is possible for the same thing to have happened with John, but with John's pistol being commissioned (i.e. registered as opposed to being a gift), then it's very unlikely it would pass by unnoticed. There's also the point that any weapon "lost" in a combat situation must be accounted for lest it fall into the hands of the enemy; even if an armoured vehicle has gone over an IED and is mostly destroyed, it is stripped down as much as possible to leave nothing that can be used.
Mar. 16th, 2013 11:07 pm (UTC)
Part II
My own feelings are that John obtained his pistol illegally via N.I not long after being discharged from Selly Oak, perhaps before arriving in London but not much longer after at a maximum. Anything brought in from N.I would be virtually untraceable over land as soon as it arrived on the mainland. This is if you even bothered with a ferry - Ireland and Scotland are only about 30 miles (give or take) apart from each other. Skip out the ferry part and it would be just about impossible to trace an illegal weapon once it turned up somewhere on the UK mainland.

Sorry to hijack the thread but I've never put my thoughts on John's title, injury and gun into words before :)

Edited at 2013-03-16 11:08 pm (UTC)
Mar. 17th, 2013 12:44 am (UTC)
Re: Part II
I found great your intervention! So NI is an option

About John been an army doctor i really think he isn't

Mycroft in scandal said he was part of the 5 th of fussiliers and even if in reality the fifth didn't exist since 1996 either way a doctor can't be assigned to a fusilliers.

Also he said that he kill people in the war and had a bad days also in scandal... So he can't be an army doctor because the oath and international laws about doctors he only can protect his person and his patient nothing more, not kill people or had bad days hurting others.

So i really think he is a military Captain who incidentally is a Gp. Sure he help when he could and had a lot of friends in the ramc and that's why he had the mug.

Also in his dream in asip he is in the scauting! And i supose he is the leader of the group.(i know where the vid came from) but in the story is his dream. He can't possible have a dream like that living in camp Bastion. Also this is more clear to me why his injury get infected. Maybe it take days before he was rescued and taken to camp bastions specially if he was scouting.

If he was an army doctor because of his age he would have a rank better than Captain, because of the years of service.

Like he isn't and start a new carrier in the military it is totally consistent that he is a Captain.
Mar. 17th, 2013 02:31 am (UTC)
Re: Part II
Watson was originally attached to the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers, but when he reached Bombay, they had already left. He was actually attached to the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment of Foot when he was injured in battle ;)

"IN the year 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine of the University of London, and proceeded to Netley to go through the course prescribed for surgeons in the army. Having completed my studies there, I was duly attached to the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers as Assistant Surgeon."


"I was removed from my brigade and attached to the Berkshires, with whom I served at the fatal battle of Maiwand. There I was struck on the shoulder by a Jezail bullet, which shattered the bone and grazed the subclavian artery."

I think the writers made a little mistake when they said that he was in the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers, but since the regiment has disbanded it doesn't really matter. It's why I wouldn't take the comment about John being a solider at face value, especially considering how factually impossible practically everything in "Scandal in a Place Not Mentioned Once in the Entire Episode" was XD

There is only so much the writers could bring up to date for the BBC version, and John's medical training/army carer is one of those things that is not possible to bend into the modern day. In the late 1800s, with no funds to start up his own practice or become a partner, Watson would have been unemployed after graduating. So the only way he could gain employment was to get experience, and the only way to guarantee experience and an income was to join the forces. There's a very good example of this sort of predicament in The Resident Patient:

"I am compelled, to begin with, to say something of my own college career. I am a London University man, you know, and I am sure that your will not think that I am unduly singing my own praises if I say that my student career was considered by my professors to be a very promising one. After I had graduated I continued to devote myself to research, occupying a minor position in King's College Hospital, and I was fortunate enough to excite considerable interest by my research into the pathology of catalepsy, and finally to win the Bruce Pinkerton prize and medal by the monograph on nervous lesions to which your friend has just alluded. I should not go too far if I were to say that there was a general impression at that time that a distinguished career lay before me.

"But the one great stumbling-block lay in my want of capital. As you will readily understand, a specialist who aims high is compelled to start in one of a dozen streets in the Cavendish Square quarter, all of which entail enormous rents and furnishing expenses. Besides this preliminary outlay, he must be prepared to keep himself for some years, and to hire a presentable carriage and horse. To do this was quite beyond my power, and I could only hope that by economy I might in ten years' time save enough to enable me to put up my plate."

Of course, doctors no longer need to sign up to the army just to get a look-in at someone who needs their help. The other problem is Watson's age. His (canon) birth date has been inferred as being 1852. The battle of Maiwand was in 1880, which would have made him 28 when he returned to London. He graduated in 1878, but immediately signed up to do additional training as an army surgeon. BBC Watson is both older (I'm guessing about about six or seven years, as is Holmes who is reputed to be about 26 when they first meet) and very experienced. As much as I've thought about how John would have his gun, what he did in the army etc (I only know what I've read in various books and journals about medical history), it can only go so far because it just doesn't fit with Watson, who is ,after all, the person that John is based on. Canon Watson's motives for joining the army are abundantly clear (though of course, serving his country may have been a deciding factor as well), but for John, it's not so easy to figure out his reasons.
Mar. 17th, 2013 03:00 am (UTC)
Re: Part II i love talking to you!
I read Acd and about afghan wars so i know, that's why i'm sure that JohnBBC is not and army doctor.
About the writers not knowing Mark Gatiss said in an interview that he and Moffat knew that the fifth didn't exist now, but in their world it was and John Watson was in it, because it was their little offer to ACD canon.

So no mistake there it was on purpose. Now the age of John BBC because he is in his like 36 at the beginning of the series. Then how do you explain to me that as an army doctor he is still a captain?
Also in the 90's when John Watson studied in King Cross medical school was free. So he didn't need to join the army to pay his studies. So he could very likely study medicine, finish it and after he had his degree as a GP decide than Queen and country needed him more so he went to the academy, finished, and go to the war and finally returned injured with a psicotomatic limp who did nothing for his working as a GP army doctor, either the shoulder gunshot, because he was not a surgeon. But he can't be a military anymore! So he was retired and he only reached the rank of captain because he started as LT.

So John is a Military Captain retired, but he can work as a GP because neither of his injuries affect him. If he was a surgeon he couldn't work as a locum as a GP, because they had different accreditation.

Now we get why he is older and only Captain, considering he was in a war. (where people escalate ranks more fast because what is happening everyday to them and around them)

Edited at 2013-03-17 03:04 am (UTC)
Mar. 17th, 2013 04:46 am (UTC)
Re: :3
Ah, but that the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers had disbanded is irrelevant, as Watson was attached to a different regiment which has also disbanded. Gatiss and Moffat should could have chosen the Berkshires and it still wouldn't explain anything ;)

Tuition fees may have been free, but he would have had his living expenses. Although there were more bursaries available in the 90s, there's no doubt John would have gotten into debt while studying medicine. I personally think John started off doing a different degree, decided he didn't like it and then had to restart his higher education. Or perhaps he didn't get the grades he needed to get into medicine straight away and had to do a Foundation Year Course and then got a place on a Graduate Entry Programme. It would then have taken about seven years for him to become a GP even if he went the "routine" way, so say he started medicine when he was about 25 after maybe a year out after leaving school and then doing his first degree (which would take him into when tuition fees were introduced if he was born in 1974). That's takes him to 32. Factor in a specialist joining the army for a minimum of five years, that would take him to 36 no problem. I didn't start my degree until I was 25 ;) Maybe he just wanted some years to himself before dedicating himself to a career in medicine. I agree that he probably wanted a change to something more exciting after graduating and all those years of study, but I don't think he would went through years of training in medicine only shrug it all off so he could be a combatant rather than a non-combatant. Plus the promise of £50,000 is a nice carrot on a stick XD

As an army doctor he was a Captain because that was the army rank he was given after graduating Sandhurst. He had to leave title of "Dr" at the door, though of course between tours and when he was discharged, he would have reverted back to Dr, hence why he is called Doctor Watson after returning to London. I know people who have been in the forces for over eight years and are still only a Lieutenant, so it's not always a case of having been in service for a certain number of years. This page explains the ranks that medical officers in the army move up through.


As a Medical Cadet or a Direct Entry qualified Doctor you must pass the 10-week course at Sandhurst. You then have your commission confirmed and are ready to start as a General Duties Medical Officer. Further promotion comes with military and medical training, experience and education.

There is possibility for him to go up the ranks, but it's not guaranteed.

Edited at 2013-03-17 04:48 am (UTC)
Mar. 17th, 2013 05:08 am (UTC)
Re: :3
John study medicine because of his sister problem and he has a big moral compass so it is clear he study and take his courses seriusly specially if he had a spartan budget, he would not mess around with the little he had.
And you saw in the series and in the book that John Watson is not the person who goes after "a juicy carrot" he goes where he goes because is right.

Also a Doctor doen't go killing one person for other even if that person is a serial killer, because police is for that.
A soldier will never left an inocent die in the hands of a bad guy, so he kills the bad guy. Obvious action for a soldier in the position of John in Asip. Not an action than a doctor who was always in a camp and only had 3 months of training decides to take kill someone to save another. Maybe he had shot to call sherlock attention well he run the other way and save him with his fist, but not kill the cabby, not with tha precision either.

Also apparently for the interviews John born in 1973.

And hey if he was an army doctor and a GP because that is clearly his especiality the one he uses as a locum, and you can't change especialitties because you want to, then explain to me why a simple shulder injury and a limp is enough for retirement??

He needed obviously some recovery time, but not discharge. He could do his job anyway. But if he was a militar Captain. He can't the limp and the shoulder are sufficient for invalidate him and send him to retire.

I had thik this a lot!

And i know in peace times a militar could be in the same rank for years, but in not same in a warzone.
Mar. 17th, 2013 09:15 am (UTC)
Re: :3
I think John having done another degree first is plausible. However I would like to point out that in John's day GP training was 3 years and you can be a full GP just 5 years after qualifying.

The other thing to point out is that Captain is rank for junior doctors joining the army after qualifying. If you are in specialist training of ST3 or above you are not commissioned as a Captain. You are instead commissioned to a rank that corresponds with your salary in the civilian world because you will be earning more than the £38,000 given to regular army Captains. The reason why doctors have ranks is not for seniority purposes (their ranks do not mean anything in terms of actual combat command) it is for pay and administrative purposes.

If you join the army as consultant (GPs are considered in terms of seniority the same as consultants because they have all finished their specialist GP training) you will be given a very high rank indeed. This is why I do not think even if John spent 7 years to get his medical degree he would still be a Captain if he joined the army.

Salaried GPs in the civilian world typically earn £50,000 - £70,000 and the army generally matches civilian pay for doctors. They have to in order to attract doctors. For John to be paid a normal GP salary he would have to be at least Major Level 3 up to Lieutenant Colonel Level 5.

All doctors in the NHS get a pay rise every year because every year you move up a pay grade. Your pay is not determined by speciality but by years in the NHS. It is not possible for John to stay a Captain even if he joined as junior doctor. Firstly he would have advanced up the specialist training ladder, secondly his pay would become correspondingly larger beyond that of Captain rank.

Money is definitely not a reason why John would have joined the army. As a GP partner running his own practice in the civilian world John can pay himself whatever he likes. Typically partners earn from £150,000 - £200,000 so had John really liked the money he would never have joined the army.

I personally think he loves the adrenaline rush of combat. Being a GP in the army even in Afghanistan means that you hardly ever leave the base. Camp Bastion is the size of a small city and has all the mod-con of a western lifestyle. I believe that John joined the army believing it would be a relief from the utter boredom of civilian GP and found it was pretty much just as a boring.

If you want to read more about John's dual army career: http://wellingtongoose.livejournal.com/7885.html
Mar. 24th, 2013 11:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Part II
Mar. 16th, 2013 08:50 am (UTC)
I knew that the police generally were unarmed from watching the Bill ;) Interesting meta and useful info too. Sounds pretty similar to Australia re gun laws except our coppers carry guns.
Mar. 16th, 2013 10:25 am (UTC)
Your comment about all semi- automatics being banned is incorrect. Not all semi-auto's are illegal.

For anyone who doesn't know - automatic refers to any mechanism that utilises the power of the first shot being fired to load the next bullet (and so on and so forth) so that you do not need to waste time reloading between shots. The rate of fire is limited by the rest of the gun mechanism and the amount of bullets that can be loaded into the gun at any one time. Further more, on a full automatic gun you only need to pull the trigger back once and it will keep spewing out bullets until you empty the gun magazine/clip or release the trigger. A semi-automatic has the same reloading capabilities as an automatic but you have to pull the trigger for each shot, thus is is slower than an automatic. Semi-auto's usually have far smaller capacity for bullets as well.

Up until 2009 I owned, perfectly legally, a semi-automatic, single barrelled 12 bore Beretta shot gun. It could only hold three rounds but it did reload itself, making it much easier to shoot faster clays.
Mar. 16th, 2013 02:33 pm (UTC)
Yes I agree that first sentence is misleading. Shotguns that are semi-automatic but have a capacity of no more than 2 cartridges are permitted on the shotgun certificate and shotguns with extra capacity are allowed on the FAC.

Also I found out that semi-automatic pistols longer than 30cm barrel of .22 calibre have been classed as permitted by the home office o.O didn't see that exception coming.
Mar. 20th, 2013 06:38 pm (UTC)
Our gun laws are quite a maze, aren't they! I think the reason for the 30cm or longer exception is down to concealment - i.e. it's very difficult to carry anything that size hidden. Which is a bit irrelevant, really, as far as I'm concerned given the speed at which you can fire them, but then I'm not a politician so what do I know !!
Mar. 17th, 2013 10:19 am (UTC)
I think you're wrong to discount the difference in culture; even before Hungerford and Dunblane, few non-farming people owned guns, and most people would never have seen one on sale or in the hands of the police. The concept of "guns are for self-defence" didn't exist then or now in the UK, unlike the loud US gun lobby (which has successfully advertised that idea despite all the evidence such as most shot policemen being shot with their own guns).

The fact that one mass shooting was enough to trigger legislation change and a second a decade later caused a ban, both generally without any outcry, shows that difference in culture.

Also there are now armed officers besides SO19, at Gatwick Airport since the 90s (and more recently at other airports), and since 2001, some of the police guarding Parliament and other parts of central London.

It's rather bizarre outside the car entrance to Parliament actually, as there's swarms of tourists wanting photos with policemen, so there's usually a.couple classic bobbies to pose for the camera, and behind them a couple more trying to fend the tourists off and going 'mind the gun', with these enormous long black firearms across their chests.
Mar. 17th, 2013 04:01 pm (UTC)
I agree that in the UK there is a lack of a powerful and vocal gun lobby, which is why it was easier (though not that easy, there is a gun lobby but just less well publicised) for the two key pieces of legislation to be passed in parliament.

Gun ownership in the UK is very unequal in the the rural population gun ownership is much higher than the urban population whereas in American gun ownership is more evenly spread through different elements of society.

In from the beginning of the 20th century to the interwar period gun ownership rates in the UK were roughly equal to that in America (if you discount the police force). The firearms act of 1968 helped to curtail gun ownership and cultural attitudes to guns have diverged since then. My point is that the current state of gun politics in the UK is not a unique aspect of our culture. I believe our cultural view of guns today is due to the successive pieces of gun legislation rather than the other way around.

The same state can be achieved in the US over time if the key pieces of legislation can be passed.
Feb. 15th, 2014 01:39 am (UTC)
"The same state can be achieved in the US over time if the key pieces of legislation can be passed."

Was linked to this from bbcsherlock. Thanks for the great and informative article.

As a US citizen who has seen the horror of these mass shootings (I graduated in 1997 from High School and witnessed the sharp incline in these events since then) I am sad to say that I feel hopless that gun control and gun attitudes in the US will EVER change. If a person can come into a class room and murder 20 innocent 5 and 6 year olds, and america still cries "Don't take our guns or do any sort of gun reform" I have very little hope that anything else can change the situation.

Thanks for the info on the UK gun control laws. Very, very interseting.
Mar. 25th, 2013 05:36 am (UTC)
Re: Sherlock owning a handgun made prior to 1919: A Browning 1911 would be the perfect candidate. They were the standard US service weapon from WWI all the way through the 1990's, so a lot of them would have found their way into Europe, including during WWI. However, the design was so popular that it's still the standard-issue service weapon in some police departments in the USA, so if Sherlock picks it up and starts recklessly waving it around, it's not going to be immediately obvious that it's an "antique" handgun.

Edited at 2013-03-25 05:36 am (UTC)
Mar. 25th, 2013 06:58 am (UTC)
One of the first times my brother flew he entered an airport- I believe it was Ireland, don't quote me- and saw a couple of security guards packin' sub machine guns and nearly had a panic attack. Australia is also a country with incredibly strict gun laws, and this was the first time he'd ever seen anything like machine guns that weren't under museum glass. This meta also reminds me of discussions I've had with South African co-workers, how they don't feel safe without at least one handgun in the house and can't quite understand why our gun laws are so strict.

Australia's current regime of gun laws came about after the Port Arthur massacre; Martin Bryant, by all accounts a very disturbed young man, opened fire and murdered some thirty five people. The result was the gun buyback scheme and many/most firearms being made illegal. When I speak to American friends or watch television that discusses firearm ownership in America, all I can think of is why the hell do they need 'em?

Edited at 2013-03-25 07:03 am (UTC)
Mar. 25th, 2013 01:05 pm (UTC)
Extremely interesting, as always.

I think I came to the same conclusion that John sort of "wandered" out of Afghanistan with his gun, simply because no one would expect him to have one . . .

But he himself is not at all casual about guns (especially in Sherlock's hands!) and respects their danger.
Mar. 25th, 2013 08:31 pm (UTC)
Might I just raise one small point? One of the reasons identified for killers doing what they do (Mass killers, sorry) is to be remembered. It is a small point, I know, but, if we actually do NOT remember their names, if we, as a mark of respect for the families of the people they murdered, actually never publish their names, it goes a small way to redressing the balance. Thank you.
Mar. 25th, 2013 08:40 pm (UTC)
OK, I can walk into a pub (obviously not going to mention which one) and buy a shotgun. No license, I have never had a shotgun license. The ironic bit is that the mass murders committed in this country have been with legally owned and obtained guns.
John may well have wandered out of Afghanistan with his gun but he would not be able to "wander" into this country with it. I am pretty sure he knew exactly what he was doing, and quite probably did not care.
If you own anything above an air rifle and you do not shoot specifically on your own, or on a named, property you must have a "roving" license, to shoot on more than one property.
Even though the law has recently changed in the UK to allow moderate force to be used in your own defense, this would not include a gun, under any circumstances, not even firing it into the air to scare people- if you did that you would lose your license at the very least.
Mar. 25th, 2013 08:49 pm (UTC)

It very ironic that of the two worst gun massacres in the UK where all committed with perfectly legal guns at the time. I think this is why legislation had to be change rather than purely instigating a crack down on illegal arms.

I suggested the John entered the country as a soldier through a military army base and was therefore allowed to carry his service pistol with him. He was only discharged in the UK, after which he should have been made to surrender his weapon but instead he managed to hold onto it mostly like due to a bureaucratic mistake.

It is quite possible he knew what he was going by keep the gun. Alternatively doctors often leave hospital with small pieces of restricted medical equipment and confidential notes (removing both of which is highly illegal) because they actually got so used to carrying them around, they forgot they were going off duty. It's not the same of carrying a gun around but it can happen.

Edited at 2013-03-25 08:58 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 26th, 2013 10:35 pm (UTC)
o.O now I'm slightly creeped out but also very intrigued. I assume by Seen Something Significant means...black ops? special ops? James Bonds-esque assassinations?

I took can imagine John having been in these scenarios - in which case hell yeah he should get to keep that gun, just in case.
Mar. 30th, 2013 03:46 am (UTC)
Interesting look at guns and possession.

I guess in TGG it was a good thing that the 'gas explosion' took place minutes after Sherlock shot up the walls....or else the police would have come for him. I assume XD
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