U.K. Considers Tighter Crossbow Regulations in Wake of High-Profile Incidents and Royal Attack Attempt

London, U.K. — In light of recent violent incidents involving crossbows, including a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II, the U.K. government is currently reviewing potential regulatory measures for crossbow ownership. At present, there is no specific registration requirement for the ownership of crossbows, nor is there a licensing system, which stands in stark contrast to the stringent checks required for firearm possession.

Former Home Secretary Priti Patel initiated a review of the crossbow laws following a severe incident on Christmas Day 2021 where Jaswant Singh Chail, armed with a loaded crossbow, attempted to enter Windsor Castle with the declared intent of killing the Queen. This alarming event highlighted potential security gaps and spearheaded discussions about the adequacy of existing regulations governing weapons that are less common but still potentially lethal.

The review, paused by the General Election, resumed with Yvette Cooper stepping in as the new Home Secretary. Cooper had previously expressed support for stricter regulations on crossbow ownership during her tenure in the opposition cabinet and is currently examining the findings of a consultation that concluded in April. The consultation sought opinions on whether crossbow ownership should entail obligatory police checks similar to those required for firearms.

This discussion on crossbow regulation gains greater urgency in view of recent tragic events, such as the incident in Bushey, Hertfordshire, where a fatal shooting believed to involve a crossbow occurred, and another episode where police fatally shot Bryce Hodgson, who had broken into a London home armed with a crossbow among other weapons.

Despite their infrequent use in violent crimes — with fewer than ten crossbow-related killings recorded between 2011 and 2021 — the Home Office states that these weapons can pose significant risks when used maliciously. Laura Farris, the then-safeguarding minister, commented on the dangers posed by crossbows, emphasizing the balance needed between public safety and the rights of individuals to own such weaponry for sporting and recreational purposes.

The case of Sana Muhammad, who was tragically killed in her own home by her ex-husband using a crossbow in 2018, further underscores the potential consequences of inadequate weapon control. At the time of her death, Muhammad was eight months pregnant; although she suffered fatal injuries, her baby was delivered safely. Her attacker, Ramanodge Unmathallegadoo, was subsequently sentenced to a minimum of 33 years in prison, highlighting the severe legal repercussions of using such weapons to commit violence.

These cases have sparked a national conversation on how to effectively regulate potentially deadly weapons while respecting legitimate uses, such as sports and hunting. The ongoing government consultations and reviews are looking to establish a framework that prevents misuse while not unduly burdening lawful owners, reflecting a nuanced approach to a complex issue.

As the U.K. grapples with these challenges, the outcomes of these deliberations could lead to significant changes in how crossbows and other similar weapons are perceived and regulated, potentially setting a precedent for other nations confronting similar issues. The resolution to balance safety with personal freedoms in the context of weapon ownership remains a contentious yet vital aspect of public policy.